The Heart of Change by John Kotter and Dan Cohen delves into the subject of transformational change and gets at the heart of how highly successful change actually happens.
We learn that successful transformational change happens when we change the behaviour of people. Kotter and Cohen recommend a people-driven approach to leading change that helps people to see the reason for change.
They argue that people change when they are shown the truth because this influences their feelings. That is, emotion is at the heart of change. We see, feel, change.
In the most successful change case, individuals had a sense of passion. On the other hand, where change was less successful, individuals tended to intellectualise change. – Kotter and Cohen
The Heart of Change
There are a number of models for managing change that can help us to understand the change process and people’s behaviour.
In traditional approaches to leading change the focus far too much on analysis as a means of changing people’s thinking.
- Analysis – Information is gathered and analysed, reports are written, and presentations made about various aspects of the change project. This could include anything from problem solving through to teamwork and project communication.
- Think – Information and analysis changes people’s thinking. Contradictory elements are changed or dropped. The cognitive process of changing behaviour may be slow.
- Change – New thoughts change behaviour or reinforce changed behaviour.
In contrast, Kotter and Cohen recommend a people-driven approach that helps us to see the reason for change.
They argue that people change when they are shown the truth because this influences their feelings.
Moreover, organisational change is likely to be less successful when people are given information intended to shift their thinking. Thought processes influence behaviour; a common response is resistance.
Emotion is at the heart of change.
- See – Compelling and eye-catching situations are created to help show people what the problems are and how to resolve them.
- Feel – Visualising ideas evokes a powerful emotional response that motivates people into action.
- Change – The new feelings change or reinforce behaviours that make people work much harder to make a good vision reality. The change is more immediate but must be reinforced to keep up the momentum.
The change model comprises eight steps. The first three are all about creating a climate for change. The next three on engaging and enabling the organisation. And the last, implementing and sustaining change.
From experience I have learned that successful organisational change occurs when there is commitment, a sense of urgency or momentum, stakeholder engagement, openness, clear vision, good and appropriate communication, strong leadership, and a well executed plan.
Kotter’s 8-step change model recognises each of these characteristics.
John Kotter and Dan Cohen have prepared an excellent and well researched book for those leading transformational change. If you’re leading change I recommend you buy this book.
Read More About The Heart of Change
You can read more about The Heart of Change and Kotter’s 8-step model of change in our in-depth article Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model.
John Kotter is internationally known and widely regarded as the foremost expert on the topic of transformational leadership. John Kotter’s international bestseller Leading Change—which outlines an actionable eight-step process for implementing successful transformations—has become the bible for leaders around the world who want to achieve great results.
Dan Cohen is a Principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, where he focuses his consulting activities on large-scale organisational transformation. Cohen led the development of the firm’s Global Change Leadership Methodology, as well as Deloitte Consulting’s Human Capital Energy practice. Dan Cohen has provided consulting support across industries to Fortune 100 companies worldwide.
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Image: Martin Webster.