November 16, 2010 Tony Morgan

Leading Change (part one)

Every time I teach or work with church leaders the topic of managing change comes up. With that, I decided to go back and take a look at a classic book on the topic, Leading Change by John Kotter.

I highlighted so many key passages that it was impossible for me to narrow my favorites down to just one post. With that in mind, here are the first set of highlights that grabbed my attention. I’ll share the second set tomorrow.

  • “Transformations always fail to achieve their objectives when complacency levels are high.”
  • “Vision plays a key role in producing useful change by helping to direct, align, and inspire actions on the part of large numbers of people. Without an appropriate vision, a transformation effort can easily dissolve into a list of confusing, incompatible, and time-consuming projects that go in the wrong direction or nowhere at all.”
  • “Whenever you cannot describe the vision driving a change initiative in five minutes or less and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest, you are in for trouble.”
  • “Complex efforts to change strategies or restructure businesses risk losing momentum if there are no short-term goals to meet and celebrate.”
  • “Until changes sink down deeply into the culture, which for an entire company can take three to ten years, new approaches are fragile and subject to regression.”
  • “One bad succession decision at the top of an organization can undermine a decade of hard work.”
  • “Successful transformation is 70 to 90 percent leadership and only 10 to 30 percent management.”
  • “With a strong emphasis on management but not leadership, bureaucracy and an inward focus take over.”
  • “Establishing a sense of urgency is crucial to gaining needed cooperation.”
  • “Most of us, most of the time, think we have enough challenges to keep us busy. We are not looking for more work. So when evidence of a big problem appears, if we can get away with ignoring the information, we often will.”
  • “A good rule of thumb in a major change effort is: Never underestimate the magnitude of the forces that reinforce complacency and that help maintain the status quo.”
  • Hire “consultants to gather and then force discussion of honest information at meetings, even though you know that such a strategy will upset some people greatly.”
  • “Two types of individuals should be avoided at all costs when putting together a guiding coalition. The first have egos that fill up a room, leaving no space for anybody else. The second are what I call snakes, people who create enough mistrust to kill teamwork.”
  • “Personnel problems that can be ignored during easy times can cause serious trouble in a tougher, faster-moving, globalizing economy.”
  • “When the goal is behavior change, unless the boss is extremely powerful, authoritarian decree often works poorly even in simple situations.”
  • “Without a shared sense of direction, interdependent people can end up in constant conflict and nonstop meetings.”
  • “Without a good vision, a clever strategy or a logical plan can rarely inspire the kind of action needed to produce major change.”

What’s your experience? Have you seen these principles of change management in action?

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, theunstuckgroup.com. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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