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Whenever organisational leaders think about change, multiple concepts come into their mind. Kotter and Cohen change model affirms that the success of these concepts depend on the capacity of the leaders to connect them to the overall goal of the organisation. The goal should be clear and easy to remember. Most employees are reluctant to change. They do not appreciate the role that transformation plays in the growth of an organisation. One reason employees resist change is because they fear to lose their jobs.
Therefore, organisational leaders should ensure that workers understand the objectives of an intended change. Appelbaum, Habashy, Malo and Shafiq (2012) allege that employees are likely to embrace change that has a clear vision. A clear vision helps workers to understand the potential of the intended change. From Kotter and Cohen change model, it is clear that for organisational leaders to succeed, they must understand the drivers of transformation. The interviewee made it clear that varied factors compel leaders to initiate changes.
They include customer expectations, globalisation, and technology. Regardless of the drivers of transformation, it is imperative to align the initiatives of a change to the mission and vision of an organisation. According to Appelbaum et al. (2012), identifying values that are core to a transformation can go a long way towards ensuring that all workers support a change. Employees require knowing the impacts of a change to the future of an organisation. Thus, leaders should develop a brief summary of the future of the organisation. Besides, they should work with employees that are directly affected by the changes to determine potential hurdles.
A change cannot succeed without massive support of the stakeholders. According to Kotter and Cohen (2002), change is only achievable if an entire organisation requires it. Thus, leaders must create a sense of urgency among workers. Creating urgency does not entail showing how poorly an organisation is performing or discussing the state of competition. Instead, it entails looking at numerous market forces that affect and organisation. Kotter and Cohen change model emphasises the importance of ensuring that most employees appreciate the need for transformation.
A change is likely to succeed if many employees know and talk about it (Appelbaum et al., 2012). Therefore, one way that leaders can create urgency is by ensuring that many employees know about an intended change. Besides, they can highlight possible risks and create scenarios that demonstrate the dangers of not initiating changes. Kotter and Cohen change model and the interviewee showed the need for the use of tangible and concrete facts to create a sense of urgency. For instance, organisations should use pilot groups to show the dangers of not initiating changes as well as the benefits of the intended transformation.
Kotter and Cohen (2002) argue that leaders should, “start honest discussions, and give dynamic and convincing reasons to get people talking and thinking” (p. 45). They can achieve this by showing employees the potential opportunities that an organisation is likely to exploit by embracing an intended change. In addition, organisational leaders can seek the assistance of other stakeholders to create a sense of urgency. For instance, they can request for help from clients and stakeholders to convince workers to embrace change.
Building the Guiding Team
According to Kotter and Cohen change model, a guiding team has to possess certain qualities for it to implement a transformation effectively. The model identifies expertise, leadership skills, credibility, and influence as some of the qualities that a guiding team ought to possess. Consequently, a steering team should comprise workers with a long time experience.
The team members should be selected from different departments. From the interview, it is evident that a guiding team should convince workers that change is noteworthy. The team can convince workers by portraying enthusiasm, trust, commitment and teamwork. Moreover, the team ought to show its commitment to assist the organisation achieve its goals. From Kotter and Cohen change model, one learns that a guiding team should be emotionally attached to an intended transformation for it to succeed. Moreover, organisational leaders should continually strengthen the guiding team by helping it in its weak areas (Kotter & Cohen, 2002).
At times, a guiding team may get frustrated in the course of a transformation process. The model outlines some approaches that leaders can use to minimise frustration. For instance, a company may appoint the human resource manager to head the guiding team. Also, it can seek assistance from a consulting firm that is versed with transformation. Seeking the help of a consulting firm can enable a company to assess its guiding team and make adjustments whenever necessary. Appelbaum et al. (2012) allege that a guiding team cannot manage a transformation without the help of other stakeholders. Thus, leaders are advised to establish groups in different departments to work in partnership with the guiding team. Such groups would guarantee cooperation between departments.
Get the Vision Right
What a leader does with his/her vision contributes to the success of organisational transformation. In most cases, managers do not understand their vision precisely. Therefore, they are unable to communicate the vision to workers and stakeholders. Kotter and Cohen change model explain how day-to-day communication may interfere with the objectives of a transformation. From the model, one learns the importance of understanding and communicating a vision correctly. For employees to embrace an idea that intends to bring positive transformation, leaders should communicate the vision powerfully and frequently.
Moreover, they should incorporate the vision in everything that they do (Kotter & Cohen, 2002). The interviewee showed that holding ad hoc meetings to relay one’s vision is not enough. Instead, a leader ought to communicate the vision at all times. In addition, s/he should make all his/her decisions in line with the vision. Appelbaum et al. (2012) allege that organisational leaders ought to support their ideas with facts and figures. For instance, they ought to get feedback from customers, use survey results and success anecdotes from other institutions.
Kotter and Cohen change model underlines the importance of considering the concerns and opinions of all stakeholders when coming up with a vision for change. Failure to factor in stakeholders’ concerns may lead to change resistance. The model emphasises the need to exercise transparency when creating a vision. On the other hand, the model warns against implementing an idea randomly. Similarly, the interviewee alleged that speedy implementation of an idea may kill a project. To inculcate a vision into the minds of workers, organisational leaders should use it to handle all operations. Besides, they should handle employees’ worries and fears truthfully and candidly.
Communicate for Buy-In
Communication promotes cooperation among all the parties involved in a change process. Kotter and Cohen change model underlines the importance of communication in guaranteeing the success of a vision. The interviewee’s university relied on a consultant firm and human resource staff to fashion an effective communication plan. Besides, it ensured that the communication focused on the emotions of the stakeholders as a way to win their support. Kotter and Cohen (2002) claim that the guiding team should analyse the feelings of employees towards a change and structure its communication in a manner that addresses their emotions.
The interviewee alleged that the university held constant meetings with stakeholders to get their opinion on the change. Kotter and Cohen (2002) accentuated the need for leaders to pay attention to employees’ worries and handle them honestly and openly. In most cases, change results in confusion, anger, distrust, fear, and anxiety among the employees. Therefore, organisational leaders should ensure that they allay fear among the workers and stakeholders by explaining the importance of change.
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According to the interviewee, the university had to convince employees that the change was intended to enhance human resource services and not lay-off workers. Besides, the university had to keep its communication channels authentic and transparent. Kotter and Cohen change model underlines the importance of “walking the talk”. The model advises that leaders and guiding team must assume the responsibility of managing activities involved in change process. Doing this would encourage workers to participate in the process. That is why the university portrayed its commitment to the change process by working on all the stakeholders’ recommendations.
Appelbaum, S., Habashy, S., Malo, J., & Shafiq, H. (2012). Back to the future: Revisiting Kotter’s 1996 change model. Journal of Management Development, 31(8), 764-782.
Kotter, J., & Cohen, D. (2002). The heart of change: Real-life stories of how people change their organisations. Pennsylvania: Soundview Executive Book Summaries.