Print This Post Print This Post

I am picking on Harvard because John Kotter is prof Emeritus there and he has been the master of the famous 8 steps of Change: create a sense of urgency, build a guiding coalition, form a strategic vision and initiatives, enlist a volunteer army, enable action by removing barriers, generate short term wins, sustain acceleration.

If you are not familiar with Kotter’s steps (how was your trip to Mars?) you will have not noticed that these are the new version of the old steps of 1996. Kotter has changed the terms and the pace. He now believes, promotes and sells (successfully) ‘acceleration’, and a less linear view of change. Actually he thinks that many of those can be done simultaneously.

He says:

Run the steps concurrently and continuously
Form a large volunteer army from up, down and across the organization to serve as the change engine
Function in a network flexibly and agilely outside of, but in conjunction with, a traditional hierarchy

Welcome to 2014, or 2015. The ‘run the steps concurrently and continuously’ has taken around 19 years to materialise as a piece of advise, as his website says, ‘after extensive research’. This non-accelerated discovery can only be matched by Vatican speed.

Viral Change™ was first published in 2006, reedited in 2008, and contained the fundamentals of a bottom up change approach, dealing with the non-linear nature of the organization, and mastering the combination of behaviours, influence, the informal organization, stories and what we call backstage leadership™. The alignment with management was there in the form of what we called World I and World II in Homo Imitans (2011). We have no ‘steps’ in Viral Change™ . We do this as we would run a social movement or a social campaign. We’ve been here 8 years earlier.

To be fair, many other people have been here before. More recently the always insightful and solid critical thinker Jon Katzenbach with his ‘Leading Outside the Lines’ (2010)

Hidden in Kotter’s sudden epiphany is still a heavy assumption of sequence and linearity, even after the ‘run simultaneously’ bit. What is more worrying is an invitation to even bigger corporate flash mobs of lots of people now getting together and doing something at once. The (smaller) coalition of 1996 is now ‘a large volunteer army’ in 2014.

My ranting can be seen as (1) frustration, (2) envy, (3) love of ranting, (4) ego, (5) combinations. Let me borrow from Obama’s latest State of the Nation address: ‘I don’t have more campaigns to run’, and twist it. I have only one more campaign to run: the injection of creative thinking and common sense in the overdue Reinvention of Management, and the abandoning of ‘management models’ as models. Kotter was a brilliant 20th Century instigator of change thinking. The 20th Century ended 15 years ago. Kind of.

I understand that with this criticism of New-Kotter-Same-Kotter I am producing at least two reactions. Number one, my chances of being called to become a professor in Harvard have gone. So I will stop checking the mail. Two: I will irritate many people who use the word Kotter as a gateway for legitimization. And that includes friends and people I have lots of respect for. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I repeat my mantra: look outside management for management models. For change, that means social movements, political campaigns, emergent mobilization of people, and digital/social activism. Harvard research, not in the list.

No revolution will ever be made with Kotter steps. Not the 1996, not the 2014 steps. Yet, maybe ‘revolution’ is not the target of industrial reinvention, so, no problems here. But, dare to ignore it. For great management, read Kotter, say thanks, and then look outside the window. TV evening news is also a good bet.

Wow! I would have loved to live in Boston!

Keep up with the Daily Thoughts

Twitter Email

Would you like to comment?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To search my website, please use the form below.

  Daily Thoughts

September 27th, 2023

Redefining Talent Wealth

The war on talent McKinsey consultants started it with a book of the same title. By focusing on what it […]

September 8th, 2023

What I Learnt From The Monks: A Little Anthropology Of Leadership And Space On One Page

My friends, monks of a Benedictine monastery in the Highlands, Scotland, spend most of the time in silence. I mean, […]

August 23rd, 2023

Can We Rescue DEI From Its Trap (The Label)?

Most of the problems and challenges in organizations, together with most of the solutions, are behavioural in nature. It’s about […]

August 10th, 2023

Restructuring to force collaboration, is likely to create more anxiety than collaboration. Structural solutions for behavioural problems hardly work.

Sometimes restructuring is done with the intention of solving a collaboration problem. ´A people´ don’t talk to ´B people´; if […]

July 18th, 2023

The ‘Impossible To Disagree With’ School Of Management

‘Good leaders have empathy, respect employees and set the example. If you want to change things, you need to have […]

June 29th, 2023

Large scale change is not small scale change repeated many times. Small wins repeated are lots of small wins.

Large scale change, as a series of cascading small scale interventions (often under the philosophy of ‘small wins’) has dominated […]

June 6th, 2023

Culture change is not long and difficult. But we make it so…

I suppose the question is how long is long and how difficult is difficult? In general, business and organizational consulting have […]

May 19th, 2023

Value is an overused term in business and, as such, it’s becoming meaningless

Value, as usually used, means transactional monetary value. Usually it doesn’t mean intrinsic value, or value per se. For example, […]

May 4th, 2023

The importance of ‘critical thinking.’ Your own critical thinking is more effective at making your workplace better than any generic employee survey.

Build your own Employee Engagement argument for free. You can’t go wrong. Here are three baskets full of concepts: Basket […]

April 21st, 2023

´Busy-Ness’ Is A Trap

I went to a big conference where I was introduced by the chairman like this: “Welcome everybody. Lovely to have […]

April 14th, 2023

Training and culture change. The love affair that ends in tears.

It seems to be very hard for people to get away from the idea that if we just put individuals […]

April 11th, 2023

Teamocracies and Networkracies have different citizens: in-Habitants in team-work, riders in net-work

The old view of the organization is something close to the old concept of a medieval city, where citizenship was […]

April 5th, 2023

3 Ways To Get Approval From Your CEO Or Your Leadership Team

Way number 1: My team has developed these three options, A, B and C. Which one do you want us […]

March 29th, 2023

A Cheat Sheet To Create A Social Movement Tip = to shape organizational culture since both are the same.

Mobilizing people. This is another of the Holy Grails (how many have I said we have?) in management. Whether you […]

March 16th, 2023

Critical Thinking Self-Test: A 10 Point Health Check For Your Organization And Yourself. If any of these are a good picture of your organization, you need to put ‘critical thinking’ in the water supply.

Test yourself, and your organization. Do any of these apply? Doing lots, too fast without thinking. High adrenaline, not sure […]

March 9th, 2023

A culture of safety or a culture of training in safety?

Cultures are created by behaviours becoming the norm. Safety is at the core of many industries. Significant budgets are allocated […]

March 2nd, 2023

Empowerment is an output. If you can visualize it, you can craft it.

The real question is, what do you want to see happening so that you can say ‘people are empowered’? Employee […]

February 24th, 2023

A simple question will jumpstart your organization into change. It will also save you from months of pain spent reorganizing your people and teams.

The following line will short-cut months of (building) ‘alignment’, integration, reorganization, team building, coalition building, and any situation in which Peter, […]

February 20th, 2023

Lead Via Peer-To-Peer Networks – If you don’t lead via peer-to-peer networks, you’re only driving your car in first gear.

Peer-to-peer work, transversal, spontaneous or not, collaboration, peer-to-peer influence, peer-to-peer activities of Viral Change™ champions or activists, all of this is the […]

February 7th, 2023

Write a script, not a strategic plan

If you care about the journey and the place, you need a story. If you have a good, compelling one, […]

January 26th, 2023

3 self-sabotaging mechanisms in organizations

Organizations, like organisms, have embedded mechanisms of survival, of growth and also of self-sabotage. These are 3 self-sabotage systems to […]

January 10th, 2023

Who should be involved in culture change? All inclusive versus going where the energy is.

Many times, in my consulting work, I find myself facing a dilemma: Do I involve many people on the client’s […]

December 23rd, 2022

Tell what won’t change – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

In any change programme that any organization wants to start, they will start by thinking of the things that they […]

December 16th, 2022

Scale It – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

When creating effective change in any organization, there are 40 rules that, in my experience, are the key between success […]

December 5th, 2022

Assets & Strengths Base – Introducing 1 of my 40 rules of change

For more than 30 years I have been involved in ‘change’ in organizations. Again and again, some fundamental principles, and often […]

November 25th, 2022

Campaign It… is 1 of my 40 rules of change

When you filter out the noise, when you try to extract the core, the fundamentals, those ‘universal rules’ of change […]

October 31st, 2022

Hybrid or not hybrid? That’s not the question…

Culture is the new workplace If you want to have a conversation about the future of work, the nature of […]

October 24th, 2022

‘Powered by Viral Change™’: A Social Transformation Platform for the organization of the 21st Century

When we started to work on Viral Change™, as a way to create large scale behavioural and cultural change, and […]

October 14th, 2022

Corporate tribes, intellectual ghettos and open window policies

We talk a lot about silos in organizations usually in the context of Business Units or divisions. But these are not […]

October 7th, 2022

Peer Networks are the strongest force of action inside the organization

Peer-to-peer works, transversal, spontaneous or not, collaboration, peer-to-peer influence, peer-to-peer activities of Viral Change™ champions or activists, all of this is […]