Leading Change the Kotter Way
Handling resistance and fear is the fifth step in the Kotter model. This is about empowering action, over coming resistance and getting rid of obstacles to change. This post is part of a series on the Kotter approach to leading change. I am in process of revamping my original Kotter model series. Links to all the earlier Kotter posts are in the next paragraph.
The Kotter model is based on research which showed that there are eight critical steps an organisation or service needs to go through to ensure that change happens and sticks. This series of posts will consider these steps in greater detail. We have already reissued; Step One: Creating Urgency , Step Two: Forming a Powerful Coalition, Step Three Creating a Vision for Change and Step Four: Communicate Your Vision
Now we are reaching the point where your investment in Stages 1 to 4, begins to pay dividends. Kotter himself states that when Stages 1 to 4 are skipped, resistance is inevitable and this can destroy your change.
People resist change because they fear loss.
They believe they are defending something they value which feels threatened. This can include loss of security, power, resources and overall loss of control. Most of us fear the unknown.
If you have followed the earlier Kotter steps when you reach this point, you will have been talking about your vision and building up buy-in from all levels of the organisation. Hopefully, your group will want to get busy and be out there achieving the benefits that you’ve been promoting.
But there may still be some resisting the change! There may be people (individuals or groups), processes, structures and even organisations that are getting in the way? You not only need to put in place the structure for change, but check continually for barriers and blockers to it.
Handling resistance and removing obstacles can empower the people you need to execute your vision and it certainly helps them move the change forward.
Handling resistance! To remove obstacles you should;
- Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.
- Look at your organisational structure, job descriptions and performance and compensation systems to ensure they’re in line with your vision.
- Recognise and reward people for making change happen.
- Identify people who are resisting the change and help them see what’s needed.
- Take action quickly to remove barriers (human or otherwise).
When people are resistant;
- Help them understand the logic behind the change.
- Give them an opportunity to contribute – to help design and implement the change (e.g., ideas, task forces, committees).
- Provide facilitation & coaching to help them adjust to the change.
- Offer incentives to those who continue to resist change.
If all else fails, and this change is critical to the organisation, you may need to use authority to get people to accept the change or move them sideways and, sometimes, even out of the organisation. Do it with as much respect for their dignity as possible – those remaining will be marked by how your respond .
This can be one of the most challenging stages for the Change Leader but – as I’ve written here many times before – no one told you change was going to be easy!
Here is a Kotter Reading List for you;
- Leading Change
- Our Iceberg is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions
- Heart of Change, The: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations
- A Sense of Urgency
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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