Of the many lessons we’ve learned from the Covid pandemic, change agility is probably the most profound. In Southern California where I live, we are back to masking up indoors. Perhaps some of us never stopped. But disappointment and grumbling have echoed in my city because consciously or unconsciously, everybody wishes that it could go back to “the way it was”. Ah nostalgia… Like it or not, change is the new constant. When every fiber of one’s being is highly invested in homeostasis and the soothing familiarity of our comfort zones, change sucks.
Expanding from these individual proclivities, change on an organizational level can be fraught with mine fields. If you are leading change in your organization, preplanning is essential. I have heard the following quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln: If I had an hour to chop down a tree, I’d spend 55 minutes sharpening my axe. I’ve also heard a similar sentiment attributed to Albert Einstein. In either case, you get the point. So what’s the plan?
In a great article from 1995 (HBR): Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail, John P. Kotter provides eight stages to organizational transformation. He points to actions needed and pitfalls. I list below the eight stages and possible pitfalls.
- Establish a sense of urgency: Don’t underestimate the difficulty of driving people from their comfort zones and don’t become paralyzed by risk fears.
- Form a powerful guiding coalition: Change will be hardest when there’s no prior experience in teamwork at the top.
- Create a vision: Be sure the vision isn’t too complicated or vague to be communicated in five minutes.
- Communicate the vision: Don’t under communicate the vision; action items must be consistent with the vision.
- Empower others to act on the vision: Address and/or remove derailers.
- Plan for and create short-term wins: Don’t leave successes up to chance and be sure they occur early enough in the process.
- Consolidate improvements and produce more change: Don’t declare victory too soon.
- Institutionalize new approaches: Be sure new social norms and shared values are consistent with changes.
Weekly Challenge: Review any initiatives in terms of pre-planning using these eight stages.
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