Harvard Business School professor John Kotter, in his 1996 book, Leading Change, describes an eight-stage process for successfully creating change. Further, he outlines eight errors that leaders often make when attempting to change their organization. While his book was published 16 years ago, his thoughts hold strong relevance yet today.
In our article, "Leading Change," we share some of Kotter’s wisdom, and its significance to the grain elevators and feed mills you run; however, successful adoption aside, manager's can experience push-back and pitfalls when implementing change with in their organizations.
People relate to change in very different ways; some embrace it or even seek it out, some are open to it, some resist it. Change is difficult and often dreaded by people; many just don’t like it, many don’t see the need for it, and many will drag their feet or find other methods to directly fight change. As a leader, you make it easier for others to avoid, negate, and prevent change efforts by falling into one or more of several pitfalls identified by Harvard’s Kotter, and listed below. Note how these pitfalls directly correspond with the eight phases of the change process.
- Allowing too much complacency;
- Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition;
- Underestimating the power of vision;
- Undercommunicating the vision;
- Permitting obstacles to block the new vision;
- Failing to create short-term wins;
- Declaring victory too soon;
- Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture.
Discovery Learning Inc., a company which helps businesses implement change, has used results of their research to develop three categories and descriptions for how people relate to change: originators, pragmatists, conservers.
Originators support change, they often like change just because it is different, and they will challenge generally accepted assumptions. Pragmatists often take a middle-of-the-road approach to change. They are generally practical and flexible and try to understand all sides of an issue. Conservers prefer incremental changes that maintain current structure and established practices. As a leader driving change, it can help you to recognize these differences in specific people in your organization.
Once you recognize these differences, you can approach and manage each appropriately, as a one-size-fits-all approach is not as likely to be successful. Understanding these differences can help you better communicate and avoid several of the pitfalls.