Ten Commandments for Implementing Change


Ten tips for improving any change management effort.
Subject: Organizational Behavior
Source: “Implementing Change” chapter in The Challenge of Organizational Change by Rosabeth Kanter, Barry Stein, and Todd Jick (Free Press, 1992)
  1. Analyze the organization and its need for change. Managers should understand an organization’s operations, how it functions in its environment, what its strengths and weaknesses are, and how it will be affected by proposed changes in order to craft an effective implementation plan.
  2. Create vision and common direction. One of the first steps in engineering change is to unite an organization behind a central vision. This vision should reflect the philosophy and values of the organization, and should help it to articulate what it hopes to become. A successful vision serves to guide behavior, and to aid an organization in achieving its goals.
  3. Separate from the past. Disengaging from the past is critical to awakening to a new reality. It is difficult for an organization to embrace a new vision of the future until it has isolated the structures and routines that no longer work, and vowed to move beyond them.
  4. Create a sense of urgency. Convincing an organization that change is necessary isn’t that difficult when a company is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, or foundering in the marketplace. But when the need for action is not generally understood, a change leader should generate a sense of urgency without appearing to be fabricating an emergency, or “crying wolf.” This sense of urgency is essential to rallying an organization behind change.
  5. Support a strong leader role. An organization should not undertake something as challenging as large scale change without a leader to guide, drive, and inspire it. This change advocate plays a critical role in creating a company vision, motivating company employees to embrace that vision, and crafting an organizational structure that consistently rewards those who strive toward the realization of the vision.
  6. Line up political sponsorship. Leadership, alone, cannot bring about large scale change. In order to succeed, a change effort must have broad based support throughout an organization. This support should include not only the managers, or change implementors, but also the recipients of change, whose acceptance of any. program is necessary for its success.
  7. Craft an implementation plan. While a vision may guide and inspire during the change process, an organization also needs more nuts and bolts advice on what to do, and when and how to do it. This change plan maps out the effort, specifying everything from where the first meetings should be held, to the date by which the company hopes to achieve its change goals.
  8. Develop enabling structures. Altering the status quo and creating new mechanisms for implementing change can be a critical precursor to any organizational transformation. These mechanisms may be part of the existing corporate structure, or may be established as a freestanding organization. Enabling structures designed to facilitate and spotlight change range from the practical – such as setting up pilot tests, off site workshops, training programs, and new reward systems – to the symbolic – such as rearranging the organization’s physical space.
  9. Communicate, involve people, and be honest. When possible, change leaders should communicate openly, and seek out the involvement and trust of people throughout their organizations. Full involvement, communication, and disclosure are not called for in every change situation, but these approaches can be potent tools for overcoming resistance, and giving employees a personal stake in the outcome of a transformation.
  10. Reinforce and institutionalize the change. Throughout the pursuit of change, managers and leaders should make it a top priority to prove their commitment to the transformation process, reward risk taking, and incorporate new behaviors into the day to day operations of the organization. By reinforcing the new culture, they affirm its importance and hasten it’s acceptance.

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