What is change management? How to deliver successfully a change on a large scale transformation? Find out in this post!

This is the change model coming from John Kotter structured with the 3 phases from Kurt Lewin. But there are some adjustment especially building the sustainability started with the change. Surely these models are commonly used to deliver effective change management in agile or other fields at team or enterprise level.

Change Management illustration derivated from John Kotter's change model merged with Kurt Lewis' change phases: Unfreeze the organization (build sense of urgency, guiding coalition, vision then share the vision), Change (impulse change, market quick wins, accelerate change), Refreeze (anchor change and build Continuous Improvement). This last phase starts in this adaptation during the Change phase. By the flow during all Change: communication, and measure of awareness and adhesion to change.

Change Management step 1: unfreeze your organization

Establishing a sense of urgency

For the organization to understand and feel the urge to change there is the need to:

  • To start, examine the market and competitive realities
  • Then, identify and discuss internal crises or major opportunities

It may be challenging as past success may provide a big buffer of resources, reduce our sense of urgency and somehow encourage the company to turn inward. Indeed, for individuals and the firm, they create an ego problem.

In all firms they are strong forces in favor of complacency that help maintain the status quo.

How to build this sens of urgency?

  • Firstly, send more data about customer satisfaction and financial performance to more employees, especially information that demonstrates weaknesses in comparison to the competition.
  • Secondly, make people talk regularly to unsatisfied customers, unhappy suppliers, and disgruntled shareholders.
  • Thirdly, use consultants and other means to force more relevant data and honest discussion into management meetings.
  • At last, put more honest discussions of the firm’s problems in company newspapers and senior management speeches. Stop senior management “happy talk.”

Creating the guiding coalition

The transformation needs a strong sponsorship to be a success. In addition to the main guiding team, each phase of the transformation on sub perimeter will require a guiding team to be supported by leaders:

  • To start, put together a group with enough power to lead the change based on:
    • Position power: are enough key players on board, especially the main line managers, so that those left out cannot easily block progress?
    • Expertise: are the various points of view adequately represented, in terms of discipline, work experience, nationality… so that informed, intelligent decisions will be made?
    • Credibility: does the group have enough people with good reputations in the firm so that its pronouncements will be taken seriously by other employees?
    • Leadership: does the group include enough proven leaders in order to be able to drive the change process?
  • To finish, get the group to work like a team

Developing a vision and strategy

A vision is the big picture of an appealing and sensible future. It plays 3 main mission:

  • Firstly, clarify the general direction for change.
  • Secondly, motivate people to take action in the right direction, even if the initial steps are personally painful.
  • Thirdly, help coordinate the actions of different people, even thousands and thousands of individuals, in a remarkably fast and efficient way.

The strategies are ways to implement the vision.

What is a good vision?

  • Imaginable: conveys a picture of what the future will look like.
  • Desirable: appeals to the long-term interests of employees, customers, stockholders…
  • Feasible: comprises realistic, attainable goals.
  • Focused: is clear enough to provide guidance in decision making.
  • Flexible: is general enough to allow individual initiative and alternative responses in light of changing conditions.
  • Communicable: is easy to communicate and can be successfully explained within five minutes.

Communicating the change vision

Communication should impact the whole staff repeatedly. But it comes in both words and deeds. Really, nothing damages change more than behavior of important people inconsistent with what is said and is expected.

  • Use every vehicle possible in order to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies
  • Then, have the guiding coalition role model the behavior expected of employees

What is a good communication of a vision?

  • Simplicity: all jargon must be eliminated.
  • Metaphor, analogy, and example: a verbal picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Multiple forums: big meetings and small, memos and newspapers, formal and informal interaction. All are complementary for spreading the word.
  • Repetition: ideas sink in deeply only after they have been heard many times.
  • Leadership by example: behavior from important people that is inconsistent with the vision overwhelms other forms of communication.
  • Explanation of seeming inconsistencies: unaddressed inconsistencies undermine the credibility of all communication.
  • Give-and-take: two-way communication is always more powerful than one-way communication.

Change Management step 2: change your organization

Empowering broad-based action

This is the actual start of change in the field and at all level:

  • Firstly, train and coach the staff but also the managers
  • Secondly, change structure and systems that undermine the change vision
  • Thirdly, get rid of obstacles
  • At last, encourage risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities and actions

This change is collaborative and is the opportunity to collect early feedback on the change from the field.

Generating short-term wins

A transformation is a long journey. Really, short-term wins are useful to provide early feedback, to demonstrate that it is achievable, to foster conviction and to fuel the firm with energy to go further with the transformation:

  • To start, plan for visible improvements in performance, or “wins”
  • Then, create those wins
  • To finish, visibly recognize and reward people who made the wins possible

What is a good quick-win?

  • Firstly, visible: large numbers of people can see for themselves whether the result is real.
  • Secondly, unambiguous: there can be little argument over the call.
  • Thirdly, clearly related to the change effort.

What are the detailed benefits of quick-wins?

  • To start, provide feedback and help fine-tune vision and strategies: short-term wins give the guiding coalition concrete data on the viability of their ideas.
  • Then, provide evidence that sacrifices are worth it: wins greatly help justify the short term costs involved.
    • Build momentum: turns neutrals into supporters, reluctant supporters into active helpers, etc.
    • Undermine cynics and self-serving resisters: clear improvements in performance make it difficult for people to block needed change.
  • To finish, fuel the firm with energy to go further with the transformation:
    • Reward change agents with a pat on the back: after a lot of hard work, positive feedback builds morale and motivation.
    • Keep bosses on board: provides those higher in the hierarchy with evidence that the transformation is on track.

Consolidating gains and producing more change

As the transformation is mature enough, there is the opportunity to go deeper, activate more people and tackle more challenging aspects of the transformation:

  • Firstly, use increased credibility to change all systems, structures and policies that don’t fit together and don‘t support the transformation vision
  • Secondly, hire, promote and develop people who can implement the change vision
  • Thirdly, reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents

Change Management step 3: refreeze your organization

Anchoring new approaches in the culture

Culture stands for norms of behavior and shared values within a group of people.

Norms of behavior are common or widespread ways of acting that are found in a group. Truly, they persist because group members tend to behave in ways that teach these practices to new members, rewarding those who fit in and punishing those who do not.

Building the sustainability of the transformation actually comes during the transformation by making transformees be part of their transformation. Definitively, they should be involved in the design and the deployment. Thanks to being active in their transformation, they start changing their behavior and culture at the very beginning of the change and this change is coming from themselves with the support of the Change Enablers. At last, sustainability will then be backed up by reinforcement mechanisms either social or organizational as described in the influence model post.

The following actions are conducted during this last step:

  • To start, create better performance through customer and productivity oriented behavior, more and better leadership, and more effective management
  • Then, articulate the connections between new behaviors and organizational success
  • To finish, develop means to ensure leadership development and succession

Culture is powerful for 3 primary reasons:

  • First, because individuals are selected and indoctrinated so well
  • Second, because the culture exerts itself through the actions of hundreds or thousands of people
  • Third, because all of this happens without much conscious intent and thus is difficult to challenge or even discuss

How to anchor change in a culture?

  • Depends on results: new approaches usually sink into a culture only after it’s very clear that they work and are superior to old methods.
  • Requires a lot of talk: without verbal instruction and support, people are often reluctant to admit the validity of new practices.
  • May involve turnover: sometimes the only way to change a culture is to change key people.
  • Makes decisions on succession crucial: if promotion processes are not changed to be compatible with the new practices, the old culture will reassert itself.
  • Comes with the transformation making people actively play their change. The result will be alterations in norms and shared values coming at the end of the transformation process.

What’s next? Learn more about Change Management and discover Coaching

Do you want to learn more about Change Management? Here are some valuable references about John Kotter and Kurt Lewin change models

John Kotter

  • An introduction video from John Kotter. There is a video for each step of the model available at the same location.
  • The book Leading Change from John Kotter.
  • The website of the author.

Kurt Lewin

  • A book about heritage of Changing as a Three Steps from Kurt Lewis

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