Attempts to manage the transformation of large corporations, organisations, communities, or parts of society, often fail. We need to understand the reasons for these failures – and how to avoid these failures.
Resources providing an overall introduction to leading change:
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10.1 Why major change initiatives often fail
Harvard professor John Kotter has analysed the causes of failure of many large change initiatives within corporations or organisations. His research indicates how these change initiatives can falter at eight different points along the journey of transformation:
- Lack of a sufficient sense of urgency: The suggested new path forward is perceived as being more painful and unpleasant than sticking for the time being with the current trajectory, however awkward that may be; any ideas of far-reaching change are, therefore, put off until another time
- Lack of an effective guiding coalition: The team of people interested in the change have insufficient power or overall influence to drive the initiative forward
- Lack of a credible appealing vision of the desired new state of affairs: The envisioned positive scenarios are too vague, have too many unanswered questions, and fail to engage participants both emotionally and intellectually
- Lack of ongoing communication for buy-in: Without being engaged by regular updates, people lose track of the importance of the change; their attention becomes diverted elsewhere
- Lack of empowerment of the people who could implement the change: People lack sufficient skills or coaching, are subject to conflicting incentives (for example, for bonus payments or career advancement), or are hampered by unnecessary bureaucracy or a stifling organisational hierarchy
- Lack of celebration of early small wins: No sense of positive momentum is established
- Lack of follow through: Gains that are made are not consolidated, and are subsequently unmade, or just linger as isolated special cases
- Lack of embedding the change at the cultural level: Changes in management personnel or focus can lead to previous progress being unravelled, as older habits reassert themselves.
10.2 Positive methods to manage major change initiatives
10.3 Cultivating a sense of urgency instead of complacency or resignation
10.4 Building and managing a coalition to guide vital change
10.5 Identifying and addressing misaligned incentives
10.6 Moonshots and moonshot worship
10.7 Crossing the chasm
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