John Kotter is the undoubted star of the change literature. Kotter put forward 8 key points in achieving lasting change. In my experience, he’s spot on.
- You need a sense of urgency. Also known as “never waste a good crisis”. Or you can expect references to “burning platforms” from people trying to ramp up the sense of urgency. what happens if you have no sense of urgency? People point at you and laugh and stick to their familiar patterns of thought and behaviour. And that’s totally rational.
- You need to set up a powerful guiding coalition of people in your organisation who see there’s a problem. What happens if you don’t have that? People point at you and laugh and call you a loner. See Winston Churchill between 1930 and 1940 when he was trying to warn about a re-arming Germany. Not many people remember how derided he was at that time.
- You need to create a vision of what your better place will be like. Would the Plymouth brethren have set sail for the US without tracts setting out the beauty of the promised land? I’d add that you need to repeat your vision of the future scores of times, because people don’t listen.
- You need to share that vision.
- You need to empower others to act on that vision. So that means allowing your scouts, your people exploring better ways of doing things, the space, time and resources to explore the possibilities.
- You need to plan for and create short term wins. People have short memories but remember success and failures, and have a negative bias in remembering failures more intensely. Set up some easy wins to build that confidence and nurture resilience.
- Don’t declare victory too soon. People backslide. Good ideas get dropped because of a lack of discipline.
- Anchor the changes in the organisation’s culture. That is hard. Best way is to insist on reviews on a regular basis to ensure you’re getting the benefits you said you would when you set out on your change journey.