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Organizational Change Can Be Successful – Part 2

Organizational Change Can Be Successful

In this second post in my series on successfully implementing organizational change, I’ll explore the importance of identifying and developing your guiding team.

small__10294104734You’ll recall from the previous blog posting, that the most important step in Kotter’s eight step process to change is the first – urgency.  In that post, we explored the challenges any change effort will encounter – primarily complacency – and the steps needed to counteract those obstacles.  With urgency under control, we now move onto the second step in Kotter’s process – building your guiding team.

The guiding team – or as I prefer to call it – the transformation team is built on the belief that you cannot implement change on your own.  Many will believe they can do it all themselves, and those who have tried single-handedly to make organizational change have undoubtedly failed.  IBM has a motto that embodies this belief that says “None of us is as strong as all of us” (Jackson, Schuler, & Werner, 2012).  Strong leaders know that change must be guided by a team, a group of individuals that has the knowledge, influence, decision-making power, and fully understands the urgency of such a change.  With that in mind, let’s delve deeper into Step 2.

Step 2 – Building the Guiding Team

Before you begin to select your guiding team, it’s important to understand the role they will play throughout the change initiative and how you as the leader of the organization can support their efforts.  Your work does not end by naming a few folks and holding a kick-off meeting where you pontificate about the importance of the work.  Consider the following approach in developing your team:

Engaging the right people

It is likely that your change effort is going to require the creation of more than one team.  In fact, Kotter advises that the following individual roles and teams are created when implementing a significant organizational transformation:

Sponsor – this is a single individual, usually a senior executive that is tasked by the organization to ensure the change happens.

Senior guiding team – consists of individuals that have the influence and authority to make decision for the divisions or functional areas they represent.  They are the ones that set the vision and engage the organization throughout the change process.   Unlike your traditional steering committee that reviews budget and periodically status, the senior guiding team is actively involved in developing and implementing change.

Field guiding teams – includes well respected individuals within the organization that represent specific constituents of the organization.  They ensure that the vision of the change is communicated out to their areas within the organization.

Change teams – these members are the managers that oversee the individuals actually implementing the tasks within the change.

It is important to carefully consider the size of your guiding teams.  Most organizations are tempted to implement large teams under the belief that with everyone involved, no one person or group will shoulder the blame when/if the effort fails. However, large teams can be slow moving, usually bogged down by the inability to get consensus on important decisions from so many individuals or groups with varying needs.

Setting clear team goals

In order for the guiding teams to be effective, they must have a clear understanding of what is expect from them.  Consider these five basic elements to ensure that the goals of the change initiative are clear:

  1. A shared sense of purpose – everyone must understand the purpose or reason for the change
  2. Clear roles – everyone must know exactly what is expected of them
  3. Effective team processes – the mechanics of working on a team (e.g. team meetings, conflict resolution, etc.) must be understood, accepted and be second nature to all team members
  4. Strong relationships – are required between team members to ensure that the effective team processes can be carried out respectfully and successfully
  5. Effective interface management – the ability to manage conflicts that might arise when working with other teams

Developing a climate of trust and communication

When performing as part of any team whether it’s in sports or business, trust is earned by what you say you will do and then your ability to execute.  Failure to create trust between members on the same team will lead to a variety of problems that ultimately all reduce production and/or quality of the change initiative.

Ensuring urgency throughout the change process

It is likely that during the change process, the makeup of your teams will change.  Through job change, team members will leave.  At other times, based upon where you are in the change process, you will need to bring in new members with particular skills or influence.  Each time the team change there is a possibility that the urgency for the change can be weakened or even forgotten.  Effective change leaders will continually monitor for complacency indicators (see the previous blog posting for more details on complacency indicators) and counteract them as soon as they are detected.

Hopefully this approach to building your guiding team along with the increased urgency we previously discussed, your team is ready to set the vision which we’ll discuss in the next blog posting.



Cohen, D. (2005).  The heart of change field guide.  Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Jackson, S. E., Schuler, R. S., & Werner, S. (2012). Managing human resources (11th ed.). Mason, OH: South Western/Cengage Learning.


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