Change is a massive part of our business lives and I wanted to take a light hearted look at Kotter’s 8 Stage model.
Note to any true Star Wars fans, I have used some poetic license so please don’t take offence.
Establishing a Sense of Urgency
- Examine market and competitive realities, and identify and discuss crises, potential crises, or major opportunities
Princess Leia learns about the Death Star being built and sets out to tell other people of the coming threat.
What would have happened if Leia had decided to ignore the construction of the Death Star, all this new technology is just a passing trend, it won’t be popular, and there is nothing we can do about it.
How many businesses ignore the threats of new technology or competitors?
Creating the Guiding Coalition
- Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort, and encourage the group to work as a team
Ok so Leia got captured by Darth Vader, however she already had started the process of creating a guiding coalition by bring Obi Wan into the mix as she knew that he could help and had the power to make a difference.
In business terms when we are going through change we get a group together, however we need people who can make decisions and have other important contacts that have experience and knowledge that can help with the transition.
Developing a Change Vision
- Create a vision to help direct the change effort, and develop strategies for achieving that vision
Now this is where I probably get into trouble with star wars fans…
Obi wan Kenobi upon learning about the death star helps Luke see what could be and formulates a plan to change the situation. He uses language that talks about what was and what could be. He engages people’s values and gives hope.
Ok so he doesn’t have a business vision statement so here’s what Kotter’s says about visions
- Imaginable: They convey a clear picture of what the future will look like.
- Desirable: They appeal to the long-term interest of employees, customers, shareholders, and others who have a stake in the enterprise.
- Feasible: They contain realistic and attainable goals.
- Focused: They are clear enough to provide guidance in decision making.
- Flexible: They allow individual initiative and alternative responses in light of changing conditions.
- Communicable: They are easy to communicate and can be explained quickly.
Communicating the Vision for Buy-in
- Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies, and teach new behaviours by the example of the Guiding Coalition
The rebel alliance didn’t just send out a boring inter galactic email! Everyone involved was talking to other members of the alliance, person appearances, and rousing monologues
Here’s what Kotter says
In communicating the vision for the transformation, there are some things to keep in mind. The vision should be:
- Simple: No techno babble or jargon.
- Vivid: A verbal picture is worth a thousand words – use metaphor, analogy, and example.
- Repeatable: Ideas should be able to be spread by anyone to anyone.
- Invitational: Two-way communication is always more powerful than one-way communication.
In pursuit of simplicity, fewer words are better
Empowering Broad-based Action
- Remove obstacles to change, change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision, and encourage risk-taking and non-traditional ideas, activities, and actions
When they reach the Death Star Obi Wan left Luke, Han and Chewbacca to rescue Leia rather than micro manage and tell them what to do as he knew that they could do it and he was better placed to shut down the shields. They then had to think creatively to do this, take risks but they had the authority to take action for themselves.
Kotter talks about
Removing as many barriers as possible and unleashing people to do their best work
Typically, empowering employees involves addressing four major obstacles: structures, skills, systems, and supervisors
Generating Short-term Wins
- Plan for visible performance improvements, create those improvements, recognize and reward employees involved in the improvements
The hero’s in star wars didn’t just fly to the death star and blow it up; they became motivated and bonded through short term wins. These were communicated throughout the alliance to raise moral and give hope that things will turn out ok.
Kotter talks about
For leaders in the middle of a long-term change effort, short-term wins are essential. Running a change effort without attention to short-term performance is extremely risky. The Guiding Coalition becomes a critical force in identifying significant improvements than can happen between 6 and 18 months. Getting these wins helps ensure the overall change initiative’s success. Research shows that companies that experience significant short-term wins by fourteen and twenty-six months after the change initiative begins are much more likely to complete the transformation.
Never Letting Up
- Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision, also hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision, and finally reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents
Blowing up the Death Star was not the end of the Empire after celebrating success the alliance had to re-group, re assess what this meant for their vision, and recruit new members to the alliance.
In a successful major change initiative, by stage 7 you will begin to see:
- More projects being added
- Additional people being brought in to help with the changes
- Senior leadership focused on giving clarity to an aligned vision and shared purpose
- Employees empowered at all levels to lead projects
- Reduced interdependencies between areas
- Constant effort to keep urgency high
- Consistent show of proof that the new way is working
Incorporating Changes into the Culture
- Articulate the connections between the new behaviours and organizational success, and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession
So after the destruction of the Death Star, the alliance celebrated and some people were given promotion, acknowledged the losses, Luke went off to Yoda for further development
This is why cultural change comes in Step 8, not Step 1. Some general rules about cultural change include:
- Cultural change comes last, not first
- You must be able to prove that the new way is superior to the old
- The success must be visible and well communicated
- You will lose some people in the process
- You must reinforce new norms and values with incentives and rewards – including promotions
- Reinforce the culture with every new employee
Tradition is a powerful force. We keep change in place by creating a new, supportive and sufficiently strong organizational culture. A Guiding Coalition alone cannot root change in place no matter how strong they are. It takes the majority of the organization truly embracing the new culture for there to be any chance of success in the long term.
If you would like more information on Kotter
Oh if you want to know more about Star Wars http://lucasfilm.com/
Remember this was a galaxy, a long time ago, so I am not advocating, storming your competitors’ premises and dispatching them with light sabres and blasters!
Please use the comment box, I would love to hear about experiences of change or if you have any questions