on November 20, 2011
The comments that rate this book poorly are missing the point. Fear, threats, etc. are not part of Kotter's method. He provides guidelines; it's up to you to adapt them to your specific purpose. The harsh critics lack the creativity to apply Kotter's general tactics to their specific situations.
This book is taught at the best business schools because it works. I use it all the time because it works. Ignore the out-of-context babble about burning platforms and just read the book. It is effective, common-sense stuff, applicable to EVERY change initiative.
on February 19, 2012
Small businesses, entrepreneurs and authors can learn a lot about why some changes just don't work for them. Author John P. Kotter is a change management expert, and his book Leading Change offers some great insights that can help any business move through change with more ease. First we need to understand what gets in the way of an effective change process:
Kotter says that businesses fail with their change processes because:
- They allow too much complacency
- They fail to create a powerful and effective change guiding coalition
- They underestimate the power of vision
- They under communicate the vision- communication is actions and words
- Permitting obstacles to block the new vision
- Failing to create short term wins
For businesses, authors and entrepreneurs, it is important we don't become complacent in our work, always endeavor to be innovative, and passionate. It is the passion and innovation that helps you solve business challenges, and that people remember you for. Ensure that you have a vision, know how powerful a vision is and communicate it, and communicate it some more. Don't let obstacles or shiny objects get in the way or your plans and vision. Always find the short term "win wins", they fuel the next step in the journey. Also, bring people along with you! These indivduals become champions for you, your business and your vision.
Kotter also talks about the 8 step process to effectively lead change:
1. Establish sense of urgency
2. Create the guiding coalition
3. Develop vision and a strategy
4. Communicate the change vision
5. Empower employees for broad based action
6. Generate short win wins
7. Consolidate gains and produce more change
8. Anchor new approached in the culture
The book details each of the 8 steps in a way that creates tangible actions for any leader or change management consultant. The process provides a great road map so that others can get on board the change process. The book is an easy read, and makes a great deal of sense!
Author On Toby's Terms
on August 17, 2002
John P. Kotter is Professor of Leadership at the Harvard Business School. He has written several books and articles on general management and leadership issues. This particular book builds on his 1995 Harvard Business Review-article 'Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail'.
The book is split up into three parts. In the first part - The Change Problem and Its Solution - Kotter discusses the eight main reasons why in many situations the improvements have been disappointing, with wasted resources and burned-out, scared, or frustrated employees. Each of these eight errors are discussed in detail, using simple, clear examples. "Making any of the eight errors in common to transformation efforts can have serious consequences." But Kotter argues that these errors are not inevitable. And this is why Kotter has written this book. "The key lies in understanding why organizations resist needed change, what exactly is the multistage process that can overcome destructive inertia, and, most of all, how the leadership that is required to drive that process in a socially healthy way means more than good management." In Chapter 2, Kotter discusses the reasons why organizations (can) need changes and improvements. Although some people suggest otherwise, Kotter believes that organizations can implement change successfully. "The methods used in successful transformations are all based on one fundamental insight: that major change will not happen easily for a long list of reasons." Kotter introduces an eight-stage process for creating major change.
This eight-stage process is discussed in Part Two of this book:
(1) The first stage of the process involves the establishment of a sense of urgency, which is required to overcome complacency. The nine sources of complacency are discussed, whereby Kotter emphasizes that "a good rule of thumb in a major change effort is: Never underestimate the magnitude of the forces that reinforce complacency and that help maintain the status quo." He further discusses methods for raising urgency levels, the role of crises, and the role of middle and lower-level managers.
(2) The second stage involves the creation of a guiding coalition. "A strong guiding coalition is always needed - one with the right composition, level of trust, and shared objective." According to the author the four key characteristics to effective guiding coalition are position power, expertise, credibility, and leadership. And he emphasizes that management and leadership must work in tandem, teamwork style.
(3) The third stage requires the development of a vision and strategy. Good vision clarifies the general direction for change, motivates people to take action in the right direction, and it helps coordinate people's actions. The characteristics of an effective vision are imaginable, desirable, feasible, focused, flexible, and communicable. But vision alone is not enough. "This is where strategy plays an important role. Strategy provides both logic and a first level detail to show how a vision can be accomplished."
(4) The power of a vision is most powerful when all people within an organization have a common understanding of its goals and direction. Although the general myth is that failures to communicate vision are attributed to either limited intellectual capabilities among lower-level employees or a general human resistance to change. But that is not really the problem. The vision needs to be communicated in a clear, simple message (focused and jargon-free). Kotter discusses each of the seven key elements in the communication of vision.
(5) Empowering employees for broad-based action - "Discouraged and disempowered employees never make enterprises winners in a globalizing economic environment. But with the right structure, training, systems, and supervisors to build on a well-communicated vision, increasing numbers of firms are finding that they can tap an enormous source of power to improve organizational performance. They can mobilize hundreds or thousands of people to help provide leadership to produce needed changes."
(6) Major change takes time and it is therefore advisable to pay serious attention to short-term wins. Short-term wins should be visible, unambiguous, and related to the change effort. Short-term wins play various roles in a change effort, most notably building the necessary momentum.
(7) Many forces can stall a change process short of the finish line. And we should be aware that irrational and political resistance to change never fully dissipates. We should not let the celebration of short-term wins allow complacency back into the organization. We should also be aware that progress can slip away for two reasons: corporate culture (see more in the next stage) and increased interdependence as a result from interconnections.
(8) "Culture refers to norms of behavior and shared values among a group of people." In large organizations, there are some social forces (corporate culture) that affect everyone. Corporate cultures have a powerful influence on human behavior, since it is almost impossible to change and invisible. Kotter believes that "culture is powerful for three reasons: (i) Because individuals are selected and indoctrinated so well. (ii) Because the culture exerts itself through the actions of hundreds or thousands of people. (iii) Because all of this happens without much conscious intent and thus is difficult to challenge or even discuss." He provides with one other important warning: "most cultural change happens in stage 8, not stage 1."
Part III - Implications for the Twenty-First Century - consists of two chapters. In the first chapter, Kotter discusses the organization of the future. In particular, the impact of the future on the eight stages in the change process. There is an interesting table, which compares the differences in structure, systems, and culture between 20th-century and 21st-century organizations. "The key to creating and sustaining the kind of successful 21st-century organization is leadership - not only at the top of the hierarchy, with a capital L, but also in a more modest sense (l) throughout the enterprise." These two notions are discussed in detail in the final chapter of the book.
Yes, this is an excellent book on controlling change. The book provides an extremely useful framework for a change process and should be kept as a checklist. Although the process looks rigid, the stages are flexible and take place concurrently. I recommend this book to all people involved in a major change process within larger organizations. The author uses simple business US-English.
on July 19, 2001
Whether in business or on a personal level, nothing puts people on edge more than change, whether it be for the better or worse. Change means taking an individual(s) out of their secure environment and imposing a new set of rules, disciplines or policies that are unknown to them. Generally, people fear most what they do not understand, that which is new and set apart from the normal routine of things. Implementing change in the workplace, particularly if you are a large corporation, can have a dramatic impact on employees, productivity and motivation.
In this book, the author points out the most common mistakes in effecting change and offers eight steps to overcoming the barriers to change. While the book is well-worth reading, the reader should be made aware that the author does not tell you what specific changes need to be made. Much of the information here is not new and can be found in a variety of other similar books, reports and reviews and for that reason the star rating of the book dropped significantly.
on May 23, 2001
This book was recommended to me as being the standard for organizational change, and that recommendation was close to the mark. For any project manager who is involved in the mechanism of change, this is one book that should be right at the top their 'short list.'
This may seem like a strong statement, but reading this book can be life changing. Its concepts apply across many other business ideas, and it is particularly useful for implementing project management into an organization.
Lots of resources are wasted on unsuccessful efforts because often the leaders of some organizations don't know how to implement successful changes. The thought process gets tied up in the existing bureaucracy and remains stalled, going nowhere. In Leading Change, Professor Kotter has performed a commendable job of outlining all the elements that must be addressed. He identifies the most frequent mistakes in effecting change, and suggests eight steps to overcoming obstacles.
The author offers some good business essentials, but also adds a solid structure for implementation that can be applied across organizational cultures. Following his recommendations should make it easier for an organization to know what they should be working on and how to progress to the next steps.
There are good books that may be more recent than this, but you would do yourself and your organization a disservice if you passed this book by just based on that. As stated earlier, this book lives up to its reputation of being the standard for organizational change.
on October 22, 2000
"Over the past decade," John P. Kotter writes, "I have watched more than a hundred companies try to remake themselves into significantly better competitors. They have included large organizations (Ford) and small ones (Landmark Communications), companies based in United States (General Motors) and elsewhere (British Airways), corporations that were on their knees (Eastern Airlines), and companies that were earning good money (Bristol-Myers Squibb). Their efforts have gone under many banners: total quality management, reengineering, right-sizing, restructuring, cultural change, and turnaround. But in almost every case the basic goal has been the same: to make fundamental changes in how business is conducted in order to help cope with a new, more challenging market environment. A few of these corporate change efforts have been very successful. A few have been utter failures. Most fall somewhere in between, with a distinct tilt toward the lower end of the scale. The lessons that can be drawn are interesting and will probably be relevant to even more organizations in the increasingly competitive business environment of the coming decade."
In this context, John P. Kotter lists the most general lessons to be learned from both (I) the more successful cases and (II) the critical mistakes as follows:
I. Lessons from the more successful cases:
1. Establishing a sense of urgency
* Examining market and competitive realities
* Identifying and discursing crises, potential crises, or major opportunities
2. Forming a powerful guiding coalition
* Assembling a group with enough power to lead the change effort
* Encouraging the group to work together as a team
3. Creating a vision
* Creating a vision to help direct the change effort
* Developing strategies for achieving that vision
4. Communicating vision
* Using every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies
* Teaching new behaviors by the example of the guiding coalition
5. Empowering others to act on the vision
* Getting rid of obstancles to change
* Changing systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision
* Encouraging risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions
6. Planning for and creating short-term wins
* Planning for visible performance improvements
* Creating those improvements
* Recognizing and rewarding employees involved in the improvements
7. Consolidating improvements and producing still more change
* Using increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don't fit the vision
* Hiring, promoting, and developing employees who can implement the vision
* Reinvigorating the process with new projects, themes, and change agents
8.Institutionalizing new approaches
* Articulating the connections between the new behaviors and corporate success
* Developing the means to ensure leadership development and succession
II. Lessons from the critical mistakes:
1. Not establishing enough sense of urgency - A transformation program requires the aggressive cooperation of many individuals. Without motivation, people won't help and the effort goes nowhere.
2. Not creating a powerful guiding coalition - Companies that fail in this phase usually underestimate the difficulties of producing change and thus the importance of a powerful quiding coalition.
3. Lacking a vision - Without a sensible vision, a transformation effort can easily dissolve into a list of confusing and incompatible projects that can take the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all.
4. Undercommunicating the vision - Transformation is impossible unless hundreds or thousands of people are willing to help, often to the point of making short-term sacrifices.
5. Not removing obstacles to the new vision - Sometimes the obstacle is the organizational structure: narrow job categories can seriously undermine efforts to increase productivity or make it very difficult even to think about customers. Sometimes compensation or performance-appraisal systems make people choose between the new vision and their own self-interest. Perhaps worst of all are bosses who refuse to change and who make demands that are inconsistent with the overall effort.
6. Not systematically planning and creating short-term wins - Creating short-term wins is different from hoping for short-term wins. The latter is passive, the former active. In a successful transformation, managers actively look for ways to obtain clear performance improvements, establish goals in the yearly planning system, achieve the objectives, and reward the people involved with recognition, promotions, and even money.
7. Declaring victory too soon - Instead of declaring victory, leaders of successful efforts use the credibility afforded by short-term wins to tackle even bigger problems.
8. Not anchoring changes in the corporation's culture - Change sticks when it becomes "the way we do things around here," when it seeps into the bloodstream of the corporate body. Until new behaviors are rooted in social norms and shared values, they are subject to degradation as soon as the pressure for change is removed.
Finally, John P. Kotter writes, "There are still more mistakes that people make, but these eight are the big ones. In reality, even successful change efforts are messy and full of surprises. But just as a relatively simple vision is needed to guide people through a major change, so a vision of the change process can reduce the error rate. And fewer errors can spell the difference between success and failure."
on September 3, 2000
Transforming organizations is tough! It is more difficult than many people realize. Generally, leaders attempt change efforts that are too mild and then give them too little time to succeed. As a result, many transformations fail.
Even though this book was published four years ago, it is still on the cutting edge of modern, linear change in organizations. In my own consulting work I see this book--more than any other--used as a reference point when dicussing change strategies.
Kotter's ideas of establishing a sense of urgency and creating a guiding coalition brought great insight to the part of the change process known as readiness. Another great contribution is the idea that culture--being the most difficult thing to change--is generally the last change tackled, and the capping change that must take place for true lasting change to occur.
John Kotter begins this book by sharing why transformation efforts fail. He then takes the reader on a journey through an eight stage process of creating major change. He concludes this three-part book with a look at the implications for the twenty-first cnetury related to organizations and leadership.
Any facilitator or recipient of change efforts who has not read this book, has missed one of the mandatory books about the change process in North American culture.
Buy it today!
The leaders of some organizations have no idea how to make successful changes, and are likely to waste a lot of resources on unsuccessful efforts. Professor Kotter has done a solid job of outlining the elements that must be addressed, so now your organization will at last know what they should be working on.
On the other hand, if you have not seen this done successfully before, you may need more detailed examples than this book provides or outside facilitators to help you until you have enough experience to go solo. I suspect this book will not be detailed enough by itself to get you where you want to go.
Here's a hint: The Harvard Business Review article by Professor Kotter covers the same material in a much shorter form. You can save time and money by checking this out first before buying the book.
I personally find that measurements are very helpful to create self-stimulation to change, and this book does not pay enough attention in that direction. If you agree that measurements are a useful way to stimulate change, be sure to read The Balanced Scorecard, as well, which will help you understand how to use appropriate measurements to make more successful changes.
If you want to know what changes to make, this book will also not do it for you. I suggest you read Peter Drucker's Management Challenges for the 21st Century and Peter Senge's Fifth Discipline.
on February 21, 2000
Working in an organization where change stalled, to a point where innovation is absolutely discouraged, there were some sleepless nights when I couldn't stop thinking "Why? What went wrong?" After reading the first chapter of Leading Change, the answers come to surface with surgical precision. In fact, I can now pinpoint almost all reasons why things went wrong, and how one can turn from a leading prince into a caged victim. If I had had this insight earlier in my job, perhaps early warning could have been given. In fact, Mr. Kotter's books reads (for my organization) almost like a case study on "make the 8 basic mistakes, relax and watch chaos emerge". In my particular case, I can even give the names and position for each key player that failed. At the level of this book, I can only place Sun Tzu 's classic, "The Art of War", and I would reccommend this book to every person having management resposibilities, since it gives the necessary insight to diagnose malfunction symptoms clearly and precisely. All that is needed is good sense and fair judgement.
on October 7, 1999
Success rarely comes without change. And change requires leadership. We all want success but not all of us are taught to succeed. If we manage day-to-day business operations of our company, it will run smoothly without making any noise and growth. To get your company to run and win the race of competition, you have to jolt it, change it, and know how to manage that change to successfuly leverage that change to your advantage.
Kotter argues that, to effectively manage changes in your organiztion, you must:
1. Be scared enough to muster the courage to manage the change and not let your complacency mar your mustered courage. Rabbit.
2. Know how to make a network and use it. Weave, woo, and win. Spider.
3. Know how to envision your company's strategical future. Chess Player.
4. Let the people in your organization know how important the change is, so they become willing to make little sacrifices. Communicator.
5. Give the common person in your company the power to speak and suggest changes. A Just Ruler.
6. Make people go along by giving them short doses of victorious pleasure. Kindergarten Teacher.
7. Not give them too much pleasure or they will become arrogant and lazy. Highschool teacher.
8. Make it a chain reaction. Produce gains from change and use those gains to feed more change. Change-O-Maniac.
9. Make change your culture. Mutiple Personality Disorder & Co.
All of this will become easy to accomplish after you'll read this book. Not bad.