Change is inevitable and continuous. But how can you make sure that the change you want or need to make in your business is successful and enduring? This article describes a simple but effective 8 step model developed by the world renowned change expert John Kotter. It also contains a series of prompts to help business owners and leaders successfully lead their people through the process of organisational change.

1. Create a Sense of Urgency
For change to happen, it helps if the whole company really wants it. Develop a sense of urgency around the need for change. This may help you spark the initial motivation to get things moving. This isn’t simply a matter of showing people poor sales statistics or talking about increased competition. Open an honest and convincing dialogue about what’s happening in the marketplace and with your competition. If many people start talking about the change you propose, the urgency can build and feed on itself.

- do people understand why change is needed?
- build the case for change supported by relevant data
- develop a communication template which explains the why, what and how of the change
- articulate what the consequences will be if change does not happen
- be prepared to develop the collective will to change by generating energy, awareness and enthusiasm.

2. Form a Powerful Coalition
Convince people that change is necessary. This often takes strong leadership and visible support from key people within your organisation. Managing change isn’t enough – you have to lead it. You can find effective change leaders throughout your organisation – they don’t necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy. To lead change, you need to bring together a coalition, or team, of influential people whose power comes from a variety of sources, including job title, status, expertise, and political importance. Once formed, your change coalition needs to work as a team, continuing to build urgency and momentum around the need for change.

- ensure all managers/key influencers & stakeholders understand the reasoning, impact & timeframes
- don’t assume commitment. Time will need to be invested to ensure managers buy-in to the process
- ensure the senior management team is communicating in a consistent way, with consistent messages
- involve other functions early (e.g. Finance, HR) in the early thinking, as they may have key insights

3. Create a Vision for Change
When you first start thinking about change, there will probably be many great ideas and solutions floating around. Link these concepts to an overall vision that people can easily grasp and remember. A clear vision can help everyone understand why you’re asking them to do something. When people see for themselves what you’re trying to achieve, then the directives they’re given tend to make more sense.

- articulate clearly the vision of what you are trying to achieve. Describe arrival points, expected behaviours
- articulate broad measures of success, even if at this stage they are only indicators
- outline the route map for travelling forwards the new vision

4. Communicate the New Vision
What you do with your vision after you create it will determine your success. Your message will probably have strong competition from other day-to-day communications within the company, so you need to communicate it frequently and powerfully, and embed it within everything that you do.

Don’t just call special meetings to communicate your vision. Instead, talk about it every chance you get. Use the vision daily to make decisions and solve problems. When you keep it fresh on everyone’s minds, they’ll remember it and respond to it. It’s also important to walk the talk. What you do is far more important – and believable – than what you say. Demonstrate the kind of behavior that you want from others.

It’s important at this stage to develop a communication plan which acknowledges all the phases of the change process that people experience

Options for communicating the change can include:
- departmental meetings synchronised across the organisation
- cascading key messages through team meetings or formal team briefings
- smaller team meetings and informal sessions
- developing PowerPoint presentations and scripts for briefing managers
- supporting messages from senior executives (e.g. by DVD or CD Rom), which need to be clear and concise.

There will be a reaction, so be prepared to set up forums that enable difficult questions to be asked and for people to vent their feelings. Set up regular meetings to provide updates, even if the only news to report is that there has been no progress. Also set up 1:1s with team members to understand how they feel about the changes and give them an opportunity to air their concerns or ideas for improving implementation. Keep a note of all the questions you are asked and send out a question/answer summary to all so that everyone gets the same information.

You cannot communicate too much during major change. Consider running Change Management workshops for all staff.

5. Remove Obstacles
If you follow these steps and reach this point in the change process, you’ve been talking about your vision and building buy-in from all levels of the organisation. Hopefully, your staff wants to get busy and achieve the benefits that you’ve been promoting. But is anyone resisting the change? And are there processes or structures that are getting in its way? Put in place the structure for change, and continually check for barriers to it. Removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision, and it can help the change move forward.

- set up change teams across the function/business
- set up project teams to work on implementing new ways of working
- provide regular updates on progress
- share successes and mistakes with all
- managers should ensure they are highly visible and available to everyone impacted by the changes
- look at setting up change agents in each location.

6. Create Short-term wins
Nothing motivates more than success. Give your company a taste of victory early in the change process. Within a short-time frame (this could be a month or a year, depending on the type of change), you’ll want to have results that your people can see. Without this, critics and negative thinkers might hurt your progress. Create short-term targets – not just one long-term goal. You want each smaller target to be achievable, with little room for failure. Your change team may have to work very hard to come up with these targets, but each win that you produce can further motivate the entire staff.

- generate quick wins
- make decisions confidently
- encourage people, particularly when mistakes are made
- establish clear priorities
- set up short-term objectives for individuals and teams
- take care of individual concerns
- individuals need job roles and responsibility to be clear
- be visible: this is the time to provide hands-on direction, specific assignments, focus, deadlines, timetables.

7. Build on the Change; Consolidate Gains and Drive On
Kotter argues that many change projects fail because victory is declared too early. Real change runs deep. Quick wins are only the beginning of what needs to be done to achieve long-term change. Launching one new product using a new system is great. But if you can launch 10 products, that means the new system is working. To reach that 10th success, you need to keep looking for improvements. Each success provides an opportunity to build on what went right and identify what you can improve.

- continue setting objectives
- focus on building the new team(s)
- keep an eye on the team(s) and individuals in order to prevent relapses
- do not assume that you are finally there – keep up the communication and support
- provide regular feedback.

8. Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture
Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organisation. Your corporate culture often determines what gets done, so the values behind your vision must show in day-to-day work. Make continuous efforts to ensure that the change is seen in every aspect of your organisation. This will help give that change a solid place in your organisation’s culture. It’s also important that your company’s leaders continue to support the change. This includes existing staff and new leaders who are brought in. If you lose the support of these people, you might end up back where you started.

- reward new behaviours that are aligned with the new vision
- recognise what has been achieved
- do not talk only about what is still to be done
- ensure systems and processes are fully integrated with new ways of working
- celebrate success.

Summary Points: You have to work hard to change an organisation successfully. When you plan carefully and build the proper foundation, implementing change can be much easier, and you’ll improve the chances of success. If you’re too impatient, and if you expect too many results too soon, your plans for change are more likely to fail. Create a sense of urgency, recruit powerful change leaders, build a vision and effectively communicate it, remove obstacles, create quick wins, and build on your momentum. If you do these things, you can help make the change part of your organisational culture. That’s when you can declare a true victory. Then sit back and enjoy the change that you envisioned so long ago.

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