Books: “Leading Change” by John P. Kotter


Leading Change by John P. Kotter

Chapter 3, “Establishing a Sense of Urgency”

Establishing a sense of urgency is crucial to gaining needed cooperation.  With complacency high, transformations usually go nowhere because few people are even interested in working on the change problem.  (36)

Sources of Complacency  (40)

  1. The absence of a major and visible crisis.
  2. Too many visible resources.
  3. Low overall performance standards.
  4. Organizational structures that focus employees on narrow functional goals.
  5. Internal measurement systems that focus on the wrong performance indexes.
  6. A lack of sufficient performance feedback from external sources.
  7. A kill-the-messenger-of-bad-news, low-candor, low-confrontation culture.
  8. Human nature, with its capacity for denial, especially if people are already busy or stressed.
  9. Too much happy talk from senior management.

Ways to Raise the Urgency Level  (44)

  1. Create a crisis by allowing a financial loss, exposing mangers to major weaknesses vis-a’-vis competitors, or allowing errors to blow up instead of being corrected at the last minute.
  2. Eliminate obvious examples of excess (e.g., company-owned country club facilities, a large air force, gourmet executive dining rooms).
  3. Set revenue, income, productivity, customer satisfaction, and cycle-time targets so high that they can’t be reached by conducting business as usual.
  4. Stop measuring subunit performance based only on narrow functional goals.  Insist that more people be held accountable for broader measures of business performance.
  5. Send more data about customer satisfaction and financial performance to more employees, especially information that demonstrates weakness vis-a’-vis the competition.
  6. Insist that people talk regularly to unsatisfied customers, unhappy suppliers, and disgruntled shareholders.
  7. Use consultants and other means to force more relevant data and honest discussion into management meetings.
  8. Put more honest discussions of the firm’s problems in company newspapers and senior management speeches.  Stop senior management “happy talk.”
  9. Bombard people with information on future opportunities, on the wonderful rewards for capitalizing on those opportunities, and on the organization’s current inability pursue those opportunities.