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Bola Owoade

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Book Review – HBRs 10 Must Reads On Change Management


HBR 10 Must Read on Change ManagementIntroduction
This is another book from the HBRs 10 Must Read series. Previously I reviewed the one on leadership. This one deals with Change Management. Written in exactly the same style, the book has 10 articles which were previously published in the Harvard Business Review magazine. One of the great things about these articles is that they are highly practical, based on real life research and contain some really good stories which help to illustrate the principles being taught. The book has 210 pages so it's not a heavy read, but the articles are of a good quality, so it's one I will definitely recommend. From a learning and development perspective the book highlights some important facts about change for leaders, such as actions to take when implementing change and barriers to change. As learning and development practitioners most of what we do helps to support change in organisations. It is only right that we have a good understanding of change management ourselves. Following is an article-by-article review of the book.

Leading Change - Why Transformation Efforts Fail: In this article John Kotter outlines 8 reasons why change efforts fail. There are reviews on this site already on two of Kotter's books that cover the 8 reasons in much more detail. You can find the reviews here:


The 8 principles Kotter discussed are:

  1. Not establishing a great enough sense of urgency
  2. Not creating a powerful enough guiding coalition
  3. Lacking a vision
  4. Undercommunicating the vision by a factor of ten
  5. Not removing obstacles to the new vision
  6. Not systematically planning for, and creating, short-term wins
  7. Declaring victory too soon
  8. not anchoring changes in the corporation's culture

Change Through Persuasion: David A. Garvin and Michael A. Roberto believe that the approach that most managers use to try and bring changes to their organisations is a predictable route to failure. Instead they propose using persuasion through a four stage campaign which consists of setting the stage for acceptance of the change by developing a bold messages with compelling reasons as to why change is necessary, presenting a turnaround plan in a way that helps people interpret what needs to be done correctly, manage the mood of employees so that they feel cared for but still focus on the change efforts and prevent backsliding into old behaviors by providing opportunities for desired behaviors to be practiced consistently.

Leading Change When Business is Good: This article is based on an interview with Samuel J. Palmisano, the former CEO of IBM. Written by Paul Hemp and Thomas A. Stewart, it examines the rather interesting topic of how organizations can implement change while the business is still performing well. Most organizations rush to implement major changes when their organizations are changing. Palmisano took over IBM from Lou Gerstner who had saved the company from collapsing in the 1990s (I will review the book about that story at some point). The company was doing relatively fine but palmisano wanted to do more. IBMs values had always been a guiding force but over the years they had become more of a hindrance, Palmisano decided to work on redefining the values and embedding them. The authors through the interview identified four steps that Palmisano went through to achieve his goal which are:

  1.  Gather employees input on values
  2. Analyze employees input
  3. Revise your values
  4. Identify obstacles to living the values
  5. Launch change initiatives to remove the obstacles

Radical Change, The Quiet Way: This interesting article by Debra E. Meyerson is about people who want to bring change in their organizations or even teams but face certain barriers. They can't speak out too loudly for fear of building up resentment towards themselves and they can't keep quiet about the changes they want to make because they will become frustrated. So what do they do? They become change agents who effect changes in a moderate way. Meyerson calls such people, Tempered Radicals. For instance Meyerson defines a manager who acts as a tempered radical wanting to introduce some sort of change as, 'an informal leader who quietly challenges prevailing wisdom and provokes cultural transformation.'  Meyerson identified four tactics that tempered radical use to effect changes.

  1. Disruptive self-expression: Demonstrations of values through language, dress, office decor or behaviour. People notice and talk and some become brave enough to copy the tempered radical.
  2. Verbal Jujitsu: Redirect negative statements or actions into positive change.
  3. Variable term opportunism: Be ready to capitalize on unexpected opportunities for short-term change, as well as orchestrate deliberate long-term change.
  4. Strategic alliance building: Gain clout by working with allies. Work with other people to enhance your reputation rather than trying to do things alone. Turn people who oppose you to allies by selling them your ideas convincingly.

Tipping Point Leadership: Written by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, the article uses the story of William Bratton, ex-police commissioner of New York Police Department who turned New York into one of the safest cities in the US from being one of the most crime ridden ones. They purpose that Bratton used a leadership style which they refer to as Tipping Point Leadership. Kim and Mauborgne define tipping point leadership as hinging on 'the insight that in any organisation, once the beliefs and energies of a critical mass of people are engaged, conversion to a new idea will spread like an epidermic, bringing about fundamental change very quickly.'  They identified four principles of tipping point leadership which they observed in Bratton's work at the NYPD:

  1. Break through the cognitive hurdle: Bring key managers face to face with problems. Make them experience the problems firsthand so they feel and know why change is needed. Bratton made his senior police staff ride on New York's subway so they could experience the level of crime there.
  2. Sidestep the resource hurdle:  Instead of reducing your ambitions or fighting for more resources, reallocate existing resources to concentrate on the areas that need change most. Bratton used data to identify the areas that needed most attention and focused resources there.
  3. Jump the motivational hurdle: People need to identify what needs to be done and want to do it. Focus on motivating the key influencers so that they can influence their people. Bratton identified the key influencers in the NYPD and put them under consistent spotlight thereby introducing a culture of performance, accountability and learning.
  4. Knock over the political hurdle: There will always be powerful people who will oppose change initiatives. Earlier on recognize naysayers and build allies with powerful people who can handle them. Bratton employed a deputy who had spent 20 years in the police force and knew the people most likely to oppose his changes. He also enlisted the support of New York's Mayor to support his changes.

A Survival Guide For Leaders: This article by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky examines a very key issue leaders who lead change might face. The issue of facing opposition from those who oppose change. The type of opposition that can undermine the leader to the point of getting the leader pushed aside. Heifetz and Linsky propose 6 actions to handle such challenges. They are:

  1. Operate in and above the fray: leaders must observe and get the right perspective about what is happening. They must have the ability to join in with action but at other times step away from the action to observe what is happening.
  2. Court the uncommitted: Leaders will have people who are not committed to the change and wary of the leader's actions. The leader must show they are serious about change through crucial actions.
  3. Cook the conflict: A leader must allow enough challenge in the change process to keep staff motivated, but manage the challenge adequately so it doesn't course staff to become demotivated or burn out.
  4. Place the work where it belongs: A leader should mobilize others to deal with problems at their level. The leader should not take responsibility for everything.
  5. Managing yourself: Leaders must restrain their desire for control and need for importance.
  6. Anchor yourself: This is about leaders taking required actions to re-energize themselves.

The Real Reason People Won't Change: Why don't people change? In this article Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey introduce us to the concept of competing commitments, hidden thought patterns that make people irrationally, sometimes to the point of taking actions that oppose changes that are necessary and obvious. They define a competing commitment as a subconscious hidden goal that conflicts with their stated commitments. They propose a systematic questioning process to identify a person's competing commitment and where possible help them to consider replacing the competing commitment. 

Cracking The Change Code: Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria have identified two basic theories necessary to understand successful change. Theory E change emphasizes economic value as measured by shareholder returns. Theory O change is a softer approach that focuses on developing corporate culture, human capability, patiently building trust and emotional commitment through teamwork and communication. By combining Theory E and O change along the areas of goals, leadership, focus, process and reward system major change can be created.

The Hard Side of Change Management: DICE is the acronym that the authors of this article used to explain what the hard elements of change are. Their assertion is that in change programmes there is an overemphasis on the soft elements of change such as leadership style, corporate culture and employee motivation. They believe that change programmes can't really take off if the four elements of DICE - Duration - the time between milestone reviews, Integrity - projects team skills, Commitment - Senior executives and line manager's commitment to the project and Effort - the extra work employees must do to adopt are not given appropriate focus.  Harold L. Sirkin, Perry Keenan and Alan Jackson believe that by applying the DICE framework to ensure that the four hard elements are taken seriously change programmes have a higher possibility of succeeding.

Why Change Programs Don't Produce Change: This article written by Michael BeerRussell A. Eisenstat and Bert Spector and it tries to answer a key question - why change programs don't produce change. The authors identified six steps to effective change. They are:

  1. Mobilize commitment to change through joint diagnosis of problems.
  2. Develop a shared vision of how to organize for competitiveness.
  3. Foster consensus for the new vision, competence to enact it, and cohesion to advance it.
  4. Spread revitalization to all departments without pushing from the top.
  5. Monitor the revitalization process, adjusting in response to problems


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Bola Owoade

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