Leading Change - Book Review

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Book Review
“Leading Change” by John Kotter 1996
Review by Chris Shea

John P. Kotter is internationally known and widely regarded as the foremost speaker on the topics of leadership and change. He is the premier voice on how the best organizations actually achieve successful transformations. The Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at the Harvard Business School and a graduate of MIT and Harvard, Kotter’s vast experience and knowledge on successful change and leadership have been proven time and time again. The book Leading Change looks at an eight stage process for implementing successful transformations in today’s firms as well as the eight errors that are common to change efforts. The ideas and methods in this book should be considered a roadmap to successful change for any manager or leader in today’s modern organizations. Leading Change is broken up into three parts. Part one begins by discussing the potential downside of change and the eight errors commonly made during transformation efforts and their consequences. He then goes into detail on the economic and social forces that drive the need for major change in today’s organizations. This is also where Kotter introduces his eight step process for creating change. In Part two Kotter goes into great detail about his eight step process for successful change highlighting what to focus on and avoid at each step of the process. Part three looks at the implications for the 21st century, he goes into detail about the organization of the future and talks about sustaining that success through leadership and lifelong learning. “The Change Problem and its Solution”. Kotter starts off in chapter 1 by highlighting the eight most common mistakes or errors that prevent successful change efforts. He does note that there are a few organizations that have been successful and positioned themselves for a better future but the bulk have failed miserably. The eight common errors Kotter states are the contributing factor are: (1) Allowing too much complacency; (2) Failing to create a sufficiently powerful guiding coalition; (3) Underestimating the power of vision; (4) Under communication the vision by a factor of ten (or 100 or even 1000); (5) Permitting obstacles to block the new vision; (6) Failing to create short-term wins; (7) Declaring victory too soon; (8)Neglecting to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture. Kotter notes none of these change errors would have been that costly in a slower moving and less competitive world. This however is no longer the case; in the 21st century business moves quickly and will only become more volatile in the future. Making any of the aforementioned errors in the transformation change process will have dire consequences. These consequences as stated by Kotter include that new strategies are not implemented very well, acquisitions don’t achieve the expected synergies, reengineering takes too long and costs too much, downsizing doesn’t control; costs and quality programs don’t deliver the anticipated results. Awareness of these issues is the key, and then they can be avoided or at the very least greatly reduced. If the change leaders have a better understanding of why the organization may resist the needed change, what needs to be done to overcome it and mostly how the leadership is required to drive the process the change has every chance at success. In chapter 2 “Successful change and the force that drives it” Kotter discusses the economic and social forces that drive the need for major change in today’s organizations and introduces his eight step process to realize that change. A globalized economy has created more hazards as well as opportunities and has forced companies to make dramatic improvements to compete, prosper and more importantly survive. Technological change, international economic integration, maturation of markets in developed countries, and the fall of communist and socialist regimes have all contributed...
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