How to Implement Change Management

This year marked the 20th anniversary of John Kotter’s book Leading Change. In this book, Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School and widely-acknowledged change management expert, introduced his 8-step process for implementing change. Today, we’ll use his steps to take a look at how to implement change in your organization.

1.    Create a Sense of Urgency

      Make sure the people in your organization are aware of changes that need to be made.

      Show your people statistics and what the competition is doing, but also lay out possible scenarios to illustrate how important these changes will be.

      Have honest discussions with your people as you give them convincing reasons why these changes must happen.

      Bring in support from outside the company (customers, other people in the industry, etc.) to back up your suggested changes.

Be sure to spend significant time and energy on Step 1. Jumping in too fast could cause more problems. Have a strong idea of what needs to happen, and then work on showing why.


   2. Build a Powerful Change Coalition

      You need people to guide your change with strong leadership.

      Don’t just look at management. Go outside of the traditional hierarchy and gather a group that represents a variety of people in different areas of the organization.

      This coalition will need to be made up of people with good leadership skills who will be emotionally committed to helping guide these changes.


   3. Create a Clear Vision

      As you think about change within your organization, people will be voicing a lot of different ideas. It’s helpful to have a clear overall vision to connect with these ideas.

      In his eBook, Kotter states, “Business Week attributes 30% higher return on several key measures for companies with well-crafted mission statements describing why the business exists and its optimal desired future state.” For help in creating such a mission statement, see our recent post, “How to Write an Awesome Mission Statement”.

      Make sure that your change coalition can give an accurate and concise description of your vision.

      When people can see where they’re going, they’re better equipped to help make changes to get there.


   4. Communicate the Vision

      Communicate your vision frequently. Make it a part of everything you do - meetings, making decisions, solving problems. Keep it at the front of people’s minds.

      Practice what you preach. Demonstrate the behavior you want to see in other people. Your actions go much farther than your words.

      Be open and honest with people as they express concerns about the changes.

      Incorporate your vision into all parts of the organization - from hiring new employees to reviewing performances of current ones.

      Create an atmosphere that makes people WANT to do this instead of one that makes them feel that they have to do it.


   5. Remove Barriers to Change

      Once you’ve reached the point where changes and your vision have been clearly communicated and you’ve built a powerful coalition to guide your change, you need to identify barriers to these changes.

      Are there people resisting the changes? What are the reasons for their hesitation? How can you get them on board?

      Does the company’s hierarchy need to change to accommodate your vision?

      Are there inefficient or outdated processes that need to be eliminated or updated?

      Have there been past attempts at change that failed? Have you identified why these attempts failed and removed these barriers?

      Look at your change coalition. Are they doing all that they can to help guide these changes? Are more people needed in this coalition?


   6. Create Short-Term Wins

      Success is a powerful motivator. Set up some short-term goals instead of just one large long-term goal. These smaller, achievable targets enable people to feel a sense of victory and accomplishment early on, motivating and accelerating them to work towards the overall vision.

      Make early targets achievable and affordable. Not succeeding with these smaller goals can hurt the overall change initiative.

      These early wins will help overcome negativity you may be hearing from within the organization.

      Make sure to recognize these early successes and reward those who are helping meet these goals. Recognition and reward are also powerful motivators.


   7. Build on the Change

      Keep looking for improvements. It’s important to adapt quickly if you want to stay on course.

      Don’t be quick to settle and declare victory too early. You’ll lose sight of adjustments that can strengthen long-term change. Quick wins are good, but they are only the beginning.

      Continually analyze what is going well and what needs improvement. Continue to set goals based on this analysis.


   8. Institute Change

      Connect the changes made to the success of your organization. People need to see that their hard work paid off!

      Continue to highlight these changes in every aspect of your organization. Losing sight of the overall vision could set you back - maybe even to where you started.

      Continue to share successes and talk about progress.


Implementing change is not quick and easy. To be successful, change needs to be well-planned, carefully analyzed, and include key people. It takes time and patience, but the end result will be well worth it.


Taking these steps may seem daunting, however,
it can mean the difference between success and failure.

Has your organization been considering changes it needs to make?
Is it time to implement these steps?