Change, Change, & More Change

By Barbara Heller
In January 1, 2013
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I recently wrote a blog about change.   Here I am again.  Change is a topic I am deeply interested in and love to work with agencies in improving their competency in the change management process.  Few organizations manage strategic change successfully.   If I had only known what I know now, my efforts in leading change would have been much better when I led organizations.

Today, I listened to a webinar hosted by the Harvard Business Review titled A Revolutionary Approach to Strategic Change.  The webinar featured John Kotter, the world’s foremost expert on leadership and transformation.  Dr. Kotter, Chief Innovation Officer at Kotter International, works with organizations in a consulting role in leading change.

It is Kotter’s contention that some of the difficulty in change initiatives is the limitations of hierarchy in organizations.  Hierarchies support stability, reduction of problems, and risk aversion. Strategy is deployed through an hierarchical approach.  Yet, strategic direction flies in the face of these cultural norms.  As agile organizations, we have failed.  Is it any wonder so many organizations fail in their change efforts?

Kotter helps to transform organizations through the use of a dual operating system based on a network.  The hierarchy stays in place and performs the work as it always has.  Yet, a parallel operating system is developed, which is called a network.   Picture in your mind, the solar system, and think of the sun as being in the center of the network.  This is the guiding coalition f or a transformative effort.  This network is supported by planets that represent strategic initiatives.  Task teams for strategy are formed by employees who want to take on new adventures.  Team composition is cross functional and includes employees from various levels of the organization.   Employees need to learn how to work together without regard to hierarchical level.  They also receive information about the various steps to successful change.

Employees who become involved in the change effort volunteer their time for the endeavor, so it serves as work parallel to their regular job.  While one may think, why would employees volunteer to take on an additional endeavor when they are already busy?  In Kotter’s experience, this has not been a problem, primarily because there are always employees who are looking for work opportunities beyond their traditional job description box.  If at least 5% of employees volunteer their time, that is sufficient support, in Kotter’s experience.

The last key point is there needs to be a strong connection between the hierarchy and the network.  This requires strong leadership, and leadership willing to approach efforts differently than they did in the past.

...is determined to give government a good name - one agency at a time. Her innovative approach to the planning process has delivered results in organizations across the U.S.

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