There are very few tools that have proved reliable across almost all business challenges. By their nature, most tools are ‘hammers looking for nails’. One of the few however that has been useful everywhere is Kotter’s 8-Step Process for business transformation. The original version achieved great attention after its publication in Harvard Business Review, and there is a summary here, on the Cosmapec website, reproduced by permission of Kotter International. Recently, in an interview with Kotter’s David Carder on business radio 89.9FM, they shared more insight on how to use the process (transcript here). So what are their recommendations for your successful business transformation?
Essentially their advice splits down into four key principles behind each of the eight steps, or ‘accelerators’ as they are now known. The first of these is management vs. leadership; Kotter’s observation is quite simply that business transformations require ‘More Leadership than Management.’ To quote directly:
“When he uses the word ‘more’ it’s not only more leaders at all levels, but that the organization needs to literally create more moments where people can demonstrate leadership.”
For this to work it must also be the case that the senior leadership trusts their associates by giving them the authority and autonomy to lead as required. This is also a key element of Lean thinking that is too often ignored.
The second principle is also quite simple: ‘Head and Heart.’ Again, from the transcript:
“Transformations must be driven by peoples’ hearts, passions, emotions, and aspirations to do something extraordinary as opposed to fear-based burning platforms. We say head and heart because obviously the head still matters; logical cases and rigor still matter.”
To generate this sort of passion, people must believe in a better future, and one that is worth sacrifice and hard-work to reach it. It is the leadership’s role to develop, articulate and communicate that vision, and what the eventual rewards will be. (Rewards are not all about money)
The third of the four is ‘Want To vs. Have To’: The contrast here is between management and leadership direction, which is insufficient on its own, and the concept of ‘volunteering’.
“If you can have people who are so excited about pursuing these changes above and beyond their day job, you are on your way toward a transformation at a much larger scale. They want to do it.”
This is easier said than done, and you certainly are not going to use authority, fear or coercion to develop ‘want to’ people. People are going to have to choose to volunteer, and to continue to do so. Keeping these people in the front-line of the change effort is a delicate balance that involves mutual trust and respect between the volunteers and leadership.
And finally: ‘Few vs Many”.
“This is about the shift from a few experts leading a change to activating many throughout the organization. Now when we say 3,500 volunteers engaged [in a recent project], that’s many. Those volunteers are making an extraordinary difference with slices of their time around key initiatives. The story of these four principles – management, leadership, head and heart, want to/have to, few and many – are the undercurrents to change. They support the execution of these 8 accelerators to make the greatest difference possible.”
The most notable aspects of these principles are that none of them are about what has to change. They don’t speak to improved productivity, quality or cost. Nor to increased sales, improved margins or more customers. They are about how successful change is achieved, and that is why these tools work across multiple initiatives, industries and organisations. They are the human part of change. Too many times this is the last thing that we address when looking at transformations. It should be the first.
Strategy implementation is a critical issue for business success, please do share what works for you in the comments section.
About : Rob Ward has extensive global experience working in supply chain organisations. He co-founded Cosmapec to help companies and executive teams establish, develop and optimise their supply chains.