Organizational Change Can Be Successful
We now head into the final three steps in Kotter’s eight step change process. At this point in the process, you have created urgency, put in place the appropriate guiding teams, created a vision that has been communicated to the masses, and most recently enabled your team to take action by removing any obstacles in their way. So how is your effort going so far? As noted in past posts on this topic, failure to successfully implement any of the previous steps will prevent the next step from being successful.
In step 5 we enabled action for those involved with implementing the change. This action will be directed toward the long-term objective. However, in order to maintain urgency and gain credibility of the effort, we also want to ensure that attention is put towards Kotter’s six step – creating short-term wins.
Step 6 – Creating Short-Term Wins
In this step of the change process, we’ll focus on short-term wins – why they are important and how to select short-term wins that have the greatest potential to reinvigorate your effort.
The importance of short-term wins
In successful change efforts, empowered people create short-term wins – victories that nourish faith in the change effort, emotionally reward those involved with implementing the change, positively influence the cynics, and build momentum (Cohen & Kotter, 2005, p. 141). As the time invested into your change project increases, stakeholders of all types are looking for tangible evidence that the effort will be successful. Additionally, those implementing the change are looking for confirmation that their implementation plans are accurate and are desperately wanting to see visible gains from their efforts. The best way to provide this evidence is through short-term wins.
Identifying the best short-term wins
At this point, short-term wins might just sound like the perfect solution to getting your change effort back on track. However, if not selected correctly, short-term wins can have devastating impact on your project. The following tips may be helpful as you determine which short-term wins that will provide the most value:
Measurable – Your advances must be clear and concise so that there is no question of its value.
Visible – The success of the short-term win must be communicated to the organization, not just the change team or guiding teams. Short-term wins that only apply to specific stakeholders are likely to make other stakeholders feel marginalized.
Timely – Significant change initiatives can extend for quite some time. During these long periods, it’s easy for all the urgency you built in step one to be lost. For this reason, short-term wins can continually demonstrate progress to your team and stakeholders. Consider short-term wins that can be completed within 90 days.
Relevant to all stakeholders – As noted earlier, we want wins that are of importance to the entire organization and not just specific people or groups.
Relevant to the objective – Any wins that are planned must tie directly back to the change effort and validate your vision and plan.
Relevant to the situation – Wins should provide a test of the vision and change plan against real conditions so they can provide useful data that may result in changes to your plan.
Relevant to the people – Wins must involve the people who need to carry the change forward.
Keep these tips in mind when planning your short-term wins as your change teams are very selective in how they spend their time. They should focus first on the tasks that can quickly demonstrate unambiguous, visible, and meaningful achievements (Kotter & Cohen, 2002, p. 125).
With successes from your short-term wins rolling in, urgency is renewed and momentum continues to grow. However, the road to change is long, so it’s important that you and the team do not let up which is the subject of our next blog posting.
Cohen, D. (2005). The heart of change field guide. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Kotter, J., & Cohen, D. (2002). The heart of change: Real-life stories of how people change their organizations. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.