Agents of Change-Part 2

My earlier posting on this topic dealt with the need to convey an urgency of the need for change within an organization. It is all too easy to engage in an endless debate of the need, the urgency, the nature, the dependencies, the requirements, the effect, the risk, the opportunity, --ad nauseum-- of change.

However, creating a visceral event to convey the urgency can usually overcome the inertia against change. Why is this? Well, frankly put, nothing gets people working together like someone holllering, "Fire!"

At a senior management level, there needs to be the formulation of a plan to respond to the change. The goal is to get the nucleus of the organization--its board, its senior managers, its leaders--working as one so that they can create a structured and organized vortex for the change that needs to spread outwards through the entire organization.

The process of creating this vortex should be short. Kotter argues that the vision for this change--the vision that needs buy-in by all senior managers and eventually the rest of the organization--should be a one or two page elevator talk. Numbers and analysis will often tell you why you shouldn't do something; vision will tell you why you must do it anyway. This is not to say that the vision should be reckless and unprincipled, but just like in the urgency phase, numbers provide the justification for the vision but they can't provide the vision.

Entrenched power centers and inertia opposed to change must be overcome and this is not always easy. John Kotter argues that this is only possible by building a guiding team for change.1

This guiding team must have the support, buy-in and resourcing from the very highest level within the organization. The team must cover all aspects of the organization but it must have the power to act and the ability to community the vision. While the group should be a diverse body, it must have trust between its members. Whiile diversity of opinion is important during deliberation, it must remain focused on solving the urgent problem and once consensus or decision is made, it must speak with one voice.