Leading Change – Create a Compelling Vision

Are you trying to initiate change in your organization?  Maybe to increase accountability, to change a business process such as implementing EHR’s (electronic health records), increasing the diversity of staff?  How are you getting people on-board?  How are you describing the change?

I was consulting a few years ago on a change management project, coaching the director of a community corrections agency on leading change.  The director was complaining that her staff were not getting on board; they didn’t understand what she was aiming at and didn’t understand the need for change.  The problem which became readily apparent was how she described the change.  She told staff:  I want us to become an evidence-based organization.   You can understand their confusion!  What does that mean?  What does that look like?

I advised her based on John Kotter’s model of Leading Change, which comprises these 8 key steps:

  1. Create Urgency
  2. Form a guiding coalition
  3. Develop a vision and strategy
  4. Communicating the vision
  5. Enabling action and removal of obstacles
  6. Generating short-term wins
  7. Hold the gains and build on change
  8. Anchor changes in the culture

What does that look like in action?  I advised her to create a compelling vision of the future, i.e. what the organization would look like, for example, “We will be a high-performing organization, where we all share accountability for outcomes and performance.”  That’s at a high level, and she added the details when explaining it to staff.  She needed to articulate the vision and communicate it frequently until everyone got it.  Also, she needed to “create a sense of urgency”, that is, to explain to her employees the need for change, as in: Why do we need to change?  Why do we need to do it now?  It turned out that they had reports of excessive use of force between the line staff and the inmates, and other staff were failing to report those incidents – that created a sense of urgency.

I continued to work with her senior team and supervisors for about 5 months, and afterwards she reported: You have truly helped me and the agency make significant strides in becoming a high performing organization!!

If you’re embarking on a change effort, follow Kotter’s advice to get on the right track.  How can I help you manage your change initiative?

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