Change is one of the most basic and consistent basis of life, it is constant throughout every aspect of our lives. Even with its consistent nature and ever presence, it is our human nature to avoid and resist it. The Heart of Change, by John Kotter and David Cohen (2002), shows the processes by which all the negative atmosphere around change can be made to be positive and change can be effective. Kotter and Cohen focus on redirecting attitudes about change and minimizing the disruptions and aberrations caused by change. The pair lay out an eight step method of effectively creating organizational change. These steps run a great parallel to the text, Organizational Behavior and Management, by Ivancevich, Konopaske, and Matteson, (2011). The two methods are not the same, but are a great study for to gain an understanding of different approaches and outcomes of change.
The Heart of Change (Kotter, Cohen 2002) begins with a reminder that change is not driven by spreadsheets, numbers, and calculations, rather are driven by emotion, feeling, and passion. When change is needed within an organization, it driven by unanimous feelings among employees and staff and these feelings are driven by emotional drivers that convince people that change is absolutely needed. For example managers may look at a financial statement, with a very poor sales margin, which evokes feelings of disappointment, frustration, and a desire for more. No one likes those feelings and therefore decisions are made that may prevent those feelings. These decisions or changes are not made because the sales margin was 15 percent, but were instead made because of the emotions and feelings that 15 percent evoked. That number could have been 10 or 20 percent could have still evoked the same feelings, therefore the number itself did not cause the change. Just as Kotter and Cohen explain, the authors of the text Organizational Behavior and Management state that change is absolutely necessary, especially because of the ever developing business environment. Things such as globalization, technology, shifting demographics, new markets and more are emotional stimuli that evoke the need for change, and that change must be fast and people must be able to change and adapt to that change as fast as it happens. The authors feel that change is absolutely necessary in order to advance within a career, improve productivity, and manage several different roles within an organization at just about a nonstop pace. This analysis of change runs a very close parallel to that described by Kotter and Cohen. (Ivancevich, et al, 2008) Creating a sense urgency is the first step in Kotter and Cohen’s initiative for creating effective change within an organization, which can be used in any facet of life. A feeling of urgency catapults employees toward a common goal. It encourages team building and the development of camaraderie, as well as lending itself to spotlighting potential future leaders. The authors liken it to pushing a large boulder up a very large hill, where everyone must come together and work together in order to get the task accomplished, as a team. (Kotter & Cohen, p. 15, 2002). This sense of urgency will aid in facilitating the creation of the leading group and develop the teamwork needed to create the change. The text parallels creating a sense of urgency, but instead addresses it as energizing employees throughout the organization. It states that if all employees, no matter their rank, are energized about a project or a goal there is a much higher prospect of success. (Ivancevich, et al, p. 522, 2008). Energizing refers to the emotion or attitude, set by internal or external forces, toward a change that is already in motion. Internal forces are those such as management and employees who lack the efficiency or adequacy to effectively do their job causing a need for change. External forces include economic and global changes and others that are out of our control. This differs a bit from Kotter and Cohen, who use urgency to create change. Once a sense of urgency has been established, the next step begins, which is Team Building. Team building begins with the formation of a group. The Authors of both readings clarify that a team is a well-developed group with a sense of cohesion which allows team members to rely on one another and work both independently and dependently. Kotter and Cohen add that a team must also develop a sense of trust, which is accomplished through the interdependence of the team. (Kotter & Cohen, p. 50, 2002). Once a cohesive team has formed, a vision must be developed. This vision sets the plan for the change strategy. The vision is what sets the first two steps in motion. The vision may be influenced by many different factors, but Kotter and Cohen lay out four possibilities, including budgets, plans, strategies, and visions. These are all features that may not necessarily be defined only by the team itself. The team must be able to delegate certain tasks to other groups in order to facilitate change. Kotter and Cohen explain that people outside the team may be critical in providing information and in creating the best process. (Kotter & Cohen, p. 68, 2002). The use of teams in the change process is the first area where Ivancevich, et al, stray from parallel to Kotter and Cohen. The text, here on in, approaches change a bit differently than in “The Heart of Change.” The text puts a higher emphasis on the structural approach to change. The structural approaches are those such as task and technology, people, multifaceted, and appreciative inquiry. The text approaches insure that the manager remains in the primary roles, delegating and maintaining. It seems as though these approaches would work well when paired with other aids, such as “The Heart of Change.” After the vision is established, employees must now accept and fully believe in the reality of the change. Employees must be able to understand and relate to the need and process of the change in order to buy into it and all the change to occur. This step is the one that most often leads to failed change. It fails primarily because the vision is not clear or well communicated. After the vision is set, the text refers to a charismatic leader, used to instill the vision and lead the steps of change. This leader is able to express what the future could hold and what it will be like once the change occurs. This leader is able to use different communication techniques to tie the needs and goals of individuals to those of the organization. (Ivancevich, et al, p. 459, 2008). Kotter and Cohen give a list of characteristics needed to successfully lead a team, which are very similar to those of a charismatic leader. The list includes features such as communication, vision, and motivation. (Kotter & Cohen, p. 46, 2002). The people within the team who possess these characteristics are referred to as change leaders, and unlike in the text, there is often more than one. It is agreed that personality plays a huge role in communicating the vision and getting people to buy into the change. Empowerment is the next step on the road to change. For empowerment to take place, the vision must be unanimously accepted. Here the two sets of authors once again parallel, barriers must be removed before activities and behaviors can be empowered. (Ivancevich, et al. p. 346. 2008) (Kotter & Cohen. p. 108. 2002). Barriers can be any number of things, including the shared experience of failed empowerment between employees, poor decision making, unruly managers, the fear of inadequacy or failure, and barriers of the mind. Barriers of the mind, as explained by Kotter and Cohen, are those which cause employees to disempower themselves with bad experiences, failures, and self-defeating attitudes and concepts. There are also knowledge barriers, which cause employees to hold back in fear of negative feedback. (Ivancevich, et al p. 346; Kotter & Cohen, p. 112). The purpose of the empowerment step is to be able to navigate these barriers and remove them as they appear, to create a nearly resistance free path. Kotter and Cohen report that people empower one another best when they identify clearly what the obstacles are between them and their goal (Cotter & Cohen, p. 120). As soon as barriers are removed and action begins, the measures established during the planning and vision stage must be utilized. Actions and progress alike must be measureable in order to recognize the movement toward, or away from, the goal of change. Successful change efforts consist of an empowered team of people who are very deliberate and concise with their time and planning. The main focus is on tasks that can be done and quickly gain unambiguous, visible, and meaningful developments. Attaining these quick developments are important because they provide a sense of validity when presented to change leaders and to the team and all those involved in the change process. It also helps to establish a sense of certainty for those who may not yet be convinced that the change is good or needed. (Ivancevich, et al, p.539). Implementing the Method suggests that the appropriate time to implement, and what scale or amount of change is introduced at one time, plays a key role during the action stage. How critical the change is needed is a big consideration to make, and whether it can be implemented in phases or through the entire organization at once should be gauged. Also, can it be phased into the organization level by level or department by department; all mentioned efforts suggesting a short-term win strategy (Ivancevich, et al). Throughout implementation, no matter if it is done in phases or collectively, employees must remain fully informed and momentum maintained to insure their efforts. The more relevant the wins are to the employees’ issues, concerns, and values, the easier it is for them to get behind the process and allow it to continue and grow. (Kotter & Cohen, p. 130). Another aspect that often causes failure is calling it quits too early. It is easy for employees to lose their sense of urgency once they begin to see a bit of change. Urgency is a factor that must be maintained within an organization, and may be done so at different levels. It should be maintained at a level in which employees are still alert and recognize when change should continue. (Kotter & Cohen, p. 143-144). “The twenty five page monthly report can be reduced to two.”(Kotter & Cohen. P. 154), this idea would allow the delegation of more to those who may even do the job better. The alleviation the delegated work allows the manager to fully manage a team of employees and fight the egotistical self- fulfilling prophecy that only you can do the work, which in turn ultimately undermines your employees and they begin to believe you don’t let them because they actually can’t (Cotter and Cohen, p. 154). The text offers another tool to maintain momentum, which is to offer and acquire consistent feedback throughout the company. (Ivancevich, et al, p. 540). Management needs to receive feedback from employees, as much as, employees need feedback from management. This will also help to keep employees engaged and thinking about change and it’s ever presence, as well as that change should be continual throughout the life of the company in order to contend with economic evolution. (Ivancevich, et al, p. 540-542). The biggest challenges in creating lasting change are overcoming barriers and getting employees to “buy in” to the change. As set by Kotter and Cohen, in “The Heart of Change,” there are four general behaviors that obstruct needed change. These behaviors are as follows, complacency, immobilization or self-protection, deviance, and pessimistic attitudes. These behaviors are all actions that create barriers of fear and resistance. People are more apt to look at evidence given for needed change and hold back or complain about initiated action, rather than carefully looking at the evidence and starting to move, which results in the needed change effort not starting at all, or not starting well. (Kotter & Cohen, p. 17, 2002). Kotter and Cohen encourage a see-feel-change analysis rather than a think-change process. This process has proven to work through cognitive behavior studies and is seen in an order of operations, thought or perception leading to feeling or emotion, and ending with action or behavior. This process allows for evaluation of actions before any are taken and encourages substandard responses and actions, which aids in change.
Through this analysis it can be seen that the authors of the text and the authors of “The Heart of Change,” have taken different but relatable approaches to instilling change within an organization. Kotter and Cohen, of “The Heart of Change,” use an innovative and almost therapeutic approach; whereas the text takes a process and authoritative approach. Both have their place and may not be appropriate for every change situation, and could also work well together. “The Heart of Change” gives wonderful examples, testimonials, and the chance to learn from others’ mistakes, but as a manager one must still be able to adjust his path toward and through change to best fit the needs and goals of his company and employees. It also takes the right personality and management style to be able to use Kotter and Cohen’s process. Both the text and “The Heart of Change” have similar basis and have the same fundamental goal, but different approaches to reach that goal. There is less structure and step by step action in Kotter and Cohen’s method, which alleviates the likelihood that managers and leaders will get stuck in trying to follow step for step in situations where the step for step does not fit, but can allow for some floundering on the same token. The text takes a scientific, step by step action method which also has its share of advantages and disadvantages.
Kotter, John P., and Dan S. Cohen. The Heart of Change: Real-life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 2002. Print. Ivancevich, John M., and Michael T. Matteson. Organizational Behavior and Management. Homewood, IL: BPI/Irwin, 1990. Print.