The steps are: Establish a sense of urgency, create the guiding coalition, develop a vision and strategy, communicate the change vision, empower a broad base of people to take action, generate short-term wins, consolidate gains and produce even more change, and institutionalize new approaches in the culture.

Change within an organization requires leadership more than management. Management keeps things running smoothly. Leadership adapts to significantly changing circumstances. Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles.

Successful transformation is 70 to 90 percent leadership, and only 10 to 30 percent management.

Where change is needed, leaders need to blast through inertia and alter behaviors. Culture change is needed to make change stick.

Blasting through inertia starts with creating a sense of urgency. This was a topic of my book summary for The 12-Week Year. Without urgency, there is ample opportunity for procrastination and losing focus.

Create a Guiding Coalition to lead change. A guiding coalition with good managers but poor leaders will not succeed. A managerial mindset will develop plans, not vision; it will vastly under-communicate the need for and direction of change; and it will control rather than empower people.

Develop a Vision and Strategy. Vision is a central component of all great leadership. A good vision must capture hearts and minds, acknowledging that sacrifices will be necessary but makes clear that these sacrifices will yield particular benefits and personal satisfactions that are far superior to those available today.

Don’t overcomplicate it. You should be able to describe the vision driving the change initiative in 5 minutes or less. The vision should benefit all stakeholders – owners, management, employees, patients, etc.

Communicate the Change Vision. If the vision is blurry or a bad idea, selling the vision becomes a tough job.

Key elements of effective communication of vision:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Maintain constant communication in multiple forums: meetings, newsletters, etc. Ideas sink in deeply only after they have been heard many times.
  • Lead by example.
  • Give-and-take: Two-way communication is always more powerful than one-way.

Empower Employees. Empowerment often involves more employee training and development, but this can be disempowering if the implicit message is “shut up and do it this way” instead of “we will be delegating more, so we are providing this training to help you with your new responsibilities.”

Generate “short-term wins” to keep employees motivated. These must be visible to everyone and clearly tied to the change effort. Without momentum, resistance to change often increases.

It’s a leader’s job to keep people focused on change efforts, otherwise complacency will almost certainly set back in. Culture change requires persistence. Old cultures are quick to reinsert themselves.

If you want your business to thrive in an ever-changing industry, complacency must become virtually absent, in which people are always looking for both problems and opportunities, and in which the norm is “do it now.”

Because management deals mostly with the status quo and leadership deals mostly with change, in the future we will have to become much more skilled at creating leaders.

Development of leadership potential doesn’t happen in a two-week course or even a four-year college program, although both can help. Because we spend so many of our waking hours at work, most of our development takes place—or doesn’t take place—on the job.

Author quote: “Even today, the best-performing firms I know that operate in highly competitive industries have executives who spend most of their time leading, not managing, and employees who are empowered with the authority to manage their work groups.”

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