May 6, 2023

Who Says Lasting Change Cannot Be a Reality

Leaders looking to accomplish significant organizational transformation must utilize an efficient and effective change management process. However, success in doing so requires understanding by leadership that this work follows the development of robust strategic and tactical plans. Only then will the desirable outcome of lasting change become the reality of a future state of excellence in high-impact operations.

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

The Need for Effective and Efficient Change

We have spent the recent weeks going through the necessary steps to significantly transform an organization from a current state to a desired high-impact future state.  The recommended strategic planning approach is to use the SOAR framework.  Last week the focus was on the importance of developing robust tactical plans to carry out the outcomes of the strategic planning process.  Our next phase to explore is the change management process.

It Does Not Happen without Putting in the Work

During my career, I have seen several leadership failures resulting from the need to fully commit to making high-impact change a reality.  The organizations attempt what I describe as a "brute force" approach to improving the operation.  They place intense pressure on the workforce to make significant improvements without giving them the resources necessary to succeed.  The employees make valiant attempts to meet these demands only to burn out and move on to another opportunity. As a result, the company has an ongoing revolving door for those entering and exiting facility employment.  There never seems to be a realization by the leadership that the issue is not the employees.  Instead, they intensify micro-management that grinds the organization into a downward spiral of inefficiencies and ineffectiveness.  

There is a rare person that I've met who is playing a leadership role and helping his or her company make big strategic adjustments to deal with an increasingly turbulent world in which the organizations are always ready; they're just not. – Dr. John Kotter
The Change Management Process

During my doctorate coursework, an assignment was to read the Leading Change book by Harvard Professor Dr. John Kotter, a recognized global expert on change leadership.  The content of the book strongly resonated with me.  His eight-step process for change implementation had a simple elegance I deeply admired.  You will read more about these steps in the coming weeks.  I have also built in other content that I have found beneficial in understanding how to most efficiently and effectively implement change.  For example, developing a highly desirable work culture will take multiple years, even in the best cases.  

Kotter's Change Process

The change process in Dr. Kotter's 1996 book has recently been updated into 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.

You would expect nothing less from a change framework than to evolve to meet the world's increased pace.  

The Increasing Pace of Change

The business environment continues to move at an accelerating rate.  The advances in technology we continue to see have made it possible to know what is happening around the globe in near real-time, creating a need for organizations to react nimbly to changes that can require a complete overnight reset of existing plans.  The change process has impacts in the following ways:

1. Change has moved from sequential and finite steps to a need for continuous and concurrent use of the accelerators.

2. A shift from only a guiding coalition of key team members to an engagement of the entire organization committed to driving the necessary change.

3. Moving from a traditional hierarchy to an agile, nimble network evolving as needs arise supported by the traditional leadership structure.

4. Moving from a linear approach focused on a single initiative to quickly reacting to a constant scanning of relevant opportunities to implement for the organization's benefit.

Intelligent leaders will embrace this shift in the pace of change and prepare their organizations to become agile, driving the need for ongoing organizational transformation.

Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels
The Principles of Achieving the Desired Change

Four change principles are essential to ensuring success in driving the desired change to include:

1. Leadership and management work together to lead the critical change initiatives aligned with the company vision.  The work must flow using essential managerial processes.

2. Head and heart work seamlessly where logic alone is not enough.  The current workforce desires to be part of a more significant cause.  When individual meaning and purpose align, achieving extraordinary change is possible.

3. Utilize a select few in tandem with the many to realize impactful change.  All members are not yet ready to carry out the improvement initiatives.  However, those who have fully bought in can help others embed them into their collective DNA.  Out of this work, unknown leaders will emerge at all levels of the organization that can be fully engaged to accelerate even more significant improvement.

4. The leadership must drive energy in the organization to shift members from a "Have To" to a "Want To" mindset.

Each organization must develop a sense of urgency that resonates with the desire of stakeholders to enthusiastically embrace the company's vision, mission, and values.  Once identified, the leadership team needs to develop a communication plan articulating the opportunity to share the successful results and the consequences of failure.  

Key Takeaway

Leaders looking to accomplish significant organizational transformation must utilize an efficient and effective change management process.  However, success in doing so requires understanding by leadership that this work should follows the development of robust strategic and tactical plans.  Only then will the desirable outcome of lasting change become the reality of a future state of excellence in high-impact operations.

First Step

I encourage anyone interested in learning more about Kotter's work to read The 8 Steps of Leading Change. The document shares the evolution from the original eight accelerators in Leading Change to the current eight-step change process.

My Gratitude

An interesting response to a request for additional information from a member of his organization led to the opportunity for me to have lunch with Dr. John Kotter.  It was a wonderful experience in many ways, including learning that we had grown up about 30 miles from one another.  In addition, it led to other interactions where he highly complimented my willingness to give him desired feedback. Experiences I continue to be grateful to him for allowing us to interact with one another.

Sneak Peek

Next week's blog will continue exploring Kotter's change process by looking at his step of creating organizational urgency 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.

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: Alexas Fotos on Pexels

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