Change. Now a permanent process, not a one off event. A brief review of how leading change has changed.
Back in the somewhat more sedentary times of 1996, US academic John Kotter published Leading Change.
By examining the change efforts of 100 companies he sought to understand the successes and failures leaders made during change and codify an approach leaders could adopt when leading large organisational change programmes.
His approach was summarised in an eight stage process.
Having a ‘map’ to think about the steps was helpful, the logic implicit in Kotter’s model was useful and the journey we undertook was better for it.
Times change faster than leading change? Looking back, Kotter’s 1996 account of leading change seems to fit less well in the very turbulent times we now live in. Kotters model lacks the agility the current pace of change requires.
It looks a bit like a single use process, to switch on when change is needed, and then it’s back-to-business-as-usual.
To be fair to Kotter, in 2012 he gave his model a spring clean and added a couple of extra ideas to his original thinking, but his 8 step model is still the back bone of his account of leading change.
His recent paper was published in the Harvard Business Review, and is called Accelerate. Read it at HBR, or download a copy free from Kotters website, it’s worth a look.
Living Vision, Emergent Strategy
In 2006 when I was working with the Department for Education and Skills Innovation Unit I came across the Bridge Model of Change Leadership.
Looking across the ideas about change leadership from a management guru and two businesses that offer very different approaches to change management, what conclusions can be made? (Or if I stole the best bits, with the experiences and prejudices I inevitably hold what principles would I draw out?)
1. Understand the changing context
2. Embrace participation and collaboration
3. Seek purpose and meaning
4. Be agile, fluent and allow emergence
5. Real communication
6. Learn alone. Lean together.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with some brilliant people in ‘ProMeeting change processes’, often using the ideas of participatory leadership.
There seems little doubt change will continue to place demands on us all, and that change leadership will need to be a competency we’ll all need to be brilliant at.
No doubt the ideas that underpin change will change too, but I’d bet some ideas will remain timeless.