8 Steps for Successful Change

Mauricio Espinosa

This document follows the John P. Kotter principles; original articles can be found in different Harvard Business Review publications, as well as in various academic articles.

Most change initiatives, unfortunately, end up failing; this is a proven fact. Today it is of utmost importance to learn from these cases that did not achieve success. We must first understand that change is a process and not an event, that is, it is continuous, and this implies constant discipline in the strategy.  Start by defining success in a way that there is no doubt when you or your team achieve such success. Constant communication, as well as lucid and inspiring messages. Continuous reviews and updates on time. The one who does something in the search for success is never wrong; the one who, for fear of failure does nothing is always wrong.

The names of the steps have been adapted for this paper.

1. Real Desire for Success – Sense of urgency.

I hear the question during many meetings, “where is the sense of urgency?” too often among directors and business owners.  The problem I find with the issue is that rarely is clearly defined so that the rest of the organization recognizes it.  We have to take into consideration that it is not easy to bring concepts from our mind into words.  Many times, the leader has a broad idea, a thought, and yet it is incredibly difficult for them to explain in detail.   The desire to achieve success is part of the urgency; however, if success is not defined, then where is the importance of attaining it.  Each of them separately must be clearly defined—first, the finish line, then the urgency to get there.  Let there be no doubt in any area of ​​the organization, which is the success that you, as a leader, want to achieve during this particular time.  Is it to survive it? Is it to see what happens? Or something more, more tangible, more realistic.

The success of your strategy must give clarity and certainty to the team.   Be clear on the goals to achieve that will lead you to your success.  Establish the initiatives and activities that need to be performed and delegate accordingly. As a result, you will have more focused staff with less anxiety.

2. Take your leadership role seriously.

In Kotter’s terms, he seeks as a second point to create a coalition team, with executives who are responsible for bringing change to the organization. The group must represent all areas of the organization so that everyone has the same vision and delivers the same message.  The team should have meetings on the topic of adaptability and change to the current strategy.  Do not mix change strategy meetings with a review of operating results, weekly meetings, or any other meeting. Give it a code name; it has a significant psychological effect on the urgency effect.

3. Communication – vision and initiatives –

Once success is determined, the strategy to achieve it should specify the actions of every individual in the organization.  Jointly with your change team, discover how each department contributes to ultimate success. Each collaborator should know their role in how they are providing to the result.  We cannot allow everyone to interpret their function. This work is essential for the success of your strategy. Each department manager, each team leader, each leader in your organization must be very clear about how they supervise and continue to deliver the central message of the strategy. Kotter even warns that if they can’t clearly describe their vision in less than 5 minutes, the vision doesn’t work. Therefore, is crucial that each manager relates the changes in their department to the overall strategy in the organization.  At the same time, managers should know how to explain to each of the participants the importance of their role.

4. Learn to inspire your people

Today all businesses are going through difficult times.  Moments of anguish and uncertainty, not only because of the economic aspects; many with uncertainty and fear of the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The message that you are delivering to your people regarding change has to be inspiring. It is not “saving the business”; it is “saving our jobs.” Be empathetic to the current situation that your people are experiencing as well.

Surely some businesses will be making decisions about cutting staff, adjusting wages, etc. Still, managing a message that inspires people to adapt to change is critical. That the ones that stay in the organization identify the goal, that the success is palpable. If success is in 3 months or six months, define it. Be optimistic, see the end of the adjustment period, clearly visualize how your business and your people are going to be. Envision it being as tangible as you can so that when you send your message, it inspires and motivates. If it does not excite you to the bones, if it does not draw tears of emotion from what jour team is going to achieve, if it does not make you want to see the reaction of your people every day, believe me, it is NOT inspiring.

5. Alignment your best ally

I describe the psychological importance of naming your change strategy with a specific name, additional it also helps in aligning the managers in with the strategy.  In these meetings, managers will focus on what is the “only” topic to be discussed at that meeting.

The following questions can guide you to understand if there is alignment.

1. Is everyone clear about what needs to be done and convinced that it will be useful in achieving the desired results?

2. Does your coalition team drive change, and do you allocate enough time, resources, and motivation to do it?

3. Is there continued pressure to drive change? Right now, yes. In two weeks? It is essential that you do not get used to this extraordinary period.

Accept risks and non-traditional ideas, look for activities that help in the organizational culture.  A culture that now is under additional stress working under critical circumstances from home.  Many times without the necessary conditions for the expected performance.

6. Short-term goals

A critical way to keep the business on its way to success is to identify short-term goals. Daily and Weekly. The recommendation is to publish them so that each department knows that each team is achieving “something”; it helps to keep the morale up.  Right now, while our personnel is working from home makes it easier for them to “feel lost in the organization” that is why creating digital platforms and documents that share results between members of the organization will keep your business motivated.

There is a risk by working remotely; the emotions that employees experienced at home will have a significant impact on the performance of their duties. Today controlling the work environment is more challenging than what it is typically at the organization. Each management must identify in the strategic meetings the goals to follow and communicate the progress; a member from the change coalition must inform the group of the development.

7. Credibility from the start

From the first steps you take, the first decisions you make, the first results you see, use them to increase the credibility of the strategy. Each manager has to be very sensitive to individual collaborations.

The initial credibility is going to be your greatest ally in the moments of review and adjustments. It is a new situation we are living, something that has not happened before; we don’t know if the decisions and actions we are taking are the correct ones or are going to work for us. In our weekly reviews, we will surely be making adjustments and change directions.

Building credibility will also allow leaders to assure that they are on the right path; in addition, it will give the team the confidence and power to execute new actions as they are required.

8. Learn and adapt

Change is the medium, not the message. This whole process will put before us new practices and ways of working. It will lead us to learn that we can run our business differently. Today we have seen one of the essential human qualities, adaptation. When adversity arises, the way to adapt as human beings is impressive. I recommend that we document each step creating a bluebook that hopefully will never need to be used.

At the end of this journey, you will be able to find a new process that is more effective than before. New styles of leadership will emerge.  I am sure the behavior of your company as a whole will be different.  Not better, not worse, just different.  Embrace change, allow for the best practices to move into the new era of your business.  When you go back and open those doors again, your business will be a new beginning, will have a new smile, the emotions will be contagious, and you will rise, believe me, you and all your family will rise!

You have to have your team ready, and you need to have your mindset ready; we all are counting on you leaders out there, to come again in business together, stronger and more joyful than ever before.  Make it happen; you have to power to do it.  Do not doubt, and you may fall.  I am expecting you to do; at the same time, I know you will get up and demonstrate yourself the desire in you to rise stronger together.

At G20, Inc. We understand change and the steps to follow.   Contact us for a courtesy session to discuss your strategy.