Have you tried getting superb ideas accepted in your organisation just to see matters dying on you? People nodded their heads, agreed and did very little or nothing afterwards.

Closely heed the principles of leading change aimed at gaining the support of your team members or of a client.

Owners of micro or small businesses also take note if you have to introduce important change to a client.

Leadership and management

Prof. John P. Kotter, of the Harvard Business School, maintains that “a successful transformation is 70 to 90 percent leadership and only 10 to 30 percent management.”

“Without strong leaders who head the process and are part of a change coalition not much will come of an attempt to transform an organisation.”

“Only leadership can blast through the many sources of corporate inertia.”

“Only leadership can motivate the actions needed to alter behavior in any significant way.”

The role of emotions

Did you know that emotions play the dominant role, and not logic, in accepting change? Much has been published on the topic of managing change. We find Kotter’s approach particularly useful. *1

People only accept change readily if new ideas appeal to their emotions. Kotter places an emphasis on a see-feel-change formula as departure point.

Every MD knows that execution and changing the behaviour of those you lead are difficult. Save yourself some difficulty by exploring Kotter’s eight-step checklist on leading change.


1.  Establish a sense of urgency during strategic planning or other sessions and maintain it strongly when executing. You have initiated a process that requires commitment and focus for as long as it takes.

2.  Create a guiding coalition, a guiding team of a few doers who commit to assist you in guiding this change initiative although you and they may already be overworked or over-committed. The MD is to personally lead the change process – and stay the course.

3.  Develop a clear overall corporate vision and goal which clearly indicates where your company or organisation is (X), where it wants to be (Y), and by when. This could be an operational or financial goal but rather create a client-oriented goal or one that contains deeper meaning. Your team will not easily get excited by an overall goal to increase sales or revenue. (See my post on Executing plans using 4DX: The 4 Disciplines of Execution.)

4.  Communicate your change vision and goal to all and do so relentlessly. Use every vehicle possible to constantly communicate the outcome-based wildly important goal.   And take care that you and your guiding coalition model the behaviour expected from everyone. Walk your talk.

5.  Empower broad-based action by removing obstacles in the path of those early doers who wish to reach the one goal. Change systems and bureaucratic practices that undermine the overall change goal. Encourage risk taking and new, non-traditional ideas, activities, and actions.

6.  Generate short-term wins – visible, unambiguous short-term wins disarm critics and naysayers. Recognise and reward people who made wins possible. Nothing motivates more than small wins and progress.*3

7.  Consolidate gains and produce more change

•    Never let up. After initial successes, teams with a true sense of urgency refuse to let their companies or organisations slide back into a comfortable complacency. They expand the effort, work on every phase of the challenge, and never let up until the overall goal is a reality.

•    Use increased credibility to change all systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit together and don’t support the team members.

•   Invigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents.

8.  Anchor new approaches in your company’s culture

•    Make change stick: High-urgency organisations feel compelled to find ways to make sure any change sticks by institutionalising it into a structure or system, and a culture.

•    Create better performance through client-oriented behaviour.

•    Talk about the connection between new behaviours and organisational success.


The usual more-effective pattern is:

1. Help people see
Create compelling, eye-catching, dramatic situations to help others visualize problems, solutions or progress in addressing complacency, strategy, empowerment, or other key issues.

2. Seeing something hits the emotions
Visualization provides useful ideas that reach people at a deeper level than surface thinking. Visualization evokes a visceral response that reduces emotions that block change and enhances those emotions that support change.

3. Emotionally-charged ideas change behaviour or reinforce changed behaviour
Have you not experienced this yourself? When you are excited about new possibilities are you not eager to get going?


Change rarely comes about through a sequence of events starting with analysis.

The usual less-effective pattern is:

1. Give people analysis
Information is gathered and analysed, reports are written, and presentations are made about problems, solutions, or progress in solving urgent problems, teamwork, communication, or a slippage in momentum. As a result:

2. Data and analysis influence how we think
The information and analysis often, of course, change people’s thinking. Ideas inconsistent with the needed change are dropped or modified.

3. New thoughts might change behaviour or reinforce changed behaviour

While analysis and thinking is important, by itself it will not achieve much. If an issue is important, think deeply about presenting your ideas in a dramatic way that touches emotions.

Kotter observes that a “good analysis rarely motivates people in a big way. It changes thought, but how often does it send people running out of the door to act in significantly new ways? And motivation is not a thinking word; it’s a feeling word.”

The first three steps

In introducing change, first create a sense of urgency, create a change coalition and then a clear vision including a main overall wildly important goal of what has to be achieved.

Do not skip or rush these three steps. This approach is relevant whenever a major strategic change is contemplated.

The eight steps are also applicable to any sub-goals that support the main overall goal.

Introduce change successfully.


With acknowledgement to:
*1. Leading Change by John P. Kotter, 1996, Harvard Business School Press
*2. The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey & Jim Huling, 2012, Simon & Schuster
*3. The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Creativity and Engagement at Work, by Teresa M. Amabile & Steven Kramer, 2011, Harvard Business Review Press. See my post about Small wins mean progress.