The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations

This is a summary from the book The Heart of Change by John Kotter. He made an observation about different organizations and how they experience transformations. In this book he discussed what makes an organization successful in their transformation while other organization fails. There are some clear patterns that one can recognize when analyzing their own organization. Here are some highlights:

  • People change what they do less because analysis but because they are shown a truth that influence their feelings.
  • Changing behaviour is less about analysis but more about influencing their feelings. See > Feel > Change flow.
  • Highly successful organization know how to overcome internal rejection to anything new. They seek bigger leaps. Continuous small steps is not longer enough.
  •  Successful change happens in 8 stages: 1) create urgency. 2) put together a guiding team. 3) create vision and strategy. 4) effectively communicate vision and strategy 5) remove barriers to action. 6) accomplish short term wins. 7) keep pushing through wave after wave of change. 8) create new culture to make new behaviour stick.
Companies with successful transformationCompanies with less successful transformation
1.Create a sense of urgency for a relevant number of people (critical mass)Big organization: relevant = 1000 not 50Relevant = 50, 5 or 0
2. Create a guiding teamA team with credibility, skill, reputation, networkRely on one (charismatic) person/driver or a complex governing structure without the skill nor power to do the job
3. Vision and StrategySimple, clear, uplifting vision and set of strategyOnly detail plan and budget provided. Strategy often too slow and cautious for a fast moving world.
4. Communication of vision and strategyClear, continuous communication through multiple channels. Repetition is key. Deeds speak louder than words.Too little or non-effective communication. Smart people under communicate or poorly communicate. People hear hollow words.
5. Have short term winsWins are communicated, provide validation and give momentum to the movement.Wins are slower, less visible, speak less to what people value.
6. Remove barriers to actionPeople feel empowered because impediments are removed. Leaders focus on removing the impediments.People are left to fend for themselves to face the impediments. Frustration grows, change undermined.
7. Keep pushing through waves of changesPeople shrewdly decide on what important problem to focus on.Try doing too much at one time, but give up too soon.
8. Make change stickAdjust reward system, promotion criteria, setup plan to develop and cultivate new skills, new employee orientation and hiring process to get people with the right mindsetChange is superficial and fragile. A great deal of work easily reverted by tradition in a short period of time.


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