Kotter on Change

From John Kotter, probably the most published business author on change, in the Harvard Business Review:

“We cannot ignore the daily demands of running a company, which traditional hierarchies and managerial processes can still do very well. Today companies must constantly seek competitive advantage without disrupting daily operations.

People have been writing for at least 20 years about the increasing speed of business and the need for organizations to be quicker and much more agile. But who has been able to pull that off? The situation won’t be improved by tweaking the usual methodology or adding turbochargers to a single hierarchical system. That’s like trying to rebuild an elephant so that it can be both an elephant and a panther. It’s never going to happen.

People have been writing for 50 years about unleashing human potential and directing the energy to big business challenges. But who, outside the world of start-ups, has succeeded? So few do because they’re working within a system that basically asks most people to shut up, take orders, and do their jobs in a repetitive way.

People have been talking for a quarter of a century about the need for more leaders, because an organization’s top two or three executives can no longer do it all. But very few jobs in traditional hierarchical organizations provide the information and the experience needed to become a leader. And the solutions available—courses on leadership, for example—are wholly inadequate, because most development of complex perspectives and skills happens on the job, not in the classroom.”

So to get change we need to set aside some time to actually work on change. And we need to enlist a lot of people in the effort, not just a couple change agents. Change is not easy but it can be done. And the results are meaningful.

Here’s the whole thing: http://hbr.org/2012/11/accelerate/ar/1

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