What John Kotter teaches physicians about leading change
If you are spearheading efforts to introduce a new program or direction, it is essential that you develop leadership competency in two areas:
- First, you must learn and apply personal communication strategies and techniques in group or one-on-one situations to enroll physicians in your cause. (I have shared some specific strategies in previous newsletters.)
- Second, you must become familiar with change management frameworks and methodically implement your initiative according to your framework of choice.
In coaching my clients who are leading change initiatives, I often suggest the framework of John Kotter. In his book, “Leading Change,” Kotter outlines eight specific principles for successfully leading change.
Kotter also restates his principles as “errors organizations make” when their transformation efforts fail. What follows are his eight errors. If you are leading change, go through this list of ERRORS and rate yourself on your leadership competency:
- Error #1: Allowing Too Much Complacency – Transformation efforts always fail when complacency levels are high. How well have you created urgency for change before plowing ahead with your program?
- Error #2: Failing to Create a Sufficiently Powerful Guiding Coalition – Individuals, no matter how energetic or committed, will not pull off a major change initiative. Several individuals, including members of the senior team, MUST be committed to your program’s success. How well have you developed a powerful guiding coalition?
- Error #3: Underestimating the Power of Vision – Vision plays a central role by helping stakeholders and the front line to align their actions. A “plan” will not substitute for a well-articulated vision. How well have you created a vision that EVERYONE can verbalize easily and with understanding?
- Error #4: Under-communicating the Vision by a Factor of 10 – A one-time communication event or retreat, or a short-term effort at notifying the front line is not sufficient to ensure buy-in to the change. How well are you consistently, creatively and relentlessly communicated your vision?
- Error #5: Permitting Obstacles to Block the New Vision – Obstacles can be organizational structure, procedures and policies, or supervisors and managers who resist the new change and therefore block the efforts. How well are you acknowledging and confronting the obstacles in the path of change?
- Error #6: Failing to Create Short-term Wins – Transformation takes time and therefore short-term wins must be part of the strategy in order to keep everyone on the journey. How well have you planned short term wins and milestone achievement?
- Error #7: Declaring Victory Too Soon – Because new methods and workflow takes time to sink deeply into the culture, be careful about assuming completion too early. How well are you maintaining vigilance and reinforcing the vision long after the project plans are completed?
- Error #8: Neglecting to Anchor Changes Firmly in the Corporate Culture – When the new way of operating result in improvement and are also adopted by the next generation of leaders or front-line clinicians, then it becomes “the way we’ve always done things.” How well are you planning for how leadership successors and new employees will be champions of the vision?
These eight “errors” can serve as a handy check-list for physician leaders who suspect their change initiative is going sideways.
If you are a physician leading change and transformation in your organization, please join your colleagues and me for a free tele-forum on March 12 to share your experiences. See details below. Also, if you would like to explore how executive coaching can help you achieve the results you want, contact me for an introductory conversation.