This post is on Harvard Business Review's Winter 2014 issue of On Point (a collection of selected HBR articles), which focused on leading change. Of course, HBR couldn't put together a special issue on leading change and not reprint the HBR Classic Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail by John Kotter. If you only read one HBR paper, make it this one.
Hotter highlights eight common errors that explain why change efforts fail, and the article has a side bar offering the opposite of those errors as a model to bring about change in an organization. I prefer advice to achieve goals rather than to avoid pitfalls, so here are the eight steps to transforming one's organization, presented in the sidebar:
- Establish a sense of urgency
- Form a powerful guiding coalition
- Create a vision
- Communicate the vision
- Empower others to act on the vision
- Plan for and create short-term wins
- Consolidate improvements and produce still more change
- Institutionalize new approaches.
It also includes a companion paper and other HBR Classic, Choosing Strategies for Change by John Kotter and Leonard Schlesinger. This article discusses resistance to change and the optimal speed of change efforts. It offers several valuable strategies to deal with resistance: education + communication, participation + involvement, facilitation + support, negotiation + agreement, manipulation + co-optation, explicit + implicit coercion.
While some articles lack actionable insights (in The Innovator's DNA, we learn that innovators have 5 discovery skills in their DNA: (a) associating, i.e., making connections among seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas, (b) questioning, i.e., considering new ideas, (c) observing, where innovators consistently look out for small behavioral details, (d) experimenting, which is self-explanatory, and (e) networking, which is also self-explanatory), others such as Disrupt Yourself by Whitney Johnson offer good practical advice: target a need that can be met more effectively, identify your disruptive strengths, step back (or sideways) in order to grow, and let your strategy emerge.
The Network Secrets of Great Change Agents by Julie Battilana and Tiziana Casciaro also offers excellent insights following a case study at the UK's National Health Service. The authors identified three predictors of change agents' success: (i) being central in the organization's informal network, regardless of their position in the formal hierarchy, (ii) bridging disconnected groups or individuals (because "resisters in their networks did not necessarily know one another and so were unlikely to form a coalition") and (iii) being close to people who were ambivalent about a change; however, close relationships with resisters were a hindrance when attempting major change.
The Hard Side of Change Management by Harold Sirkin, Perry Keenan and Alan Jackson introduces a framework called DICE: Duration (until the change program is completed or time between review of milestones), Integrity (ability to complete the initiative on time), Commitment (to change that top management [C1] and employees affected by the change [C2] display) and Effort (over and above the usual work that the change initiative demands of employees). Conducting a DICE assessment leads to each element (D, I, C1, C2, E) being graded on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 being best, meaning that this factor is very likely to contribute to the project's success, and a DICE score computed as D+2*I+2*C1+C2+E. The "win zone" is attained for projects with scores between 7 and 14. This framework was validated by the authors at the Boston Consulting Group back in 1994, and has been successfully used by BCG since. I thought the article contained many valuable insights and will be useful both to business consultants and industry managers leading change initiatives.
The OnPoint issue has many other articles or briefs on leading change. More details here.