9 Steps to Engage People in Transformational Change

The Kotter + 1 process of organisational behaviour for change The world of business is moving faster than ever. Technology usurps itself on an almost […]

The Kotter + 1 process of organisational behaviour for change

The world of business is moving faster than ever. Technology usurps itself on an almost daily basis. Organisations need to compete harder than ever before to stay ahead of the market. Technology, rules and regulations, changing consumer habits and competitive pressures combine to make the need for change both necessary and inevitable. Yet people resist change. They fear it.

In this article, you’ll learn how organisational behaviour can engage people in transformational change.

Organizational behaviour in the leadership of change

While there are many change management strategies, most have their foundations in the eight-step model developed by Dr. John Kotter and described in his book, “Leading Change”. However, following this model will not be enough to create successful and sustainable change. Your organisation will need to adopt and adapt the organisational behaviours required to engage employees in change throughout the process.

Step 1: Create urgency

You must create a sense of urgency, which compels the entire organisation to want change. Discussing poor sales numbers or chatting about your competition won’t achieve this.

Organizational behaviours needed:

  • Identify threats and opportunities. From these, create future visions.
  • Encourage open and honest discussion. Kick-start the dialogue in team meetings and on the company intranet.
  • Engage your employees, and invite other stakeholders to participate – customers and suppliers, for example.

Step 2: Form a powerful coalition

Lead from the front, with your senior leaders involved in influencing employees of the need for change. Identify change sponsors throughout your organisation from all sources, and use these influencers to build momentum for change.

Organizational behaviours needed:

  • Forget about traditional hierarchies, and identify your organisation’s natural leaders at every level.
  • Build a team of influencers, people from all divisions and with diversity of skills.
  • Accept your team will have weak spots, and strive to position the team to cover them or remove them.

Step 3: Create the vision for change

A clear vision of the future is needed to help all stakeholders understand why there is a need for change, and the ambitions of the change project.

Organizational behaviours needed:

  • Think in terms of organisational values when creating your change goals.
  • Ensure that every member of your change coalition understands these values and goals, and create a common future vision description.
  • Ensure that all members of the change coalition can speak enthusiastically about the future vision and change project with a common voice.

Step 4: Communicate your future vision

Too often, organisations tell their people that things are going to change, but never tell them why, how, or the benefits of change. The reasons for change and its benefits will need to be communicated loud and often. The message will have a lot of competition from ‘business-as-usual’ communications, and for change to be successful it must be a priority.

Organizational behaviours needed:

  • Be open about the change, encouraging people to talk at every opportunity.
  • Ensure your employees are versed in tackling concerns.
  • Focus all communications on the change, from performance reviews and training to operational processes.

Step 5: Remove resistance to change

There are many obstacles to change. The major one, and the one that could bring change to its knees, is employee resistance. Employees especially in the age of globalized markets and automation, can see “change” as code for “downsizing”. As a leader, it’s important to reassure your team that this isn’t what you mean and be able to speak to their fears.  If this is what you mean by change then you want to address it head-on because there is likely to be further demoralization.   You’ll need to structure your team to maximise its potential, employing change leaders and setting roles and responsibilities in line with their skillsets. However, there are other things that you will need to do.

Organizational behaviours needed:

  • Be passionate about the change and possibilities for all.
  • Ensure your leaders take a persuasive and not authoritarian approach to managing change.
  • Invite employees to put forward their ideas, and reward people for helping to make change happen.
  • Be prepared to restructure your organisation and its compensation schemes to come into line with the future vision.
  • Encourage resistors to see the benefits of change, and act quickly to encourage their exit if it becomes clear there is no turning of their attitudes.

Step 6: Generate short-term wins

Aiming for a single big goal can be daunting and demoralizing. You never seem to make any real progress. It’s a little like setting a target to quit smoking, or lose weight, or write a book. Instead, set smaller short-term milestones on the way to the future vision (e.g. cut out that first cigarette, lose two pounds in the first week, write a chapter a week, etc.). Make the targets stretching but achievable, so that they have a high chance of success.

Organizational behaviours needed:

  • Open milestone-setting to all employees: make it a personal goal as well as a team goal.
  • Encourage discussion of the benefits of achieving each milestone, and let employees identify potential barriers.

Step 7: Consolidate wins and build out the change

Celebrate the achievement of each milestone, but never rest on your laurels. You have completed another stepping stone toward the future vision. You now need to build on this, by learning from mistakes made and identifying what went well.

Organizational behaviours needed:

  • Be open with all stakeholders, and encourage them to put forward their views and ideas.
  • Celebrate those wins in small ways, reinforcing the cycle.
  • Set the next goals by consensus.
  • Be flexible in your approach, and identify change leaders as they become apparent through the process of change.

Step 8: Set the changes in corporate culture

When you reach the future vision you set yourself, you must ensure that new processes, systems, and ways of thinking and working become central to your corporate culture. Ensure that the benefits of change are evident in every corner of your organisation, and that your leaders remain supportive of the change.

Organizational behaviours needed:

  • Discuss the change in team meetings, one-to-ones, board meetings, customer presentations… in fact, at every opportunity available.
  • Make the new values central to the hiring process.
  • Reward key members, change sponsors and employee influencers publicly.

Now that your change project has reached its successful conclusion, what next?

Step 9: Rinse and repeat

The only constant in business is change. As I discussed in the opening paragraph, technology, rules and regulations, changing consumer habits and competitive pressures combine to make the need for change both necessary and inevitable. The world of business is an ever-changing landscape. Just because you have completed a largescale transformational change successfully, does not mean that further change is unnecessary.

Organizational behaviours needed:

  • Be open to ideas from the floor – your people and salespeople will prove key to continuous change.
  • Provide a path to employee empowerment – communicate openly, provide opportunity for improvement, share strategies, offer support, and be appreciative.
  • Develop cross-cultural understanding.
  • Ensure that leaders and managers encourage feedback and behavioural explanations.


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