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John Kotter: Leadership and Change

John Kotter was a star academic from an early age and is now regarded as one of the leading thinkers, researchers and consultants on organisational change. He is equally known for his earlier work on leadership. But for Kotter, the two cannot be separated:

“Leadership produces change.”

Kotter says. And change is the function of leadership.

John Kotter

Short biography

John Kotter was born in 1947, in San Diego, California. He moved to the east coast to gain his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from MIT (1968), his SM in management from MIT’s Sloan School of Management (1970), and a DBA from Harvard in organisational behaviour (1972).

Kotter stayed on at Harvard, becoming a tenured professor at 33, in 1980, having already published four books. It was his 1982 book, The General Managers, and the accompanying Harvard Business Review article, that started to make his name outside of academic circles. This set out the need for a general manager to master both the competencies needed to run their business and the relationship-building skills needed to extend effective networks throughout the wider organisation.

In a series of books, Kotter established himself as adept at distilling direct observation of what happens inside an organisation, into general principles that others can learn from. Key books include:

In 2001, Kotter retired from his full time faculty role and became professor emeritus, retaining Harvard Business School’s Konosuke Matsushita Chair of Leadership, which he has held since 1990. in 1997, he published a biography of the Japanese entrepreneur who endowed the chair: ‘Matsushita: Lessons from the 20th Century’s Most Remarkable Entrepreneur‘.

Kotter’s current activity focuses around Kotter International, the consultancy he co-founded in 2008. He is reputedly one of the most in-demand and highest paid speakers on the US corporate speaking circuit, with fees allegedly starting at $75,000. You can hear a flavour of him as a speaker on his YouTube Channel.

Leadership and Management

Kotter’s observations led him to concur with Warren Bennis that there are differences between management and leadership. While managers’ roles include organising, controlling, planning and budgeting, Kotter argued, in A Force for Change, that there are three principal roles for a business leader:

  1. Setting direction for the future of their business
  2. Aligning their people to that direction
  3. Motivating and inspiring people to move in that direction

For Kotter, then, leadership is all about change. More than most of his contemporary leadership commentators, Kotter veers towards the ‘leaders are born’ end of the scale, arguing that the best exhibit traits that go beyond what they can learn: energy, intellect, drive and integrity. But he does acknowledge that experiences shape leadership, noting that diverse and tangential career opportunities help shape leaders beyond the narrow confines of management.

Leading Change

Kotter’s transformative book (and the most reprinted ever Harvard Business Review article that accompanied it: Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail) was ‘Leading Change‘. This set out to show that managing change is not enough; change needs to be led. The book is widely regarded as a classic in the business/management field and was one of Time Magazine’s 25 most influential business management titles (along with books by many of the Management Thinkers covered in this blog series).

in the article and book, Kotter sets out an 8 step process for leading change, and argues that companies fail to deliver successful transformation when they do not pursue all of the steps, in the sequence, with sufficient attention. These steps embody much earlier thinking – in them, we can see the shadow of Kurt Lewin’s Freeze Phases, for example. What makes them particularly valuable is the clarity with which Kotter sets out the tasks leaders face, and the illustrative examples he gives.

In 2002, he co-authored Heart of Change with Deloitte Consulting’s Dan Cohen, in which they focus on case studies to illustrate this further. I have a strong memory of Cohen presenting at a US conference I attended towards the end of my time with Deloitte. The clarity of this approach rang out for me.

To further clarify, Kotter then co-authored Our Iceberg is Melting with Holger Rathgeber. This book turned the whole 8-step process into an allegorical tale of a penguin who becomes aware of global warming and needs to influence change among his compatriots. Would that more climate campaigners could learn some of these lessons. I guess this book was targeted at the market that made Spencer Johnson’s ‘Who Moved my Cheese?‘ (another Time top 25 book) such a huge success. Whilst Cheese focuses on the personal effects of change, Iceberg teaches how to lead change.

The Eight Steps

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Create a guiding coalition
  3. Develop a vision and strategy
  4. Communicate the change vision
  5. Empower employees for broad-based action
  6. Generate short-term wins
  7. Consolidate gains and produce more change
  8. Anchor new approaches in the culture

Accelerate

2010’s book ‘Buy-In‘ set out to help leaders make their case, but it was Kotter’s latest, 2014 book, ‘Accelerate‘ that has moved his thinking forward. Yes, Kotter International uses slightly new terminology around the 8 steps, but the main change that Accelerate introduced was a greater sense of urgency to the process, the consequent need for concurrency of the steps, and a determination that complex organisations need to introduce elements of a more agile, entrepreneurial approach.

The comparison of the older and more recent approach is this:

Leading Change’s original 8-Step Process

  • Lead change in a rigid, sequential process
  • Create a small, powerful core group to drive change
  • Function within a traditional hierarchy
  • Focus on doing one new thing very well and then move onto the next thing

Accelerate’s new thinking

  • Run the eight steps concurrently and continuously
  • Form a large cohort of volunteers  from throughout all levels and divisions of the organization to drive the change
  • Create a network of change agents that can act in an entrepreneurial way, outside the traditional hierarchy, to respond in a more flexible, agile way
  • Constantly look for opportunities, and set up initiatives to capitalise on them rapidly

Kotter has stayed at the forefront of thinking about organisational leadership. He now argues that constant disruption from turbulent market shifts is the biggest challenge business leaders face. And agility is the skill they need. Perhaps not surprisingly, his HBR article ‘Accelerate!’ is another of their most widely requested reprints.

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Margaret Heffernan: Serial Entrepreneur

Margaret Heffernan’s caree has been varied and successful – with roles in television production and leading large organisations. Her current focus is as a thought leader in the world of organisational effectiveness, where her ideas are both interesting and practical.

Margaret Heffernan

Short Biography

Born in 1955, in Texas, in the USA, Margaret Heffernan grew up in the Netherlands, finished her high school education in London, and graduated in English and Philosophy from the University of Cambridge in 1977. This gave her the perfect (and familiar) springboard for a career at the BBC, where she became a television producer, working on documentary, news and arts programmes.

She went on to run the Independent Programme Producers Association (IPPA – now a part of PACT), before heading off to the US in 1994, to work in public relations, focusing on the technology and media sectors. Through the late 1990s and early in the 2000s, Heffernan seized the opportunities of the internet and became CEO of several new businesses: InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation and iCAST Corporation. In these roles she won a series of plaudits from industry commentators as a top influencer in the high tech sector.

In 2004 Heffernan entered the ‘portfolio phase’ of her career to date, combining visiting academic roles, writing business books, blogging and commentating, and speaking. She recently published her latest book and has had three appearances to date on TED (a high number – only a small handful of people have spoken three times or more).

Her books are:

  1. 2004: The Naked Truth: A Working Woman’s Manifesto on Business and What Really Matters
  2. 2007: Women on Top: How Women Entrepreneurs Are Rewriting the Rules of Business Success
    (formerly published as ‘How She Does It)
  3. 2011: Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious
  4. 2014: A Bigger Prize: Why Competition isn’t Everything and How We Do Better
  5. 2015: Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes.

Heffernan’s Ideas

Margaret Heffernan has a knack for synthesising the ideas from psychology with her real-world experience as a senior executive working at the sharp end of business. This makes her ideas very appealing to business people who like to feel that  academic ideas are grounded in genuine experience and that their practical wisdom is rooted in sound research.

The clearest thread running through Heffernan’s published thinking is the importance of ‘Social Capital‘ – the network of social relationships that make business effective. Her earlier work focused on the different attitudes women have (compared to men) to ambition, power and motivation in the workplace. Their success comes about, to a fair degree, through greater levels of social interdependency, and Heffernan shows that women-led organisations statistically outperform organisations led by men and attributes the difference to that factor.

Wilful Blindness addresses a favourite topic of mine: cognitive bias in decision making. It is full of case studies, interviews, science and highly quotable sound-bites, like:

‘Stereotypes are energy-saving devices; they let us make shortcuts that feel just fine. That’s why they’re so persistent.’

‘”We have monuments for people who have displayed physical courage in war,” Lieutenant Colonel Krawchuk mused. “But where are the monuments to people who said no, we won’t do this because it’s a bad or wrong or unethical decision?”‘

‘The sooner we associate long hours and multitasking with incompetence and carelessness, the better.’

‘Because it takes less brain power to believe than to doubt, we are, when tired or distracted, gullible.’

In her next book, A Bigger Prize, Heffernan starts to look at what makes organisations successful and determines that it is not about being the best or hiring the best or nurturing the best: it is about creating a culture of helpfulness, so that everyone is comfortable with asking for help and ready and willing to offer their help. Competition is damaging and co-operation is adaptive. This is another topic I found absorbing and, when put back to back with an all-time favourite book of mine, ‘The Origins of Virtue‘, Heffernan and Ridley have covered a lot of the ground that most fascinates me in this arena.

Heffernan’s latest book seems like a continuation along the same trajectory. Indeed, the five core ideas in Beyond Measure feel like something of a summation of her thinking. Maybe this one quote summarises everything: ‘Walk around. Talk to people. Turn the other cheek. Build a network. Feed that network. Don’t get boxed in.’ Not a revolutionary idea, but a small change that can have a big impact on the way you do your work.

Margaret Heffernan’s most recent TED talk.

Heffernan is one of TED’s stars with huge viewing figures for her first two TED talks:

The subject of her latest talk, Why it’s time to forget the pecking order at work, is drawn from her book, A Bigger Prize.

[ted id=2283]

 

 

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Rosabeth Moss Kanter: Change Master

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is one of the foremost academics working in the management arena. Her academic CV is second to none, and it is the sophistication of her insights and the depth of her research that have earned her the huge respect she has garnered. But hers are not merely incremental ideas – her work has charted some of the biggest issues facing organisations from the 1970s to today.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

 Short Biography

Rosabeth Moss was born in 1943 and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She was educated at the elite Bryn Mawr College, where she studied English and Sociology, where she also met her first husband, Stuart Kanter.  She graduated in 1964 and went on to earn an MA and PhD in Sociology, at the University of Michigan.

Following her PhD, Moss Kanter’s first academic appointment was at Brandeis University, as Assistant Professor of Sociology. She stayed there until 1977, during which time her first husband died and she married Barry Stein, with whom she later (1977) founded a management consultancy, called Goodmeasure Inc, to sell her consulting services to many of the largest US corporations.

1977 was a key year for Moss Kanter. She also moved to become a Professor of Sociology and Professor of Organisational Management at Yale, where she remained until 1986, when she moved to Harvard Business School as a Professor of Business Administration. From 1979 to 1986, she was also a Visiting Professor at the Sloane School of Management at MIT.

The centrality of 1977, however, is because it was the year that saw the publication of the first of Moss Kanter’s books – and one that made a huge impact. It was lauded in its own right and has been seen, in retrospect, as the first of a triptych of connected and hugely important works. We will look at them below.

As well as being an academic and consultant, Moss Kanter has a slew of prestigious awards,and is also notable as the last academic to edit the Harvard Business Review (1989-92) and as an advisor to presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

But it is the breadth and depth of Moss Kanter’s work we need to focus on. And there is so much of note that we need to get started right away.

Moss Kanter’s Big-three Works

1977 saw the publication of a revolutionary book; Men and Women of the Corporation. It analyses the distribution of power within a large US corporation and how white men dominated, leaving women and ethnic minorities disempowered. Her research demonstrated that it was not the behaviours of women and minorities that created this power gap, but the very system within which they worked, and the structures of power and opportunity. At the time, this was a revolutionary insight. Moss Kanter showed the importance of creating change to empower everyone.

With the great pressures for change that she identified, we can see a logical progression in Moss Kanter’s next book, 1983’s The Change Masters: Corporate Entrepreneurs at Work. Shockingly, this astonishingly good and important book is out of print; to me, it is her most important. It describes how some companies and some individuals master the process of change through integrating and innovating, moving right to the edge of their capabilities, and benchmarking themselves against their aspirations, rather than against the status quo in their market place.  She refers to ‘New Entrepreneurs’; change masters within a business that radically improve it, rather than leaving and starting afresh somewhere else. They transform vision into reality. Once again, the concept of empowerment features strongly, as does the need for joined up networks of communication, and decentralisation of resources.

The third book in the triptych looks at the changes US corporations needed to make to remain competitive in the global environment of the 1980s and 90s. Published in 1989, ‘When Giants Learn to Dance‘ likens the global economy to a sporting competition. What struck me was her articulation of seven skills that characterise the most successful ‘business athletes’;

  1. ability to get results without authority, through influence alone
  2. competing positively, through co-operation, rather than negatively through aggression
  3. maintaining the highest ethical standards
  4. self confidence tempered by humility
  5. an understanding of the importance of process for getting things done
  6. relationship building, across functions, departments, and organisations
  7. achievement focus – what McClelland would describe as a high nAch

More Recent Work

It is only space, not a critique on the works themselves, that prevents me from detailing Moss Kanter’s works, from 1992’s ‘The Challenge of Organizational Change‘ to ‘Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead‘, published a few months before this blog, in spring of 2015. Along the way, there have been:

A Summary of Moss Kanter’s Themes

Rosabeth Moss Kanter is notable as an academic of business, but her approach has always remained a staunchly sociological one. Her focus on empowerment has followed closely on that of previous thinkers in humanistic management and particularly echoes the work of Mary Parker Follett, whom she admires greatly. Like Follett, she takes a very much integrative attitude, valuing holistic management structures, rather than segmented corporations. This is a theme that comes out strongly in both Change Masters and Giants. She describes these as characteristics of a ‘post-entrepreneurial firm’, where innovation is the principle benefit of combining the the strength of a large organisation with the agility of a small one.

Her writing is characterised by three admirable characteristics that are often not found together: subtle and complex ideas, detailed research evidence, and a highly readable writing style.

The Advanced Leadership Initiative

I want to end with a short reference to Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative, which Moss Kanter leads, as Chair and Director. It aims to prepare ‘a leadership force of experienced leaders who can address challenging national and global problems in their next stage of life’. These are men and women who, after their primary income-earning years, want to contribute to community and public service for their next years of life, using the skills they already have, to make an impact on significant social problems, in health, welfare, children, and the environment. I know little more about it than this, but what a wonderful initiative. A kind of lower-key version of The Elders, I guess.

 


 

Moss Kanter talks about leadership as being about leading positive change in this 17 minute TED talk, ‘Six keys to leading positive change‘.

And more…

There is a good selection of short videos and articles by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, on some of her latest thinking, on the Big Think website.

 

 

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Richard Tanner Pascale: The Honda Effect

… or Experiment, Adapt, and Learn

Richard Tanner Pascale is known as a subtle thinker who refuses to be seduced by easy models and trite explanations, preferring to take an enquiring view of the complexities of organisational challenges.

His two big contributions flow, first, from his association with the McKinsey 7S Model, and later from his championing of the concept of complex adaptive systems as a powerful metaphor for organisations.

Richard Tanner Pascale

Brief Biography

Richard Pascale keeps much of his life private – there is little I can find of his early life, between his birth, in 1938, and his education at Harvard Business School. In the late 1970s, he and fellow academic Anthony Athos collaborated with McKinsey consultants Robert Waterman and Tom Peters in the creation of the 7S model, which later became a central component of his and Athos’ book, ‘The Art of Japanese Management’. He spent 20 years at Stanford University n their Graduate School of Business and then became an independent consultant. He is now also an Associate Fellow of Said Business School, Oxford University.

Early Work

The McKinsey 7S model offered seven inner-related aspects of a business and became an important part of both Athos and Pascale’s book, and of Peters and Waterman’s: ‘In Search of Excellence’. Whilst Peters and Waterman focused on examples of US success, taking a fairly reductionist view of what it takes to succeed, Pascale and Athos focused on Japanese business and highlighted the importance of the ‘soft S factors’ rather than the ‘hard S factors’.

Soft S Factors

  • Style of management
  • Staffing policies
  • Skills
  • Shared Values

Hard S Factors

  • Strategy
  • Structure
  • Systems

In this book, he also started to identify how Japanese businesses were able to respond successfully to complex and ambiguous situations, where rational analysis was unable to create a clear solution. Instead of jumping to a final resolution of a problem, he advocated accepting the uncertainties and proceeding on the basis of an initial assessment, and then using the new information you gain as the basis of tweaking your approach. This leads to a step-wise, incremental approach, rather than a bold, decisive strategy.

In many ways, therefore, he was advocating an approach akin to the Deming (or Schewart) Cycle, or the OODA and CECA Loops.

Work on Agility

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) had taken an interest in why Honda had been so successful in launching a business in the US, but it was Pascale’s response in a 1984 edition of California Management Review that stimulated debate and raised awareness of Pascale’s ideas. Whilst BCG attributed their success to a long term investment strategy and gritty perseverance, Pascale saw things very differently. After interviewing Honda executives, he saw a series of failures and setbacks, followed by learning and adaptation. He perceived Honda’s approach as one of experimenting and reflecting.

Pascale adamantly rejects the western approach of oversimplifying, decrying management and strategy fads, and disassociating himself from common terms like expert or guru. Instead, he prefers a process of testing and questioning, reflecting and learning, and adapting. He has constantly returned to the theme of agility as the core competence of an organisation in a complex and changing world.  He concluded:

  • Agility is a key source of competitive advantage
  • Organisational culture and attitude to uncertainty and change, rather than processes are what lend it agility
  • Four things determine how agile an organisation will be:
    1. Power: the power employees have to influence events
    2. Identity: the extent to which individuals identify with their organisation
    3. Contention: how creatively is conflict managed
    4. Learning: how the organisation handles new experiences and ideas

In item three, the four elements can lead to stagnation, so Pascale went further, in a Harvard Business Review article (Nov-Dec 1997) called ‘Changing the way we Change’. He listed  seven mental disciplines that drive agility:

  1. Building an intricate understanding of your business
  2. Encouraging uncompromising straight talk
  3. Managing from the future
  4. Harnessing setbacks
  5. Promoting inventive accountability
  6. Understanding quid pro quos
  7. Creating relentless discomfort with the status quo

Pascale views complexity and ambiguity as the drivers of change, and that constant change as the key to success. ‘If it ain’t broke: don’t fix it’ is a truism. Pascale would say:

‘If it ain’t broke: go break it’.

Complex Adaptive Systems

More recently, he has been thinking carefully about the science of complex adaptive systems and drawing somewhat fruitful analogies with organisations. The problem I see is that this has become one of the fads he has derided, and been subject to much over-literal interpretation by lesser thinkers. His Sloane Management review article ‘Surfing the edge of Chaos’ and his subsequent book, also called ‘Surfing the Edge of Chaos‘ showcase his thinking in this interesting area. However, as intellectually stimulating as it is; it is hard to see how directly managers can apply the ideas.

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Scott and Jaffe: The Change Grid and How we Respond to Change

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Last week’s Pocket Correspondence Course module was about the three phases of creating change – or ‘transitions’, in Bridges’ language. This week, we need to address the question of how people respond to organisational change.

Have you ever noticed how people’s response to organisational change is sometimes out of proportion to the objective scale of the change itself? Organisational changes are hardly a matter of life and death, yet people often get scared, angry, upset or frustrated. These are powerful emotions that managers rarely feel ready to deal with.

While many managers see organisational change as someone else’s specialism – the HR team, or the consultants, for example – it is your team. A general overview will help you understand some of the dynamics you encounter. One of the most useful and compelling models is that developed by Cynthia Scott & Dennis Jaffe.

Grief: The work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

The Scott-Jaffe model owes much to the work of Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. She researched the way people deal with tragedy, bereavement and grief, that led her to the development of a widely used description of grief as following five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – often remembered with the acronym DABDA.

Kubler-Ross Grief Model

The responses that Dr Kübler-Ross described served your ancient ancestors well. They did not emerge in an environment of shifting organisational structures and operational processes: the changes they encountered were often life threatening.

In modern times, we must use the same underlying physiology and brain chemistry to cope with both emotional trauma and an office move. It seems unsurprising, therefore, that when Scott and Jaffe researched responses to organisational change, they found a similar pattern.

Scott and Jaffe’s Four Stage Response to Change

Scott & Jaffe Change Grid

Scott and Jaffe’s model suggests that we move through four stages as we respond to organisational change. Clearly, if we quickly perceive the change as beneficial, we will jump from the first to the fourth.

Denial

Initially, the meaning of the change fails to sink in: we are happy enough (or at least comfortable) with the status quo, so our minds reject the reality of change. We act as if nothing has happened and Scott and Jaffe called this stage Denial.

Resistance

Once we start to recognise the reality of change, we start to Resist it. This arises from our aversion to loss – we focus on the elements of the status quo we will need to give up and our brains assign that a far greater weight of attention and value than any potential gains.

We do this first at the emotional level, showing anger, anxiety, bitterness or fear, for example, and later by opposing the change actively, engaging our critical faculties to find reasons to resist. Organisations see increases in absence, complaints and losses, and drops in efficiency, morale and quality.

Exploration

When managers like you face up to the resistance and engage with it in a respectful and positive way, people can start to focus on the future again. They will Explore the implications of the change for them and for their part in your organisation. They will look for ways to move forward. This can be a chaotic time, but also an exhilarating one – particularly when the benefits of the change are significant.

Commitment

Eventually people start to turn their attention outward as they Commit to the new future.

Other Models of Change

Scott and Jaffe are not the only researchers to articulate a model of organisational change. There are other, similar, models. Perhaps the best known of the three-phase models is Kurt Lewin’s ‘Freeze Phases that we covered in the previous Management Pocketblog: Unfreezing – Changing – Refreezing. We also saw William Bridges’ three-phase ‘Transitions’ model: Letting go – Neutral zone – New beginnings.

These are all powerful as predictive models of change and, like all models, none is true. Yet each offers up valuable insights which can help you predict, understand and mange change.

Further Reading

  1. The Managing Change Pocketbook
  2. The Handling Resistance Pocketbook
  3. Survive and Thrive in Times of Change,
    Training and Development Journal, April 1988,
    Dr Cynthia D Scott and Dr Dennis T Jaffe
    This article is not available freely on the web.
  4. On Death and Dying,
    Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, 1969
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Lewin, Bridges and the Phases of Change

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Change is a never-ending part of organisational life, and managing it effectively is one of the principal challenges for managers. So you need to understand the process, so you can support effective change in the people who make up your organisation.

This was a topic addressed by one of the twentieth century’s leading thinkers in workplace psychology (and a regular feature of the Management Pocketblog – see below); Kurt Lewin. Among his many contributions to our understanding of organisational life is a three-part model of change.

Forces for Change

Lewin regarded us as subject to a range of forces within our environment, which he divided into:

  • Driving Forces, which promote change, and
  • Restraining Forces, which hinder it, consisting of our inner resistance to change and our desire to conform to what we perceive to be the established social norms.

Three Phases of Change

Kurt Lewin - Freeze Phases

1. Unfreezing

Lewin identified the first phase of change as unfreezing established patterns of behaviour and group structures. We do this by challenging existing attitudes, beliefs and values, and then offering alternatives. This allows people to start to relax from their restraining forces; preparing them for change.

2. Changing

The second phase is changing, in which we lead people through the transition to a new state. This is a time of uncertainty and confusion, as people struggle to build a clear understanding of the new thinking and practices that will replace the old. The range of different responses you will encounter means that good leadership is essential. Without it, people will follow whatever weak leadership they can find. A great danger is people’s susceptibility to gossip and rumour during times of change.

3. Freezing

Eventually, a new understanding emerges. Lewin’s third phase is freezing (sometimes refreezing) these new ways of being into place, to establish a new prevailing mind-set. During this phase, people adapt to the changed reality and look for ways to capitalise on the new opportunities it offers. Alternatively, they might instead make a decision to opt-out from the change and move on.

Subsequent Interpretations

When Lewin described this model, he was clear that the phases represent parts of a continuous journey; not discrete processes. However, not everyone understood this – or even took the time to read Lewin’s own writing. The model became neglected largely because his use of the term phases’ led to false interpretations that he was referring to static stages.

However, we might equally argue that his thinking is in rude health. In his excellent 1980 book, ‘Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change’, William Bridges put forward a similar three stage model of changes, or transitions:

  1. Letting go
  2. Neutral zone
  3. New beginning

Bridges’ books are best sellers that give readers much practical advice on how to support people through each of the three stages of their transition.

Whether in the original form proposed by Lewin, or in the more modern form presented by Bridges, the three phases model is immensely valuable. It focuses us on how to move people through change. As both the first systematic work on organisational change and as a starting point for designing a change process, an understanding of this model is vital for any manager who is working in the arena of change.


Next week, we will look at a complementary model of how people respond to imposed change, developed by Cynthia Scott and Dennis Jaffe.

Further Reading 

  1. The Managing Change Pocketbook
  2. The Handling Resistance Pocketbook
  3. Frontiers in group dynamics: Concept, method and reality in social science; social equilibria and social change, Kurt Lewin, in Human Relations (1947).
  4. Managing Transitions,
    William Bridges, Nicholas Brealey Publishing, Rev Ed 2003

Three Management Pocketblogs about Kurt Lewin

  1. The World belongs to Unreasonable People
    The CECA Loop
  2. Elastic Management
    Kurt Lewin’s Force-field Analysis
  3. Predicting Behaviour
    Lewin’s equation for predicting behaviour
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Keep it SIMPLE

Regular readers will know that I am a sucker for acronyms – although I don’t always love them.  This one, I particularly like, and it comes from the heart of a change management and coaching process, called Solution Focus.

What the authors, Paul Z Jackson and Mark McKergow, offer is a change of focus from the problem to the solution.  A nice shift in perspective and one that chimes well with another interesting change management methodology, Appreciative Inquiry (AI).

SIMPLE

The acronym encompasses the authors’ attitudes nicely:

Solutions
– not problems

Inbetween
– the interaction between people is where to look

Make use of what’s there
– very much the AI approach

Possibilities
– look in the past, present and future

Language
– keep it simple (and ‘clean’?)

Every case is different
– so don’t try stock solutions

The Solution Focus

In an exceptional book, the authors take us through a set of tools that will help you move from the present towards a future you design following these six principles.  Another feature of the book is its introduction of the authors’ own coaching model, OSKAR Model.  This makes a feature of the importance of getting a perspective on the scale of the problem, which the GROW and its many variants do not explicitly include (although Sir John Whitmore certainly uses the principle.  Oskar was one of my ‘infinite number of coaching acronyms’ in an earlier blog.

Outcome
Scaling
Know How
Application
Review

So here’s the deal

If you are interested in either coaching or the management of change, and you are not familiar with The Solution Focus, it is a worthwhile read.  The authors offer a distinctive and insightful take on the change process at a personal and group level.

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Management Secrets of Queen Elizabeth II

The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II

This blog is published on a Bank Holiday, so we don’t expect many people to be at work, reading it. But a diamond jubilee is a big deal – and so is Queen Elizabeth II. Over the last sixty years, she has proved herself, among much else, a great manager.  Let’s look at how.

1. Professionalism

The Queen is the consummate professional – putting in many hours of work every day (still) and, until recently, maintaining a work schedule that would make Apprentice candidates and Dragons shudder.

2. Chief Executive

She is Chief Executive of one of the nation’s oldest established, biggest and most successful family businesses.  And she has run it pretty well.  Whilst openly acknowledging the occasional wayward members of the family, and allowing the odd unsuccessful venture from some of them, she has ensured that the succession is assured with all of the major players showing signs of commitment to the business and high levels of professionalism themselves.

3. Mastering a Brief

The Queen prepares well for every engagement, famously knowing all about the people she meets, from Lord Lieutenant to Lunchtime Assistant (Dinner Lady in old money).  And she also keeps up with her red boxes (literally, red boxes in which Government papers are sent to her daily), devoting many hours each week to assimilate everything the Government sends her.

4. Brand Management

Her identity and that of her family, the House of Windsor, remains clear and, despite some setbacks, currently has not only great name recognition (“The Royal Family”) but also high levels of brand approval.  It has adapted well to modern media and the website is supplemented by YouTube, Flickr and Facebook pages, and a Twitter stream @TheBritishMonarchy.  I doubt that the Queen herself tweets – but how many CEOs do?

5. Financial Control

No longer right at the top of the Sunday Times Rich List (now at 262, with £310m), this could be argued to be a weak area, but she has reduced the scale of the civil list and, unlike some of the higher fliers, is not running a global business.

6. Coaching

The Queen’s regular meetings with her many Prime Ministers have, by many accounts, often taken the form of a non-judgemental conversation, in which she asks many probing and insightful questions.  In management, there’s a word for that style of conversation.

7. Change Management

A lot is made of the continuity of the British monarchy, but the reality is one of constant change.  The last sixty years have been no exception.  And whilst she has avoided the pitfalls that led predecessors to far more rapid change (Magna Carta, Civil War like Stephen/Matilda, Charles/Parliament, Roses etc, or reformation), she has created a highly agile institution that, whilst in no way a creature of the twenty first century, at least looks fit to continue within it.

Management Pocketbooks you might Enjoy

The Modern Monarch's Pocketbook

The Modern Monarch’s Pocketbook has been delayed, so in the meantime, if you are a UK resident and reading this on the Bank Holiday, enjoy the end of your break.

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Elastic Management

SuperLewinKurt Lewin is something of a hero to me, not least as the originator of one of my all time favourite quotes:

‘There is nothing so practical as a good theory’

This appeared in my intro to The Management Models Pocketbook and a blog I posted on my birthday.

So why come back to it now?  I want to look at one of Lewin’s best known models from a slightly unconventional angle, but let’s start with the basics.

Force Field Analysis

Lewin’s language derives from the world of physics; he talks of equilibrium and forces.  His metaphor is not, however, strained and works very well for me.  In his model, we (individuals and groups – even organisations) will be in equilibrium, unless a force acts upon us.

By equilibrium, he means that there will be no change.

Let’s get real!

In the real world, there are always forces acting upon us, so there is always change.  Lewin identifies two fundamental types of force:

Driving forces, which promote change

Restraining forces, which – take a guess – restrain it

ForceField

To understand the nature of change and how it is happening in an individual or a group, we need to inventory all of the driving and restraining forces, understand them, and assess the net direction and strength of the resultant force.

Under Pressure

Many of us in the worlds of business and public service are finding ourselves under a lot of pressure at the moment, and if you manage people, you may be putting them under pressure.  What can Lewin teach us about what is going to happen?

As we apply a driving force to our colleagues in times of pressure, many will respond and you will achieve the changes you need.  People are able to suppress their reaction to unwelcome pressure and hence you may not sense the restraining forces.  But they are there.  When you release the drive, as the pressure reduces, the elasticity of the restraining forces will show itself.

Two Tactics

How can you deal with this elasticity.  If you need to maintain your new productivity levels over a long term, you have only two options:

  1. You can maintain the driving forces
    We see this pretty often in organisations.  ‘Autocratic’ or ‘follow-me-the-superhero’ styles of leadership maintain long term pressure that can turn into stress and burn-out.  If you suspect you are in danger of causing this, you need to deal with it – quickly.
  2. You can release the restraining forces
    This is by far the harder tactic.  You need to understand what the forces are that pull back against your drive and address them one at a time.  So, longer hours may be mostly a problem because of a parent’s evening routine; so can you offer flexible hours to allow them to leave early?  A greater workload may frustrate someone who is angered by the slow running of an aged computer; so can you upgrade their equipment?

Welcome to the club

If you are anticipating 2011 will be a tough year for you, then welcome to a large club.  But don’t just despair or let events drive you.  Analyse and understand your situation, and take active steps to manage it.

This quarter, Pocketblog will be offering a range of solutions from the Management Pocketbooks library, to help you through.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might find helpful

The Managing Change Pocketbook

The Stress Pocketbook

The Motivation Pocketbook

The People Manager’s Pocketbook

The Tackling Difficult Conversations Pocketbook

Under Pressure? – take a break

For Queen fans

For music fans who aren’t so keen on Queen

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Truly Radical!

Change is everywhere and whether from incoming governments or new management teams, one of the most ubiquitous refrains is:

‘We must be radical’

But what does radical really mean?

Let’s get to the root of this (ahem)

RadishesGetting to the root of a meaning in English, often takes us back to Latin.  This is no exception, and what we unearth is the Latin word ‘radix’.  Radix gives us ‘radical’ and also ‘radish’ the common, peppery and delicious root vegetable.  Radix means ‘root’.

Picture credit: La Grande Farmers’ Market

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A radical solution is one that takes us to the root of the problem, or back to basics, you might say.  So truly radical solutions should not involve an over-throw of what has gone before; they should build on the best of what already exists.

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry, or AI as it is sometimes called, is formal methodology for discovering the best of what already exists, and using it as a basis for designing effective change.  It has powerful links with Positive Psychology and Positive Organisational Psychology, and and rejects the language of ‘problems’ in favour of ‘possibilities’ to be explored.

The AI process has four Steps.

Discovery

A systematic effort to discover the memories, stories and knowledge that captures the best of what an organisation has done and is doing.

DreamArticulate how an organisation could be at its very best, using pictures, narratives, quotes and statements.
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DesignWork together to figure out how to create your dream, by designing processes, collaborations and a culture that will bring it to life.

Destiny

Make things happen.  Invite others to follow, inspiring them with the dream and empowering them with the design.

While we wait

… for the Appreciative Inquiry Pocketbook, The Appreciative Inquiry Commons is the principal resource for information, ideas and tools for this extremely powerful change management technology.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might Enjoy

The Managing Change Pocketbook

The Strategy Pocketbook

The Diversity Pocketbook

The Improving Efficiency Pocketbook

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