The 8 Steps to Change

Published on 2016-01-31

Source: Robert Couse-Baker @ Flickr
DID YOU KNOW THAT THE FIRST COMMERCIAL text message was sent in December of 1992? Over twenty years later, that number exceeds the total number of people on earth. It’s even larger if you take into consideration Skype, WhatsApp and WeChat messages. Information, or more importantly, the vast amount of information bombards our life daily. And with this information comes change.
When I talk with their employees about change, the most frequently expressed idea is that there is nothing unchanged, but change itself. Since we are living in a changing world, it would be better for us to welcome it rather than run from it. And yet some people do run.
And this is because they see change as the devil. It disrupts, hinders, confuses and frustrates. [quote float=”right”]And this is because they see change as the devil. It disrupts, hinders, confuses and frustrates.[/quote]Plans are destroyed because of it, and relationships are broken. But this is only when we refuse to update our thinking paradigm, refuse to open our mind to the outside world, or refuse to evolve in our lifetime.
However, change can be an angel, if we understand the steps of the changing process. In this way we’ll foresee the tremendous possibility it may bring. John Kotter introduces a change framework of eight steps in his book ‘Leading Change‘. Here’s a quick synopsis to help you better understand the eight steps:
Step 1: Establishing a Sense of Urgency
People and organisations have their own comfort zones. The more prosperous we are, the more difficult for us to break out of that comfort zone. When change comes, a sense of deliberate urgency is required. It helps us go out of our comfort zone and face change.
Step 2: Creating the Guiding Coalition
In the initial phase of a change in an organisation, there will be confusion. There will be much concern about where to go and how to get there. In this period, a strong leading team is the keystone to success. A successful team is not competent in leading change without a combination of people with a position of power, credibility, expertise, and leadership.
Step 3: Developing a Change Vision
Vision is the picture of the future. It serves as a beacon, lightening the path of change for the entire organisation. In ClarkMorgan, we refer to this vision as the ‘Strategy Document’. [quote float=”left”]In ClarkMorgan, we refer to this vision as the ‘Strategy Document’.[/quote]Since 2015, our managing director has launched the year by distributing the strategy document to all staff, to ensure the vision is visible to all. A good change target should be the result of tough analytical thinking plus a little dreaming. Ultimately, it should appeal to customers, stockholders, and employees.
Step 4: Communicating the Vision for Buy-in
Change in an organisation is just like adjusting directions for a ship. It requires the effort of the whole crew. A well-developed change target and roadmap cannot be achieved without communicating them to every member in the organisation. Effective communication means a communication mix or empathy and leading by example.
Step 5: Empowering Broad-based Action
Rome was not built in a day. Likely, change cannot be achieved by a leader or a heroic figure alone. Building a broad-based alliance and empowering them to carry out their duties in change is a substantial step in achieving a successful change in organisation.
Step 6: Generating Short-term Wins
The process of change is not smooth. There will be confusion, misunderstanding, and temporary setbacks. [quote float=”right”]The process of change is not smooth. There will be confusion, misunderstanding, and temporary setbacks.[/quote]All these issues are like thorns on the path leading to the top of the mountain. In order to reach the summit, high profile of team morale is absolutely required. Setting short-term win targets is a practical way of achieving this target. Early target should not be too much of a stretch, since the team needs to feel some achievement early on in order to remain motivated throughout the whole change process.
Step 7: Never Letting Up
People have a tendency of doing what they are familiar with and thinking in their usual way. Change means a shift in thinking and action. So, a change process should be carefully monitored, change initiatives carefully measured, and gains should be consolidated.
Step 8: Incorporating Changes into the Culture
We are now living in a world evolving faster and faster due to technology. Change needs to be viewed as a normal issue occurring continuously within an organisation, rather than a sudden issue. It should be imparted into the corporate culture, ensuring that the link between corporate success and daily behaviour is visible.
The collapse of Kodak Empire is a typical case of a firm failing to cope with change. However there is another corporate in the same industry at the same time facing the same threat derived from the emergence of the digital technology – Fujifilm. Fujifilm selected a different strategy when the digital tide came and became a diversified corporation in life science, printing, digital image, and skin care products. For Fuji, change created a brighter future, well outside the initial scope of the founders way back in 1934.
To change or not to change, is not a question. It is a must.  And by following careful steps, a successful change process can be achieved in order to create a more promising career and our organisation in bluer seas.