Change Management

Nothing is as constant as permant change, a triviality. External changes (“VUCA”) hit onto those initiated internally i – and acceleratedly so. The need for structuring change management processes isn’t new, but urgent.

John Kotter’s Change Management Model is pretty well known now. it’s meant as a recipe for planned change. But Kotter emphasizes that impulses for change may well come from basic level or from middle management. In his concept, he also makes clear that change management processes happen in arguments and conflicts, and that different people may play very different roles within.

My job in change Processes was and is the methods oriented und “psychological” monitoring. All in all, Kotter’s concept is absolutely obvious, and the headlines of his steps can easily be translated to well-known methodology terms.

In the end it’s important to make those terms come to life, if they are taken seriously, no problem. Consequently, whoever thinks window dressing or lip service are enough is going to run into huge problems.

Kotter defines 8 steps in Change Management Processes:

  • “Establish a sense of Urgency” – actually quite easy: competition, pressure on prices and thus cost, vanishing customer satisfaction, … But still: there may have been too many campaigns in the past, or past success compromises the view onto reality. But sense of urgency needs not mobilize everyone:
  • “Form a powerful guiding coalition” – it helps when in top management strong supporters establish goals and shield the initiative. On the other hand, at least a significant minorityhas to do so. The following task split has proven itself, according to my experience: Core Team of max. fünf active people, recruited cross-functionally, board of sponsors consisting of most relevant decision makers, barrier removal team of decision makers and high ranking specialists. About composition of those teams: basically you just need committed activists, but still one habitual sceptic can be useful:  possible objections will be brought forward thus! (These also have their place in deBonos Six Hats…)
  • “Create a Vision” – this must be positive, but not a trivial business target (“The Nr. 1 in…”). It has to provoke and guide own action. A Buzzword is absolutely sufficient in my experience: SCRUM, KAIZEN, Team work… of course it’s about much more: “Agile Management and SCRUM in all development processes” – but who wants to repeat such long sentences permanently whenever she or he wants to address the Change initiative?
  • “Communicate the Vision” – townhall meeting; Strategy Workshops, Methods Training for the pilot group, obviously. In communication the sentence “In the beginning nothing’s gonna change for you” is the biggest mistake – all too often heard. Everybody has been shocked out of their comfort zone – why let them fall back there?The pilot group and the first application project have to be implemented quickly now – thus communication will happen automatically.
  • “Empower others to act on the vision” – identify pilot application, train, supervise intensively, quick finetuning of the concept based on initial experience. All of this is not easy, but very straightforward. Further expanding is much more difficult: neighbouring teams may be much less open minded, even minor failuers may lead to negative rumours, the number of sceptics automatically rises. Factual or alleged victims will now step forward – what to do about them is all too often simply overlooked. One personal experience: the foreman level in production was to be eliminated, but when time came for practical implementation there was not an offer conceived for the real people in this function. Solution: adoption of the relevant technology team. And what happened: half of the guys were happy to get rid of the disliked responsibility of people managenemnt.
  • “Create short-term wins” – in other  concepts “harvest low-hanging fruits” – tightly linked to the stepp before. Going ahead rapidly with help from all specialists and support teams: ergonomists, IT department, logistics, …). Even if initial ideas come across a little strange and even if the lead to some (manageable) investment or cost these should be tried out. It’s important to lead groups to elaborated proposals; stacks of ideas and requests to others are not enough.
  • “Consolidate improvements” – now comes the real litmus test: expansion of the concept to all teams and people affected, including low performers, demotivateds, explicit nay-sayers.  Everyone demands changes, especially from others, while staying in their own comfort zone: this needs to be dealt with. In parallel, all systems have to be adapted anzupassen: IT, offices, processes of manufacture, remuneration system – all of this may easily lead to significant inverstment! There is quite some temptation to stop now or linger on half-hearted: Better to start the next initiative, as it may motivate anew and promises fresh low-hanging fruits. Yet, this means to not really harvest, and possibly to frustrate managers and employees. Simply because they recognize the lack of seriosity in these campaign politics.
  • “Institutionalize new approaches” – falling back to comfort zone is possible here: “Finally, let’s do normal work again!  Setting challenging goals or introducing unusual ideas may be helpful.” Thus, more and more significant know-how will be piled up. At the very same time it is now important to measure all changes against an increase in performance.Ffinally, the next generation of standard bearers must be identified, trained and installed: accuracy is essential!

Kotter’s Change Management concept is thus self-evident, very serious and meaningful, and yet insofar somewhat academic and theory oriented, as it offers ideas how to do it well and correctly – a to-be-concept. In contrast, the “house of change“ has established itself as a realistic, more empirical concept, addressing especially the attitudes and moods of all people involved. The model suggests to go through four significant steps: from complacency to recection, on to confusion towards renewal, and ultimately to competent process control. Selbstzufriedenheit zur Ablehnung zur Verwirrung zur Erneuerung, und schließlich wieder zur kompetenten Prozessbeherrschung. Thus it clarifies two things:

  • going forward to complete rejection or paralysis is possible, or even dropping out of tghe team or the company,
  • leaders or drivers of the cahnge process have to through this twice. first in their own minds and then with their direct reports whom they want to lead through the change.