Fire Alarm

 

Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning good change. Change in a dynamic business environment has become an accepted norm. Organizations must adapt or lose relevancy. The concept of kaizen has been adopted within the information technology industry as part of core management practices. In business terms, kaizen has been defined as continuous incremental change. You need energy to make change occur, in many cases, a sense of urgency is the mechanism used to generate the energy to drive continuous change. (more…)

A trail map enables hikers to choose their own path!

A trail map enables hikers to choose their own path!

Change is a fact of life.  John P. Kotter’s book, Leading Change, defines his famous eight-stage model for change. The first stage of the model is establishing a sense of urgency. A sense of urgency provides the energy and rational for any large, long-term change program. Once a sense of urgency has been established, the second stage in the eight-stage model for change is the establishment of a guiding coalition. If a sense of urgency provides energy to drive change, a guiding coalition provides the power for making change happen. A vision, built on the foundation of urgency and a guiding coalition, represents a picture of a state of being at some point in the future. Developing a vision and strategy is only a start, the vision and strategy must be clearly and consistently communicated to build the critical mass needed to make change actually happen. Once an organization wound up and primed, the people within the organization must be empowered and let loose to create change.

I view the stages the precede stage five to be a build up to the beginning of the main course. Each step is incredibly important and ignoring any of the steps will lead to problems and failure.  However, if the change you are attempting to generate is to be broad based and long lasting, you will need to empower people.  In this chapter Kotter discusses removing barriers to empowerment. Kotter singles out four categories of barriers for examination:

  1. Structural – Organizational structure defines how the lines of authority and responsibility are constructed in order to deliver the organization’s products and services. An organization’s structures are generally developed to effectively and efficiently deliver services and products based on a specific way of working. Structures are built to guide and control work AND to resist change. Managers often defend the current structure and their own base of power leading to specialization. Specialization generates silos; fragmenting the work so that to deliver a product or service, many handoffs are required.  Handoffs slow the flow of information and communication, which accentuates the need to foster stable processes over innovation. Breaking through structural barriers requires a constant sense of urgency and senior management oversight and dedication.
  2. Skills – Change often requires reskilling employees who have spent years acquiring knowledge and skills and believe they have been successful. The act of having to acquire new skills and change what has worked in the past generates fear of the future and resistance. People fear change they do not think will benefit them or at least can’t predict will be positive. A training strategy needs to couple the experience and concepts to convince those involved with the change that they will be successful. Training to reskill employees must be designed to combat resistance and to address adult learning (see Training Strategies for Transformations and Change: Synthesis).
  3. Systems – Systems of all types need to change to empower and support employees in making change. Systems include information technology applications (e.g. customer relationship systems and logistics systems) and business processes (e.g. objectives, hiring processes, promotions). Changes to the process and systems are critical to making change possible and then supporting change.
  4. Supervisors – Not all supervisors and middle managers will support the vision and strategy for change adopted by the organization. When these leaders baulk at empowering their employees, change often grinds to a halt. Kotter suggests that you should confront the recalcitrant with honest dialog. I would add that that when the dialog occurs (the earlier the better) that the power that urgency, vision and constancy of purpose be used to get holdouts on the change train. Employees with supervisors that actively resist the change will never feel safe enough to be empowered.

Empowering employees generates power and action.  They are required to transform a vision and strategy into something tangible rather than something ethereal.  Without empowered employees, change fails.

Communicate, many ways and many times!

Communicate, many ways and many times!

Change is a fact of life. John P. Kotter’s book, Leading Change, defines his famous eight-stage model for change. The first stage of the model is establishing a sense of urgency. A sense of urgency provides the energy and rational for any large, long-term change program. Once a sense of urgency has been established, the second stage in the eight-stage model for change is the establishment of a guiding coalition. If a sense of urgency provides energy to drive change, a guiding coalition provides the power for making change happen. A vision, built on the foundation of urgency and a guiding coalition, represents a picture of a state of being at some point in the future. Once a vision has been established, it must be clearly and consistently communicated. Failure to effectively communicate the vision will cripple change.

Kotter lists seven attributes for effective communication of the change vision.

  1. Keep it simple – The vision must be clearly understandable by all of those who are impacted. The message must be clear and simple, which means ZERO mumbo jumbo. The United States Coast Guard has the one of best vision statements I have ever read, “The world’s best responders: anytime, any place, any hazard.” Everyone from top most senior officers to the most junior enlisted personnel would have difficulty misinterpreting the vision when making day-to-day decisions.
  2. Metaphor, analogy, and examples –Use words to paint pictures in people’s mind that clarify the complexity.
  3. Multiple forums – Increasing the number of vehicles used to communicate the message increases the chance that the vision will be heard, internalized and institutionalized.
  4. Repetition – Communicating a vision requires more than a roll-out speech and an article in the company newsletter. The vision needs to be continually repeated and reinforced in order to break through the clutter of competing communications.
  5. Leadership by example – Leaders must participate in and live the change. Living the change increases the credibility and deflects resistance. Perceived inconsistencies between the vision of change and how leadership acts will be noticed. Inconsistencies in behavior will hurt or deflect change.
  6. Explain perceived inconsistencies.
  7. Give and take – Communicating the vision for change requires two-way communication between leaders and others involved in making change a reality. Two-way communication means both listening and being heard. Communication implies that if the vision is wrong that the change vision may need to change.

Effective change requires that enough people understand the change they are being asked to make and where that change will lead them. Ambiguously crafted visions and communications will at best cause confusion and at worst derail change. Regardless of the urgent need for a change or how carefully the vision is crafted people do not follow those they feel are on the wrong path. This true even if the change has powerful backers. Effective communication of the change vision helps to build the critical mass needed to make change actually happen.

A vision provides a goal and direction to travel.

A vision provides a goal and direction to travel.

John P. Kotter’s book, Leading Change, established why change in organizations can fail and the forces that shape the changes when they are successful. The two sets of opposing forces he identifies in the first two chapters are used to define and illuminate his famous eight-stage model for change. The first stage of the model is establishing a sense of urgency. A sense of urgency provides the energy and rational for any large, long-term change program. Once a sense of urgency has been established, the second stage in the eight-stage model for change is the establishment of a guiding coalition. If a sense of urgency provides energy to drive change, a guiding coalition provides the power for making change happen. Once we identify or establish a sense of urgency and the power to make change happen we then have to wrestle establishing a vision and strategy. A vision represents a picture of a state of being at some point in the future. A vision acts as an anchor that establishes the goal of the transformation. A strategy defines the high level path to that future.

Kotter begins the first chapter by reviewing changes driven by different leadership styles that include authoritarian, micromanagement and visionary. Change driven by authoritarian decree (do it because I said so) and micromanagement (I will tell you step-by-step how to get from point A to point B and validate compliance to my instructions) often fail to break through the status quo. In fact, demanding change tends to generate resistance and passive aggressive behavior due to the lack of buy-in from those involved in the change. Couple the lack of buy-in with the incredible level of effort needed to force people to change and then to monitor that change, and scalability problems will surface. Neither authoritarian- nor micromanagement-driven techniques are efficient for responding to dynamic, large scale changes. Change driven by vision overcomes these issues by providing the direction and the rational for why the organization should strive together toward the future defined by the vision.

Effective visions are not easy to craft. Visions are important for three reasons. An effective vision will provide clarity of direction. A clear direction provides everyone making or guiding the change with a clearer set of parameters to make decisions. When lean and Agile teams crisply define the goals of a sprint or Agile release train (SAFe), they are using the same technique to break through the clutter and focus the decision making process on achieving the their goal. Secondly, visions are important because they provide hope by describing a feasible outcome. A vision of what is perceived as a feasible outcome provides a belief that the pain of change be overcome. Finally, a vision provides alignment. Alignment keeps people moving in a common direction.

Kotter defines six characteristics of an effective vision.

  1. Imaginable – The people who consume the vision must be able to paint a rational picture in their mind of what the world will be like if the vision is attained.
  2. Desirable – The vision appeal to the long-term interests of those being asked to change.
  3. Feasible – The vision has to be attainable.
  4. Focused – The vision provide enough clarity and alignment to guide organizational decisions.
  5. Flexible – The vision must provide enough direction to guide but not enough to restrict individual initiative.
  6. Communicable – The vision must be consumable and understandable to everyone involved in the change process. Kotter further suggests that if a vision can’t be explained in five minutes it has failed the test of communicable.

In the third stage of the eight-stage model for change, Kotter drills deeply into the rationale and the definition of an effective vision.  Kotter defines strategy as the logic for how the vision will be attained.  An effectively developed vision makes the processes of defining the path (strategy) for attaining vision far less contentious. The attributes of an effective vision including being imaginable, feasible and focused provide enough of a set of constraints to begin the process of defining how the vision can be achieved.

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.

To drive change, you must be pointed in the right direction from the start.

To drive change, you must be pointed in the right direction from the start.

Leading Change by John P. Kotter, originally published in 1996, has become a classic reference that most process improvement specialists either have or should have on their bookshelf. The core of the book lays out an eight-step model for effective change that anyone involved in change will find useful. However there is more to the book than just the model.

If we take it as fact that we live in a world that full of dynamic forces that cause markets to change and evolve, then all organizations will need to change or become irrelevant. In this environment, effective change has become a required capability for the health of the organization. Given the need for change, you would expect that change agents and organizations would have become good at change. However, the anecdotal evidence as seen on business pages of any major newspaper suggests that organizations will fail at change. Kotter begins Leading Change by describing the reasons why many changes fail. Understanding why changes fails is a prerequisite to understanding how change can succeed. In chapter one, titled “Transforming Organizations: Why Firms Fail” Kotter identifies the common errors organizations make when trying to address change.

  1. Allowing too much complacency – Without a sense of urgency it difficult to break the inertia that history and the day-to-day generate. I have often said that a good organizational near death experience makes breaking through organizational inertia much easier.
  2. Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition – Any significant change will require organizational power to create and institutionalize. The power to generate change requires active support and resources of personnel with that organizational power.
  3. Underestimating the power of vision – A vison of the future is required to generate a unified action. Change without vision of the future is much akin to taking a trip without knowing the destination.
  4. Under communicating the vision (by a lot) – The vision defines the future, it must be continuously communicated to ensure everyone is aligned.
  5. Permitting obstacles to block the new vision – Nothing should be allowed to get in the way of the change. It is easy to allow other initiatives or even day-to-day activities to get in the way of change. In environments where “multi-tasking” is encouraged any number one priority will have to vie for focus and attention with other initiatives.
  6. Failing to create short-term wins – Most significant changes require time to complete and institutionalize. Short-term successes help reinforce commitment and momentum to attaining the vision. Short-terms wins need to be planned and generated rather relying on wishful thinking.
  7. Declaring victory too soon – Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Declare victory only when the change has been institutionalized.
  8. Neglecting to anchor changes in the corporate culture – Until any change or process becomes part of corporate culture, the natural tendency will be toward reversion. Think about a person with an organ transplant, without support natural antibodies will attempt to reject the organ. Anchoring change to the culture is the support needed to avoid reversion to the old normal.

Understanding of common errors that cause change to fail is a step to toward successful change. In the next installment we will address the forces that drive successful change. Please share your thoughts and ideas as we re-read the book together.

If you need a copy feel free to buy it using the SPaMCAST associate link (Buy Leading Change) with helps pay for bandwidth, supplies and edit for the podcast and blog. H

Re-Read Saturday is a new feature on the Software Process and Measurement blog. We are starting this feature with a re-read of Leading Change. Leading change has been on my bookshelf for many years and I consider it an important tool The re-read will extend over a twelve Saturdays as I share my current interpretation of a book that has a major impact on how I think about the world around me. When the re-read of Leading Change is complete we will dive into the list of books I am compiling from you, the readers and listeners of my blog and podcast. Have ideas for the next re-read? Let me know the two books that have influenced your career the most!

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There are a number of books that have had a huge impact on my life and career. Many reader of the Software Process and Measure blog and listeners to the podcast have expressed similar sentiments. Re-read Saturday is a new feature that will begin next Saturday. We will begin Re-read Saturday with a re-read of Leading Change. The re-read will extend over a six to eight Saturdays as I share my current interpretation of a book that has a major impact on how I think about the world around me. When the re-read of Leading Change is complete we will dive into the list of books I am compiling from you, the readers and listeners.

Currently the list includes:

  • Seven Habit of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey (re-read in early 2014)
  • Out of the Crisis – Edward Deming
  • To Be or Not to Be Intimated — Robert Ringer
  • Pulling Your Own Strings — Wayne Dyer
  • The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement – Eliyahu M. Goldratt

So far each book has gotten one “vote” apiece.

How can you get involved in Re-read Saturday? You can begin by answering, “What are the two books that have most influenced you career (business, technical or philosophical)?” Send the titles to spamcastinfo@gmail.com, post the tiles on the blog, Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #SPaMCAST. We will continue to add to the list and republish it on the blog. When we are close to the end of the re-read of Leading Change we will publish a poll based on the current list (unless there is a clear leader) to select the next book to re-read.

Two of other ways to get involved include adding your perspective to each of the re-read entries by commenting. Second, when the re-read is complete I will invite all of the commenters to participate in a discussion (just like a book club) that will be recorded and published on the Software Process and Measurement Cast.

We begin next Re-read Saturday next week but you can get involved today!