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6 Change Management Gurus And Their Lessons for Leaders

Change is a certainty for businesses today, but successful change is not. According to CEB Global, only one-third of organizational change efforts are clear successes: “Instead of realizing the benefits from change initiatives, organizations are faced with declining productivity, stalled or failed projects, and low returns from their change investments.”  How can business leaders respond to the drivers of change without wasting resources on failed change initiatives? Learning a lesson or two from these noted change management gurus is as good a place to start as any.

John Kotter

Dr. John Kotter is a New York Times best-selling author, Harvard Professor, business entrepreneur, award-winning change management thought leader and one of the most famous change gurus. Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change is widely regarded as one of the best change models in the world. Organizational leaders who are planning major change initiatives from scratch would be wise to consider Kotter’s 8-Step Process:

  • Create a sense of urgency around the need for change.
  • Form a powerful coalition of change leaders throughout your organization.
  • Create an overall vision for the future that people can easily grasp.
  • Embed your vision within everything you do.
  • Check for barriers and remove obstacles in the way of implementing change.
  • Create short-term targets (“quick wins”) to give your company an early taste of victory.
  • Look for opportunities to build on quick wins and identify areas of improvement.
  • Make change an integral part of the corporate culture

Daniel Goleman

Emotional intelligence is the range of fundamental skills that allow us to understand and manage our own emotions as well as those around us. Leaders of successful change management initiatives often exhibit remarkable competency in personal areas such as self-awareness, self-management, empathy, social awareness, and relationship management. It’s no surprise, then, that one of the world’s leading change management gurus is also one of the world’s leading experts on emotional intelligence.

Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., is an internationally-known psychologist and author of the New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence (named one of the 25 “Most Influential Business Management Book” by Time Magazine). Dr. Goleman’s groundbreaking work in the field of emotional intelligence has helped countless business leaders develop the emotional literacy required to manage the most difficult part of any change initiative: people. According to Dr. Goleman, the three most important personal abilities that distinguish the best leaders are self-awareness, self-management, and empathy.

Jim Hemerling

Organizational transformation is often thought of as an exhausting task, but change management expert Jim Hemerling thinks differently. A leader in BCG’s People & Organization and Transformation practices, among change management gurus Hemerling provides smart, practical ways for leaders to achieve sustainable and meaningful change in a reasonably short period of time. The key to successful transformation, according to Hemerling, is putting people first. He recently presented this idea at a TED talk (5 Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change) and explained the most important strategic imperatives for transforming organizational change into an empowering and energizing task:

  • Inspire engagement by connecting the need for change with a deeper sense of purpose.
  • If cutting costs, look for ways to invest in talent and leadership development.
  • Give people the tools, resources, and support they need to succeed during the transformation.
  • Instill a culture of continuous learning and self-development.
  • Create an inclusive environment of open debate and solicited suggestions.

Jeff Hiatt

Formerly an engineer and program manager for Bell Labs, Jeff Hiatt applies scientific principles and research to organizational settings to help visionary leaders meet their objectives. To this end, Hiatt founded Prosci, full of change management gurus in a renowned change management consultancy and learning center, and a powerful, research-based organizational transformation model: ADKAR®.

Hiatt proposed the ADKAR model as a way to address employee resistance to organizational change, which is one of the leading factors in unsuccessful transformation initiatives. In creating the ADKAR model, Hiatt identified the five building blocks that bring about successful change:

  • Awareness – Employees must be made aware of the need for change.
  • Desire – Employees must have the desire to participate and support the change.
  • Knowledge – Employees must have the knowledge of how to change.
  • Ability – Employees must have the ability to learn new skills or implement the change at the required performance level.
  • Reinforcement – Leaders must reinforce the vision for sustainable change management.

Kurt Lewin

One of the cornerstone models for understanding organizational change was developed nearly 70 years ago, and it still holds true today. In 1947, Kurt Lewin – a physicist and social scientist – developed a framework for managing change through three distinct stages, which he explained using the analogy of changing the shape of a block of ice. Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model is a simple and easily understood change management framework that addresses the roadblocks of organizational transformation, notably motivation, implementation, and adherence.

  • Unfreeze – This stage involves preparing the organization to accept that change is necessary, which may require challenging of organizational beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors to break down the existing status quo before introducing a new way of operating.
  • Change – In order to accept the change and embrace the new direction of the company, people need to understand how the changes will benefit them.
  • Refreeze – After changes begin to take shape and are incorporated into everyday business, the organization is ready to “refreeze” and lock in the processes as the standard operating procedure.

Don James

Among change management gurus, Don James stands alone.  After years spent in the manufacturing industry reading and writing SOPs, flowcharts, and swim lane diagrams, Don James was determined to find a better way to help companies succeed. He founded Business Enterprise Mapping and developed a business mapping methodology that provides organizations with a detailed understanding of a well-defined business process. Don’s change management approach can be summarized in the following ten steps.

  • Define what must change.
  • Articulate why change must occur.
  • Identify the change constituents.
  • Develop a vision for the adopted change
  • Define the change strategy
  • Develop the change plan.
  • Broadly communicate.
  • Engage the organization
  • Monitor progress
  • Know when to call victory

The Perigon Method® drives organization ownership and accountability that in turn delivers lasting change. Don James and the Business Enterprise Mapping team build organizational infrastructure from the bottom up.


Implementing Successful Organizational Change

Did you find this article useful? If so, consider downloading our Major Change Management Plan Template, which will help you ask the right questions to navigate the activities necessary to plan and implement successful change that creates value for your employer.

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