Friday, September 5, 2008

Day 31: Leading Change

Most corporate change initiatives fail. The fact of the matter is that change is difficult and can be sidetracked in so many ways. At Thunderbird, I studied change under the tutelage of Dr. Caren Siehl, an expert in corporate change. As part of our curriculum, we learned Dan Cohen’s and John Kotter’s change framework, which has hence provided me a unique lens through which to view change initiatives. The steps are simple but incredibly powerful: 1. Increase Urgency, 2. Build Guiding Teams, 3. Get the Vision Right, 4. Communicate for Buy-in, 5. Enable Action, 6. Create Short-term Wins, 7. Don’t Let Up, and 8. Make it Stick. For more detail on the framework you can check out the book “The Heart of Change Field Guide.”
Today, I participated in a workshop in which the coordinators were trying to inspire a group of local NGOs, involved in serving children and young adults, to form a network. The coordinators had conducted a study of the common issues arising in the NGOs and were hoping to get feedback from the participants. As I sat through the discussions, I noted some common mistakes that are typical to change:

- Lack of a common theme throughout the meeting. Why were they there and what did they hope to accomplish? What was the benefit to each individual NGOs of participating in the network?
- The change initiative was primarily being led by paid consultants. They had failed to involve other members in the process early enough and thereby garner support within the group. As a result, the group of NGOs viewed the consultants as outsiders in spite of the fact that they are just as passionate to help children.
- As a result of not involving key personnel from the beginning, most organizations that participated (50% of the invitees) had sent lower level representatives who really have no power in making decisions.

Surprisingly, the group began to respond to the call in spite of the efforts of the coordinators. In my opinion, they responded more out of a passion for helping kids, but the important thing is that they responded. It was exciting to see the participants begin to take ownership of the movement and answer the questions of naysayers within their own group. The question now is whether or not the group can capitalize on the momentum they have gained.

Joel Montgomery

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