May 21, 2023

The Importance of a Well-Developed Guiding Coalition

Effective and efficient change leadership must be embedded at all levels and across all disciplines in the organization. A guiding coalition's success improves by including critical stakeholders' representation. Switching from change resistance to an energized cadre of zealous drivers of organizational transformation requires a well-developed guiding coalition.

As a thought leader, author, educator, and change leadership champion, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.

Continuing the Change Process Conversation

In recent weeks we have begun to work through the elements of organizational transformation.  The work of Dr. John Kotter is the focus where we looked at a macro view of his eight-step change process two weeks ago.  Last week was a micro-level view of Accelerator 1, creating a sense of urgency.  We look at Accelerator 2 this week on building a guiding coalition.

A guiding coalition made up only of managers—even superb managers who are wonderful people—will cause major change efforts to fail. – Dr. John Kotter
The Eight Steps to Accelerate Change

A successful company defines strategic initiatives as coordinated and targeted activities led by a guiding coalition to make transformational vision achievement possible.  A quick review of the change process is the 8 Steps to Accelerate Change eBook.  The steps are now known as accelerators that include:

1. Create a sense of urgency

2. Build a guiding coalition

3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives

4. Enlist a volunteer army

5. Enable action by removing barriers

6. Generate short-term wins

7. Sustain acceleration

8. Institute change

Developing a guiding coalition is essential to carrying out transformational change.

Accelerator 2: Guiding Leadership Coalition Assessment

The next step we explore is selecting and assessing a guiding leadership coalition. The group's success improves by including the representation of critical stakeholders.  Ideally, the people identified as members of the guiding alliance should consist of at least a subset of those involved in the SOAR work.  The background knowledge of that work will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the change process.  At the same time, other individuals may be significant additions to the change process phase of the business transformation.

Assembling the Coalition Team

The process evaluates the coalition members for their instinctive, intellectual, intuitive, and rational characteristics.  A similar version of the assessment and development plans for the organization's executive team shared in an earlier post can guide the work to assemble and develop an optimal leadership coalition.  A training plan and the assignment of existing or the hiring of key personnel will address critical gaps in the capabilities of the guiding coalition. As a result, the group will have more significant potential to ensure success in moving the firm's balance toward the vision developed from a whole stakeholder perspective during the SOAR process. All coalition members will commit to a clear, concise, and compelling vision.

A Deeper Level of Homework

After establishing the guiding coalition, the group must explore current and future forces, issues, and trends more deeply to understand the Opportunities defined during the SOAR process fully.  The team involved should do a more comprehensive evaluation of the work to date to understand better how to leverage the best existing and new technologies, advanced composites, and other emerging enhancements in the manufacturing sector. Finally, the group should invest proper time to understand the potential to maximize the selection and implementation of initiatives to transform the company.

The Value of Benchmarking Trips

Benchmarking trips to other organizations with similar transformational success can help with this obligation.  While implementing lean manufacturing across several plant locations, we had the opportunity to tour two manufacturing operations that made the transformation we wanted to accomplish.  The group that traveled to these plants comprised a collection of lean practitioners and plant managers.  To that point, the plant managers had begrudgingly allowed lean efforts to occur in their plants.  After the first plant visit, these individuals excitedly chattered about what they had seen that only grew after the second visit.  A switch from resistance to lean manufacturing became almost too zealous engagement in a few days.  They returned to their plants like "bulls in a China shop," haphazardly implementing lean without a fully developed plan.  A key to realizing a transformational vision is to experience the evidence of others that have had their desired success.

Kampus Production on Pexels
Launching the Guiding Coalition

A successful change process is not possible without an adequately prepared guiding coalition.  A key role is to evaluate the organization's current state to identify the organization's positive core.  The group should determine the sum of the:

• Their unique strengths to leverage during the work to achieve the vision.

• Assets that currently exist.

• Resources of the current knowledge base, people, technology, and infrastructure.

• Networks mapping of critical horizontal and vertical business and governmental relationships.

• Capabilities of each department that support the needs of the desired change.

• Creative thought that will carry the organization into the future.

The guiding coalition would revisit the vision developed to date against the following information compiled:

• Adopt the existing vision or develop an even more compelling future vision.

• Review and revise, if necessary, the mission statement that commits members to carry forward the best of the past and inspire and challenge the status quo.

• Revisit the existing list of core values and improve if necessary.

The guiding coalition would then spread the organization's existing or revised vision, mission statement, and values to all stakeholders.

Key Takeaway

Effective and efficient change leadership must be embedded at all levels and across all disciplines in the organization.  A guiding coalition's success improves by including critical stakeholders' representation.  Switching from change resistance to an energized cadre of zealous drivers of organizational transformation requires a well-developed guiding coalition.

First Step

Individuals seeking guidance on selecting members for their guiding coalition can learn about a nine-box approach in the 90 Second Leadership - How to Lead a Coalition to Build Change.  While the focus of Todd Adkins in the video is on doing so for a church, the advice works if you switch out the word church with your industry, such as manufacturing.

My Gratitude

I am unsure when I began to understand the benefits of including members of the organization at all levels and across disciplines to drive organizational transformation.  I suspect it evolved in part because I worked my way up from the lowest level of a manufacturing operation.  Another influence was Dr. Jackie Stavros championing this with her SOAR framework, profiled in previous weeks.  However, a woman named Marie comes to mind when I think of a person with high influence and high organizational investment that I would invite to my guiding coalition.  She was a person working in the shop that if Marie bought in, then everyone else would as well since they respected her opinion.

Sneak Peek

Next week's blog will continue exploring Kotter's change process by looking at his step in forming a strategic vision and initiative to transition to humanist manufacturing.  

Additional Information  

To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit

I encourage you to read my book Humanist Manufacturing: A Humanitarian Approach to Excellence in High-Impact Plant Operations.  The paperback and eBook versions are now available at Amazon and many other booksellers.  You can also view the Humanist Manufacturing Book Launch to gain additional insight into the Humanist Manufacturing framework.

I invite you to join the Humanist Manufacturing Group on LinkedIn if you want to interact with others interested in the topic.

If you like what you have read, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Please feel free to contact me if you need help with the manufacturing support services of consulting, coaching, Fractional Chief Sustainability Officer, or training/reskilling at 734-664-9076.

See my virtual TEDx videos at Reinventing the Prison Industrial Complex and Humanist Manufacturing.

You can sign up for my newsletter or email me at Contact Me.

Cover Image Credit: fauxels on Pexels

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