Creating a Sense of Urgency

Creating a sense of urgency

Leading Change the Kotter Way

Creating a sense of urgency is Step One in the well-established Kotter model of leading change.  But what exactly does that mean?

After 30 years of research, Dr John Kotter believes that most major change initiatives fail mainly because organisations don’t commit to seeing the change through and don’t take a holistic approach throughout.   He has demonstrated that his 8 step process provides the most credible way of delivering and embedding large-scale organisational change.

His method elaborates and enlarges upon Lewin’s simple Freeze Phase, three stage approach – square, blob, star.  The underlying principles are the same. The model is based on research which showed that there are eight critical steps an organization or service needs to go through to ensure that change happens and sticks. This series of posts considers these steps in greater detail. we have already reissued;  Step Two: Forming a Powerful CoalitionStep Three Creating a Vision for Change and Step Four: Communicating Your Vision.

You have to work really hard

When I put the words ‘creating a sense of urgency’ into a search engine, I came up with all kinds of great ideas!  For example,  inspiring the team to work together towards a goal!  Lots of pleasant and positive stuff. Sounds good doesn’t it –  makes you feel good!  The problem is that, sadly, these positive ideas don’t work if you want to make fundamental change in an organisation.

Kotter reckons that for change to be successful, 75% of a company’s management needs to “buy into” the change. In other words, you have to really work hard on Step One, and spend significant time and energy creating a sense urgency, before moving onto the next steps. Unfortunately, there are no pleasant and easy answers.

It is hard to persuade groups of people to move a long way out of  their comfort Creating a sense of urgencyzone!  They will not move unless they understand that staying where they are is not an option! That means convincing them that staying where they are is going to be painful, or is simply no longer possible.

As my old lecturer in change management said somewhere back in the 90s – unless the pain of staying where you are is greater than the pain of moving, you usually stay put! He started the lecture with a picture of an amoeba and gave us a lecture on the fundamentals of stimulus! He was pretty focused on the importance of creating a sense of urgency. Without it, there would be no fundamental change!

So what can you do for your group?  It isn’t as simple as just showing them the sales figures, or other written evidence of need, and expecting them to respond.  You need to work with them. Go through the figures and then help them think through the consequences of doing nothing! Make it real. Not just consequences for the organisation, but for them. Help them to ask; “What will it mean for me in six months if nothing changes?”

Let them understand and absorb the threat. Then, work with them to think through options for the future and how they can move forward.

Share the pain and then show how you can share the gain.

Show them what they have to  gain from making a change. This may not be much but there will always be something! If the facts mean potential redundancies, work out how can you work together to mitigate the effects.

Are there new working patterns that you can adopt, for example, flexible or short-time working? Are there new markets to explore. What do they know about that might be helpful?

But, be careful. There is a difference between sharing the pain so that together you can make a change  and creating panic. There is a big difference between creating a sense of urgency and throwing things into chaos.

Do your homework before you start.

You are the leader and you need to remain in the leadership seat. Keep your nerve. It won’t be easy but then no one said being a leader was easy! Prepare well – you will face some challenging questions!

Don’t be naive! When they leave your meeting or presentation, the rumour mill will get to work. So, follow up with good information. Keep the communications flowing about your plans. Always be prepared to answer questions and be available. There will be some questions afterwards that they wished they’d asked at the meeting.

If you have experience of creating a sense or urgency, please share your war stories.  If you have a change to make – I hope things go very well for you! In the meantime if you need help please get in touch, I’ve been there before you.

Meanwhile…

Here is a Kotter Reading List for you;

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link

         

Leading Change – Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition

Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition

Leading Change the Kotter Way

Creating a powerful guiding coalition is perhaps the most challenging element of the Kotter model. I’ve written quite a bit here about the Kotter approach to leading change and I am in process of revamping my original Kotter model series.  This post deals with that difficult Stage Two; forming a powerful coalition to lead and manage the change. Links to the other stages are in the next paragraph.

After 30 years of research, Dr John Kotter believes that most major change initiatives fail mainly because organisations don’t commit to seeing the change through and don’t take a holistic approach throughout.   He has demonstrated that his 8 step process provides the most credible way of delivering and embedding large-scale organisational change. This series of posts will consider his steps in greater detail. we have already reissued; Step One: Creating Urgency, Step Three: Creating a Vision for Change and Step Four: Communicating Your Vision.

His method elaborates and enlarges upon Lewin’s simple Freeze Phase, three stage approach – square, blob, star.  The underlying principles are the same.

In a world requiring ultimate flexibility, an organisation’s ability to deal successfully with change is a key ingredient in its overall success.

Step Two – Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition

No one person, however competent, is capable single-handedly of completing all the tasks required in leading a large organisation through change. The tasks include;

  • developing the right vision,
  • communicating it to vast numbers of people,
  • eliminating all of the obstacles,
  • generating short-term wins,
  • leading and managing dozens of change projects
  • anchoring new approaches deep in an organisation’s culture.

Putting together the right people to lead and manage  the change is critical to its success. It needs visible support from key people through-out your organisation. You must find the right people, instil in them a significant level of trust and develop a shared objective.

Those people need to have the right credibility within the organisation.  Otherwise things will go limp and the change will simply go to pieces and fritter away. This will leave the organisation weaker than it was before.

Create a  team of leaders and managers that can act in concert and make productive decisions. The decisions need to be taken seriously by all the group! Managers in the team will keep the process under control, while leaders drive the change. Some times people can both lead and manage but don’t assume you will find both talents in the same people.

An effective guiding coalition

An effective guiding coalition should have;

  • Position Power:  Enough key players on board so that those left out cannot block progress.
  • Expertise:  All relevant points of view should be represented so that informed and intelligent decisions can be made.
  • Credibility:  The group should be seen and respected by all so that the group’s pronouncements will be taken seriously by others.
  • Leadership:  The group should have enough proven leaders able to drive the change process.

Creating a powerful guiding coalition means the team needs to develop trust in one another. They need a shared goal so that they can make the needed change happen, despite all of the forces of inertia and resistance they may find.

Meanwhile…

Here is a Kotter Reading List for you;

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

 

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link

         

Leading Change – deciding who leads!

Challenge kart

Last week I wrote about putting a group together to lead your change – creating a guiding coalition (Kotter Stage 3).

This group needs to include both managers and leaders and they will work together as a team.  The managers will keep the process under control while the leaders will drive the change.

A group with good managers but poor leaders is likely to produce plans but have no compelling vision. It will not communicate the need for change well enough for it to become meaningful –  it will control rather than empower people.

While a group that has all leaders and no managers is unlikely to be organized enough to create the short-term wins necessary to keep others on board for the long-haul – it will not sustain a change initiative.

You need a group that can convince people that change is necessary in the short term.  Then keep them actively engaged through-out the process, so that you can achieve the long-term goal.

Has your organization has been successful in the recent past?  Then if you look hard enough, you will probably find effective change leaders and managers throughout your organization!  You just have to find them.  They don’t necessarily follow the traditional company hierarchy.

If the organization has not been successful for a long time then you have a challenge.  You will need to seek out the good, work with the less good and, if possible, make sure the organization imports some capable fresh blood and embeds and empowers the individuals quickly.  This change will require a very experienced change facilitator fully backed by the top team

To lead and manage  change, you need to bring together a group whose power comes from a variety of sources including; job title, status, expertise, political importance and, just sometimes, sheer force of personality, in other words, charisma!

How to put a group together in four (not always easy) steps:

  • Go out and find the true leaders and strong managers in your organization.
  • Ask for an emotional commitment from these key people – explain to them why you need the change..
  • Work on team building within your change coalition.
  • Check your team for weak areas  and ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company.

I would welcome your thoughts on this and, of course,  I am very happy to answer your questions

Related articles

  • Leading Change – Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition(wisewolftalking.com)
  • Leading Change – knowing what a sense of urgency really means!(wisewolftalking.com)
  • Bewildered by the change you have to make – here is help!(wisewolftalking.com)

Wendy Mason works as a personal and business coach, consultant and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you.  Email her at wendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Leading Change – Creating a Powerful Guiding Coalition

President George W. Bush, left center, joins f...

I’ve written quite a bit here about the Kotter approach to change.  In a recent a recent post, I dealt with his Stage One and creating a sense of urgency.  This post deals with Stage Two – forming a powerful coalition to lead and manage the change.

After 30 years of research Dr John Kotter believes that most major change initiatives fail mainly because organizations don’t commit to seeing the change through and don’t take a holistic approach throughout.   He has demonstrated that his 8 step process provides a way of delivering and embedding large scale organizational change.

His method elaborates and enlarges upon the simple Freeze Phase, three stage approach – square, blob, star.  But the underlying principles are the same.

In a world requiring ultimate flexibility an organization’s ability to deal successfully with change is a key ingredient in its overall success.

Step Two – Creating a Powerful Coalition

No one person, however competent, is capable single handedly of developing the right vision, communicating it to vast numbers of people, eliminating all of the obstacles, generating short term wins, leading and managing dozens of change projects and anchoring new approaches deep in an organization’s culture.

Putting together the right people to lead and manage  the change initiative is critical to its success.   It needs visible support from key people through out your organization.  You must find the right people, instill in them a significant level of trust and develop a shared objective.

You need people who have the right credibility within the organization.  Otherwise things will go limp and the change will simply go to pieces and fritter away leaving the organization weaker than it was before.

You need a  team of leaders and managers that can act in concert and make productive decisions that will be taken seriously by all!  The managers will keep the process under control while the leaders drive the change..

An effective guiding coalition should have

  • Position Power:  Enough key players on board so that those left out cannot block progress.
  • Expertise:  All relevant points of view should be represented so that informed and intelligent decisions can be made.
  • Credibility:  The group should be seen and respected by all so that the group’s pronouncements will be taken seriously by others.
  • Leadership:  The group should have enough proven leaders able to drive the change process.

The team needs to develop trust in one another and a shared goal so that they can make the needed change happen, despite all of the forces of inertia and resistance they find.

My next post will deal with how you choose the group.  But in the mean time I would welcome your thoughts.

Wendy Smith is a personal coach and writer at Wisewolf Coaching. She is a qualified coach and a member of the Association for Coaching as well as being a member of the Institute of Consulting and a graduate of the Common Purpose leadership programme.  Wendy is author of “The WiseWolf Job Search Pocket Book: How to Win Jobs and Influence Recruiters” as well as two novels and a number of articles on management and well-being. Her latest publication is a little eBook; “How to Get on With the Boss.”  You can contact Wendy at wendy@wisewolfcoaching.com

  • Leading Change – knowing what a sense of urgency really means! (wisewolftalking.com)
  • Bewildered by the change you have to make – here is help! (wisewolftalking.com)
  • Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads: The Essentials (theascdoctor.com)

Leading Change – bad advice and frightening people!

October 4: Optical Boundaries: An Evening of 1...

I wanted to take my earlier post on creating urgency further today and discuss how you can avoid creating panic.  So I started to do some research.

On what is a very “well respected” website that probably should be nameless,  I came across the following headline

“Let it rip: announcing change all at once may hurt in the short term, but it gets the pain over with quickly and then employees can move on!”

Further on in the same article I came across the following,  from a communications’ consultancy in response to the question of why change announcements are often badly received.

“They don’t take change well because when it comes to communicating changes to employees, every company does it badly.”

You could say they would say that wouldn’t they.  But I regard it as a dangerous statement and the degree of naivety around both these pieces of advice is sad to behold!

Yes, people do need the truth about change and as much information as you can give them about how it is going to affect them. You need to tell them what you know and what you don’t know and how you are going to bridge the gap.

But you don’t let rip!  That way lies panic!

Information needs to be given in a measured and honest way.

However well you do it, if it is a significant change, I am afraid there is likely to be pain.  And, no, it won’t be over quickly because you “let rip”!  But being honest and conveying the message (and your vision) well, can lessen the pain and avoid panic.

All kinds of feelings may emerge when people are faced with change.  How the message is conveyed is only part of the picture.

Nor is it true that every company does it badly but unfortunately many don’t do it well.

So on Friday, I’ll be writing here about how to give your own people bad news and how to control your own feelings in the process.   I want you to be able to do your best to help them!

In the meantime, I’d welcome your thoughts and observations.

Related articles

  • Leading Change – knowing what a sense of urgency really means!(wisewolftalking.com)
  • Managing Change! Is it painful? You bet it is! (wisewolftalking.com)
  • Your Sense of Urgency (thinkup.waldenu.edu)
  • Business Change: A Sense of Urgency (martinwebster.eu)

Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her awendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)786768143

Leading Change – knowing what a sense of urgency really means!

Dont Panic
  

I’ve written quite a bit here about the Kotter approach to change.

After 30 years of research Dr John Kotter believes that most major change initiatives fail mainly because organizations don’t commit to seeing the change through and don’t take a holistic approach throughout.   He has demonstrated that his 8 step process provides a way of delivering and embedding large scale organizational change.

His method elaborates and enlarges upon the simple Freeze Phase, three stage approach – square, blob, star.  But the underlying principles are the same.

In a world requiring ultimate flexibility an organization’s ability to deal successfully with change is a key ingredient in its overall success.

The first stage in the Kotter approach is to create a sense of urgency but this is often the hardest part of a change to accomplish.

To move a change forward you need to develop and maintain a sense of urgency across the organization. This helps you to kick start the initial motivation to get things moving but also to sustain the energy throughout the change.  Urgency needs to be created and recreated throughout the whole change process.

Moving to this state, while maintaining performance, isn’t easy. And leaders need to differentiate between complacency, panic (what Kotter calls “false urgency”) and the sustainable and more positive state of true urgency

  • Complacency can be the halo effect that follows earlier success.  This leads to a glow of self satisfaction that means potential risks and changes in the world outside the organization are not seen. It can lead to sluggishness or arrogance.  The organization is inward facing and doesn’t study emerging markets, technology and competitors; this is part of the reason why horizon scanning by the leadership team can be so important.  Yes, you may be good, but are you good enough for the changing world and the changing marketplace.
  • Panic (False Urgency) often results when the message about the required change is not well handled.  Instead of inspiring confidence in the team that they can meet the challenge of change, the boss simply frightens them.   Instead of a positive and well managed response, what results is a lot of frenetic activity.  People rush from meeting to meeting without achieving anything significant but the activity in itself can convince the leader that change is happening.  The result can be that people become angry, upset and/or stressed out.  The energy required to complete and embed the change is simply drained away.
  • True urgency according to dictionary means “of pressing importance”! It means taking action now on critical issues and achieving real outcomes.  It is not about processing for processing’s sake.  True urgency engenders a balanced response – seeing the need for change without a sense of panic and impending doom.

If change is to be accomplished successfully then people need to be focused and have a sense that they are in control.  They need to see that there are real opportunities alongside the threat. This will allow them to be alert and proactive – able to act on their own initiative in taking the change forward. With a team that is confident in its leader and has a true sense of urgency, change can be sustained.  It is far less stressful.

Related articles

  • Managing Change! Is it painful? You bet it is! (wisewolftalking.com)
  • Your Sense of Urgency (thinkup.waldenu.edu)
  • Business Change: A Sense of Urgency (martinwebster.eu)


Wendy Mason works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy – she can help you – email her awendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439

Managing Change! Is it painful? You bet it is!

How urgent is your amoeba?

Most of us who work in the field of change management have signed up to the Kotter model of leading change.  And Step One in the model is to create a sense of urgency.  But what exactly does that mean?

When I put the words ‘creating a sense of urgency’ into a search engine I came up with all kinds of good things!  For example,  inspiring the team to work together towards a goal!  Lots of pleasant and positive stuff.  Sounds good doesn’t it –  makes you feel good!  The problem is,  it doesn’t work if you want to make a fundamental change in an organisation.

Kotter reckons that for change to be successful, 75% of a company’s management needs to “buy into” the change. In other words, you have to really work hard on Step One, and spend significant time and energy building urgency, before moving onto the next steps.  And there are no pleasant and easy answers.

It is hard to persuade groups of people to move a long way out of  their comfort zone!  They will not move unless they understand that staying where they are is not an option! That means convincing them that staying where they are is going to be painful or is simply no longer possible.

As my old lecturer in change management said somewhere back in the 90s – unless the pain of staying where you are is greater than the pain of moving, you usually stay put! He started the lecture with a picture of an amoeba and gave us a lecture on the fundamentals of stimulus!

So what can you do for your group?  It isn’t simply a question of showing them the sales figures and expecting them to respond.  You need to work with them through the figures and then help them think through the consequences!  Not just consequences for the organisation, but for them.  What will it mean for me in six months if the sales figures do not turn up?

Let them understand and absorb the threat of of failing markets.  Or more optimistically, new technology and new competitors.

Then work with them to think through options for the future and how they can move forward.

Share the pain and then how you can share the gain.

Show them what they have to  gain from making a change.  This may not be much but there will always be something!  If the facts mean potential redundancies, work out how can you work together to mitigate the effects.

Are there new working patterns that you can adopt, for example flexible or short-time working?  Are there new markets that they know of that you can open up?

But you need to be careful.  There is a difference between sharing the pain so that together you can make a change  and creating panic.

Do your homework before you start.   You need to prepare well – you will face some challenging questions!

You are the leader and you need to remain in the leadership seat.  Keep your nerve.

It aint easy but then no one said being a leader was easy!

You must follow up with good information about your plans  after the initial meeting.

Don’t be naive when they will leave your meeting or presentation, the rumour mill will get to work.

Make sure you leave sufficient time in your diary afterward the initial event to deal with the consequences!  And the questions they wish they had asked but did not ask at the meeting.

If you have experience of creating a sense or urgency, please share your war stories.  If you have a change to make – I hope things go very well for you!

If you have any questions or comments, I would be very happy to receive them.

Wendy Mason is a performance, programme, contract management and change specialist. She works as a consultant, business coach and blogger. Adept at problem solving, she is a great person to bring in when that one thing you thought was straightforward turns out not to be! If you have a problem talk to Wendy –  she can help you – email her at wendymason@wisewolfconsulting.com or ring ++44(0)7867681439