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Embrace Change the Right Way

Change is, well… scary. It’s something different and unexpected. We’d be lying to ourselves if we said that our first day at a brand new school wasn’t a little nerve-wracking or if we aren’t a little anxious on a particular Wednesday in November after an election year. Sure you can formulate predictions based on previous experiences, but it’s impossible to see into the future, no matter who you are.

Exactly what it sounds like.
The definition of change management is exactly what it sounds like: managing change. When an organization wants to allocate their budget differently, re-orchestrate processes or develop new revenue streams, someone or some group has to manage and implement these changes. Other changes might include modifications to personnel, reaction to industry transformation, growth in technology or pressure from management, media, and/or stockholders. Change management also concentrates on how a company is affected by all of these transitions.

An excellent example of change has to do with the recent ESPN announcement. Last week, Entertainment and Sports Programming Networks conducted one of their biggest layoffs in company history. In order to contest with a decrease in annual revenue and wanting to boost their online presence, network president John Skipper, decided to layoff around 100 senior writers, radio hosts and other on-air personalities (some even happen to be very common household names in the sports realm). The “worldwide leader in sports” has been struggling to combat the inevitable declines in cable subscriptions and it appears to have taken a toll which forced the company to make a bold and very unfavorable decision.

Be a leader (or a follower).
Effective leaders are essential because bad communication can stunt the process. For example, when an organization has too many generals and not enough soldiers, or one General Patton who won’t communicate with anyone, it poses a real challenge. Other hurdles may include unexpected complexities or resistance to the change. In an effort to combat these, thorough top-down and bottom-up communication is imperative. Really, persons who are successful and overcome barriers are the ones who embrace fear and uncertainty.

What’s up, Doc?
One of the most brilliant minds with regard to change management is Dr. John P. Kotter. Dr. Kotter is a Harvard business professor who is thought of as the pioneer of change management. He has written a plethora of books on the subject – some that have achieved New York Times bestseller status – and currently manages a consulting firm that applies leadership and strategy execution on large-scale organizational change. Basically, this guy knows what he is talking about.

In the late 90’s, Dr. Kotter formulated an 8-step process that industry leaders call the “best single work… on strategy implementation.” Today, each of these steps routinely appear in bodies of work published on the subject. All eight comprise the grassroots implementation steps of change management:

  • Establishing a Sense of Urgency
  • Creating the Guiding Coalition
  • Developing a Vision and Strategy
  • Communicating the Change Vision
  • Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action
  • Generating Short-Term Wins
  • Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change
  • Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture

The best thing about Dr. Kotter’s process is how practical and easy these steps are to implement within an organization. Communication, empowering employees and understanding the overall vision are cornerstones of success for any company. We all know this. Converting those foundations into change management tools are what separates the good from the bad. Incorporating and strictly following this process, or a model similar, is an undeniably effective strategy all organizations should adopt to successfully execute change management.

One can only hope that skippers read books written by doctors.

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