What does John Kotter have to say about his 8-step model for change? What are some of the most noteworthy passages worth revisiting from Leading Change?
In Leading Change, John P. Kotter argues that in a fully globalized and ever-evolving economic environment, successful firms are those that can implement long-term change. This enables them to stay competitive in a rapidly shifting market, respond effectively to new threats, and take advantage of new opportunities.
Below is a selection of Leading Change quotes with explanations.
Quotes From Leading Change
In Leading Change, John P. Kotter argues that in a fully globalized and ever-evolving economic environment, successful firms are those that can implement successful long-term change. Successful organizational change, Kotter argues, depends on the quality of leadership―people who can articulate a vision, inspire belief and confidence in it, and empower mid-level and junior managers to implement it on a tactical level. He outlines a set of strategies and techniques to help change leaders shape and direct organizational transformation, including establishing a sense of urgency, articulating a clear vision, setting measurable benchmarks to gauge success, and changing the culture to ensure that the new way of doing things lasts.
Here are the top Leading Change quotes:
“Management makes a system work. It helps you do what you know how to do. Leadership builds systems or transforms old ones.”
Successful organizational change, Kotter argues, depends in large part on the leaders of a company―people who can articulate a vision, inspire belief and confidence in it, and empower mid-level and junior managers to implement it on a tactical level. Still, Kotter cautions, change is a collective effort undertaken by everyone in the company. It is not―and cannot be―the work of a single visionary or guru.
Kotter identifies several key steps for leading successful organizational change:
- Instill a sense of urgency.
- Build your change leadership coalition and secure commitment from leaders in your organization.
- Articulate your vision of where you ultimately want your organization to go.
- Sell your vision to your organization with a well-crafted vision statement.
- Remove roadblocks and barriers to change.
- Establish intermediate benchmarks and celebrate incremental victories.
- Reshape the corporate culture to cement your gains.
“If you cannot describe your vision to someone in five minutes and get their interest, you have more work to do in this phase of a transformation process.”
According to Kotter, once you’ve developed a sense of urgency, assembled a credible and empowered coalition to lead the change effort, and articulated a clear vision that can anchor every decision and action taken within the organization, you’re ready to sell the change project to the broader organization.
But often, the sheer complexity and scale of change baffles people and makes them fearful to engage or buy into the effort. Kotter argues that some of this can be attributed to people’s natural resistance to change—they worry that change offers no benefit to them, or that they will be made worse off.
“Without short-term wins, too many employees give up or actively join the resistance. Creating”
Kotter writes that every multiyear change effort needs to build in short-term or intermediate benchmarks and goals—and that those goals need to be publicly celebrated when they’re met.
He warns that people become disillusioned if they don’t see tangible progress toward long-term goals being acknowledged and celebrated. Tangible progress also helps to blunt the criticism and resistance of change opponents. The foot-draggers will have a harder time making their case and winning others over to their cause if the organization can point to real, measurable progress being made.
“Whenever smart and well-intentioned people avoid confronting obstacles, they disempower employees and undermine change.”
Kotter writes that when you’re spearheading an organizational change effort, you’re inevitably going to face obstacles and roadblocks on your way to transforming your organization. As a leader, you’ll need to navigate these carefully, because roadblocks to change can be deeply disempowering and discouraging for those who are trying to guide the organization along a new path.
He notes that barriers to reform often come from a few common sources:
- Bosses and managers standing in the way
- Lack of proper training
- Poor organizational structure
“A guiding coalition made up only of managers—even superb managers who are wonderful people—will cause major change efforts to fail.”
Kotter warns that even after you’ve successfully conveyed a sense of urgency and immediacy, the actual work of changing what your organization does cannot simply be the work of one visionary leader. For transformation to be successful, impactful, and lasting, change leaders need to secure buy-in from people both inside and outside the organization—middle and junior managers, rank-and-file employees, creditors, customers, and suppliers. Ultimately, writes Kotter, it’s about far more than bringing to life the vision of a single charismatic leader. Instead, it’s about building a process and moving an entire organization. You need input and feedback from everyone.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Leading Change summary :
- Why successful firms are those that can implement long-term change
- A breakdown of the key steps for leading successful organizational change
- Why change must be led by a team, not by a visionary individual