books

When the Kotter change model creates a disconnect for mid-size change

Applying the Kotter eight-step model indiscriminately to project-level initiatives and operational change leads to challenges.

Generating a ‘sense of urgency’ for mid-level changes creates unnecessary competition for share of mind.

In a typical large organisation undergoing transformation, there are likely to be dozens of project-level initiatives and concurrent operational change.

The paradox of change urgency (1)There is a paradox. Urgency at an organisational, strategic level provides momentum for the projects and initiatives that are necessary at the deeper levels of the structure. However, at an operational level, the sense of urgency translates into confusion and an inability to absorb the change impacts.

The underlying need for change at the project or operational level needs to be rolled up to the overall strategic imperative. Creating urgency around the detail of the change creates noise. This manifests itself as an increased request for project branding, change-specific communication channels.

Solutions include:

  • Ensure that the narrative of urgency remains at the enterprise level
  • ‘Bundle’ change impacts across programs
  • Implement at an operational or individual level as rapidly as possible based on the capacity for change

Institute change by designing for action

Consider the broader world beyond organisational life. As citizens and consumers, we conduct all kinds of complex behaviours and transactions ‘online’. The online environment changes constantly. Yet there is no change management plan for ‘the internet.’ Methodologies such at UX and User-Centered Design ensure that (successful) apps or sites or technologies are intuitive and based on making action easy to complete.

These disciplines do not apply only to online and technological change. The ability to design the ‘pointy end’ of change within organisations in a way that enables action at the right time without requiring substantial training or commitment becomes an opportunity for making continual concurrent change something that is easy to digest.

As Bill Quirke writes in Making the Connections, “Organisations are short changing themselves by not seeing communication through to the end – converting awareness into action. The real value of internal communication is to help business ends by enabling employees to turn strategy into action” (Quirke, 2008).

This is an excerpt from my chapter Kotter in context: is the classic change model damaging your mid-size change? in A Communicator’s Guide to Successful Change Management, edited by Craig Pearce.

Books every communicator should read

Some industries have a few key texts which were crucial to the development of the profession. Over at the IABC LinkedIn group discussion board, one of the hottest topics currently is a ‘required reading list’ for an Internal Communication Library. Kicked off by Betsy Pasley, ABC, there have been dozens of contributions and over 100 books suggested.

I won’t hijack Betsy’s list here. If you are a LinkedIn user and a member of IABC, I recommend checking out the full discussion.

With inclusion based on the number of post-it notes, dog-eared pages, highlighted passages, and sections I have recommended to others, I submitted a few of my favourites. Applying the “burning bookshelf” test (in which you can take five and only five) I include:

Anything from Roger D’Aprix
All of D’Aprix’s work is really helpful. His chapter fron the IABC Handbook ‘Throwing rocks at the corporate rhinoceros’ should be essential C-Suite pre-reading ahead of their next strategic retreat (or better still, gift them a copy of ‘The Credible Company’) , and Communicating for Change, connecting the workplace with the marketplace 1996, Jossey Bass is still the communication book that influenced my practice the most.

The IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication, 2006, Jossey Bass
As a comprehensive survey of current issues in communication practice (without being faddish), essential.

Whatever you think, think the opposite by (the late) Paul Arden, Phaidon is wonderful fuel for looking at things from another perspective.

Communicating Change, Bill Quirke,  McGraw Hill
This is the source of some of the most sensible, practical and applicable communication advice that speaks to the business as much as to the communicator. Also interesting is the degree to which the central challenges of strategic communication laid out by Bill 15 years ago remain current topics of some debate in our industry today.

Well. That’s five. Did I not mention the rules? It’s only five per post. To be continued…