The Strategist

Overcome resistance: Eight steps to introduce changes in business


04/17/2020 - 03:56



John Cotter, a professor at Harvard Business School, has tried to figure out why people resist change. Here is what he discovered.



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For most of his 30-year career, Cotter taught change management at Harvard and studied why attempts to implement change in organizations often fail. As a result, four reasons for resisting change were identified:

- People feeling possessive towards the company;

- Misunderstanding and lack of trust;

- Different view of the situation

- Lack of readiness for change.

Cotter and colleagues suggested five strategies for this situation, both positive and negative: education, involvement, mediation, negotiation and coercion. Further, they describe a process of eight steps to manage change. 

Step 1. Create a sense of urgency of action, having infiltrated into comfort zones, as well as counteracting satisfaction (“everything is good”) and false urgency (“unnecessary vanity”).

Step 2. Form an influential team of reformers: other leaders should help manage change. They should be selected according to the parameters of position, influence, experience, reliability and leadership qualities.

Step 3. Create an idea of the future that will simplify complex decisions, motivate people and help coordinate them. It should be imaginable, desirable, practicable, focused, flexible and explicable.

Step 4. Advocate a new vision as simple as possible, livelier, more frequent and attractive. Leaders must back up words with deeds.

Step 5. Create the conditions for the implementation of a new vision by removing barriers and giving people freedom so that they can work as best as possible.

Step 6. Plan immediate results to quickly demonstrate noticeable and undeniable successes. Cotter recommends planning short-term achievements and using tight deadlines to benefit productivity.

Step 7. Stay alert! It is necessary to strengthen the milestones and introduce further changes.

Step 8. Cement the result by consolidating new approaches in the culture of the organization. Leaders must show that new methods are better than old ones, and reinforce new norms and values. According to Cotter, changing a culture is so difficult that this goal can be achieved last.

Following Cotter’s approach will inevitably have a major impact on the organization. Although this model is very popular as a practical action plan, it does not guarantee success and, like any practical plan, cannot take into account all the dangerous details and subtleties. Therefore, the eight-step process requires a flexible interpretation.

Based on “100+ Management Models. How to Understand and Apply the World's Most Powerful Business Tools” by Fons Trompenaars and Piet Hein Coebergh




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