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Christina Lattimer

People Development Magazine


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Kotter’s Take on the Real Change Challenges Facing Leaders Today


The Centre for Creative Leadership (CCL) carried out research in 2013 involving CEO’s and Leaders from across the globe.  The resulting report entitled “The Challenge Leaders Face around the World” identified 6 of the biggest challenges as perceived by leaders. 

·        Developing Managerial effectiveness

·        Inspiring Others

·        Developing Employees

·        Leading a Team

·        Guiding Change

·        Managing Internal Politics

Each of the challenges is a whole subject, and as you can imagine have inspired many insights and thoughts from leadership experts from around the globe.  The response to the Centre of Creative Leadership’s research has been featured in the e.MILE People Development Magazine with 6 themed months tackling each of the subjects.

Dr. John Kotter the New York Times best-selling author, award winning business and management thought leader, business entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, and Harvard Professor:  As the author of no less than 21 books to date; his international bestseller Leading Change (1996), is one of the biggest single influences in the field of change management. TIME magazine listed Leading Change as one of the “Top 25 Most Influential Business Management Books”    was interviewed to get “his take” on the research. 

For me, Dr Kotter is the change expert and so finding out his views on the CCL research and his current take on the state of “change” in the world in an exclusive interview added real value to the many insights and views published. 

While Dr Kotter acknowledges CEO’s and leaders concerns about leading and managing change, he is keen to dismiss the notion that it is the change projects themselves which are the problem.   In Dr Kotter’s interview he describes what he believes are two distinct problems.  Firstly the rate and speed of change, contending,

The single biggest thing that’s happening in the world in a macro sense is that the rate of change is going up and has been for some time now.”  And “the strategic challenges that are coming at them [leaders and CEO’s] are coming faster, newer and different.  And the only way the winners will win, is that they see and react to this force successfully and faster.”

The second problem is the way organisations are set up to instigate, respond or react to change.  Kotter says the line many leaders and managers take is no longer tenable: To simply vary what organisations have been doing, adding changes here and there or making stronger mission statements, speeches or promising to focus in a different way, isn’t going to work any longer.

This is one of the reasons Dr Kotter wrote his latest book “Accelerate”.  In “Accelerate, Dr Kotter argues the old hierarchal organisation is no longer fit for purpose, and a new and dual system for instigating and responding to change is the way forward.   The dual system Dr Kotter introduces in his book, balances out a distinct networking cadre within the organisation, responsible for creating and developing change, coupled with a new hierarchal system which helps create systems and is responsible for delivery.

Dr Kotter and his team are helping organisations to become more agile so they can respond and keep ahead in the marketplace, but he acknowledges that often leaders don’t want to or refuse to make changes to respond to the global challenges we face because it’s simply not yet painful enough. 

With the two biggest forces for change being globalisation, and technological advances, it seems to me it may well get too painful pretty quickly and leaders and CEO’s need to act now to keep up with the speed and rate of change.  Dr Kotter’s interview contains many great insights and we think leaders and CEO’s at the very least need to be aware of the issues Dr Kotter is tackling in Accelerate and his forthcoming leadership programme. 

What do you think?  Have you seen a shift in the response to the pace of change in your organisation?  Do you think CEO’s and leaders are thinking ahead and taking into account the changes galloping over the horizon?  

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Christina Lattimer


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