Leading Change: An Action Plan from the World’s Foremost Expert on Business Leadership by John P. Kotter
As suggested by the book’s title, the dominant theme in John Kotter’s book ‘Leading Change’ is change. Change is one of the inevitable processes that we have to go through, but the process is often met with resistance. The reason for this resistance is that change in one aspect of life tends to affect changes in many other areas; hence people are afraid of change. They often prefer the comfort zone where they know what happens next (Kotter 2012). This is also the case in any business or organization. ‘Leading Change’ follows eight steps that are prerequisites to change and some of the reasons as to why many change programs fail, giving insight to business leaders on the steps to take to drive change in their areas of leadership.
To begin, the book first examines the main reasons as to why change programs fail. One of these reasons is being contented with a situation (Kotter 2012), which happens to both leaders and employees in an organization. Most of the time, it is upon management to keep pushing their teams to embrace change, but if everyone gets comfortable, they will go back to their old ways. The author also emphasizes how a lack of vision and a powerful guiding coalition can hinder change within an organization. From this point, the reader gets a clear picture of how essential vision is towards driving change and leaders are encouraged to come up with a sharp image of change to inspire those that they lead (Veling et al). Leaders must also come up with practical ways to communicate this vision to inspire others to embrace change.
Other factors that hinder change include declaring victory too soon. As happens with any situation in life, any goal takes time and hard work to achieve hence claiming victory within a short time can lead to reverting to old habits (Kotter 2012). With this in mind, it is also vital to make milestones as they are achieved in the short term so that employees are motivated to do better. Change should also be incorporated into the corporate culture (Veling et al 2018). The author makes this point that leaders should make employees aware that change is healthy and essential; it leads to growth; hence there is no need to fear change. This is a necessary mindset to keep not just for business leaders but also in embracing change in the daily life of any individual.
Kotter stresses the point that people within an organization should feel that change is a necessary path towards growth. To counter the cynicism that comes with whether a change will have a positive impact, leaders must be prepared. They should recognize that new ideas will often face opposition and hence all the employees must be encouraged to be a part of the change. The process of change will meet resistance; covert, overt or unconscious (Kotter 2012). These points made by the author as to why change fails very relevant to all audiences. While reading through them, the reader can understand and relate it to their own experience hence can be better prepared to counter any negative attitudes towards change.
The author outlines eight steps that drive change, the first being the establishment of a sense of urgency within the organization. Change should be viewed as necessary and urgent for success. Employees should be able to clearly express any issues that they have honestly and openly. It is also important to engage those who are dissatisfied such as customers, employees and other stakeholders. The second step is to create a guiding coalition which is the responsibility of the management (Kotter 2012). The leadership team’s work is merely to inspire others; all the employees need to know that they are essential to change. This is a crucial point related to any real-life situation; success is more likely to be achieved with a team effort.
The third step is to have a clear vision and strategy, and the next step is to communicate it to all members of the organization so that they know what they are working to achieve. The fifth step is to empower employees to take action necessary for change. Some of the things that are disempowering include old systems of leadership, lack of skills, and values. The sixth step is to generate short term wins to keep employees motivated. The seventh step is to consolidate gains to produce more change, and the final step is to instil the culture of change within the organization (Kotter 2012).
While reading this book, I learnt many things that are not only confined to corporate culture but also to real life situations that we face every day. Change is a common feature in our lives, and hence we must be ready to embrace it. Many times we are afraid of change, and the reasons for this are some of those given by Kotter including the fact that we are scared to move out of our comfort zone. To counter this, we can come up with visions and strategies that can motivate us to change.
The primary audience for which this book was intended is business and organizational leaders, and the author does a splendid job of breaking down the change process into three parts. The first is the hindrances to change, the need for change and the eight steps necessary to effect change within the organization. While some of these may seem pretty obvious, how they are categorized and solutions to problems suggested will make it an easy and informative read for leaders. They are given essential pointers on how to deal with resistance and cynicism towards change which is a common thing in all organizations. The author makes his points very precisely to the audience.
The book reinforced my opinions regarding a change. I have often had a problem with change, the biggest one being a fear of the unknown as a result of making changes. This is a challenge that many people experience, and employees or many organizations are no different. The book has therefore given me clarity on some of the reasons as to why change is so complicated and what can be done to make the process more exciting.
In conclusion, I agree with the author on the points on what organizational leadership needs to do to promote change as a tool of growth and progress. The creation of vision and strategy are essential for driving change. Employees are a significant part of the process of change; hence they must be encouraged to communicate honestly on their fears and concerns (Doppelt 2017). Short term gains should be rewarded to keep them motivated. Change should be a part of the corporate culture of any organization and the steps outlined by Kotter will be sure to see any organization embrace change towards thriving operations.
Doppelt, B. (2017). Leading change toward sustainability: A change-management guide for business, government and civil society. Routledge.Kotter, J. P. (2012). Leading change. Harvard business press.
Veling, L., Crowley, C., Russell, A., Cullen, J. G., McQuillan, L., Gorman, P., … & MacHale, J. (2018). Organizational Change Management (OCM): Preliminary position paper.