You need to climb each stage to reach to top!

You need to climb each stage to reach to top!


We began exploring Leading Change by John P. Kotter by exploring the reasons organizational change fails. Chapter two explores successful change and the forces that drive successful change: an introduction to Kotter’s famous eight-stage process model and the role of leadership in change.

The eight-stage process for creating major change is a direct reflection of the eight common errors described in chapter one. The model describes a sequence of activities needed to generate, implement and then instantiate change within an organization. The eight steps are:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency.
  2. Creating a guiding coalition.
  3. Developing a vision and strategy.
  4. Communicating the change vision.
  5. Empower broad-based action.
  6. Generating short-term wins.
  7. Consolidating gains and producing more changes.
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture.

Each step in the model builds on the step before. Jumping into the model by communicating a vision and strategy with a power base and an organizational urgency is like putting the cart before the horse. The strategy and vison you are trying to communicate will not have the motivational power and would easily run out gas. When considering the stages in the model, recognize that Kotter conceived of the model as a sequence and that each step needs to be addressed.

Kotter talked briefly in the chapter about projects within projects. The idea is that most major changes are a reflection group of inter-related changes. An IT program is a group of related projects managed in a coordinated fashion. Any project can be starting or completing if we looked at a cross section of the program at any specific time. Similarly any individual change project following Kotter’s process within a larger group of changes will be at the stage need by that project.

The second major theme in this chapter is a discussion of leadership and the differences between leadership and management. Leadership provides vision and direction that are needed for building a powerbase for change and then to galvanize the organization into action. Almost by definition a leader conceives of a vision of the future and then acts as a catalyst to make that vision a reality. Leadership is transformational in nature. The difficulty is that many change programs are led by managers rather than leaders. Management is concerned with organizing, planning and controlling work. Almost by definition management is a tool to resist change. Management is important to the day-to-day activities, but without the vision of leadership there would be nothing to manage. Where leadership transforms, management translates.

While the dichotomy of leadership and management seems black and white, both are always required in any organization. As the rate of change increases (or at least as the need for the rate of change increases), the need for vision and leadership increases. Alternately during periods in were there is little pressure on firms business model, the need for managers and management tends to rise into ascendancy over the need for leadership. The late 40’s and 1950’s were such a period in the United States. That is not the environment that we find ourselves in today. Change is a fact of life. Kotter’s eight-stage process model provides a structure for applying leadership in consistent manner that identifies why change needs to occur, builds a base, delivers change and makes sure it sticks.