Kotter is an authority on change management and has made significant contribution in ‘speeding up’ change management in large organizations. ‘Our ice berg is melting’ and ‘Sense of Urgency’, brings in the core of change management to a level where ‘urgency’ of implementing a well thought out change, has significant impact on the change management.
I would try to directly pickup quite a bit of the text from Buy*in and pitch in my comments.
Kotter begins from the point where the proponent is certain that the idea is very strong, key stake holders believe that it is needed badly and needed NOW. Since the idea benefits many people, you need to take it forward quickly and garner a definitive support; say e.g. in a town hall meeting, investor forum, a board meeting or plant meeting, where you will be required to present it. The time will be so short and the occasion can not be repeated; you will not be able to pre wire every body, but for the few. The situation is also such that there is no time to go through the organizational structure (top down) one step at a time, as there is a high urgency. Kotter, also emphasizes that it may not be enough to be satisfied with even 51% buy-in. you need full face buy*in.
A good idea can not be made to happen on just a few people. You would need collaboration from a wide section of the affected people. You need large support in order to implement it and make things better. Despite all background and planning work, it is a reality that when the idea is presented, there will be naysayers or unfair attackers. Most of these people would primarily be so because of their perception and experience or because of the stance they have taken. And they will be in a position to give your idea a death by delay, lead to confusion, create fear mongering and could even lead to your character assassination. All this irrespective of how genuine, impact ful, innovative, creative, logical or insightful is the idea.
The most often used approach in moving faster on idea is to stream roll the naysayer, use power of top management, bully people and may be to ask a few to leave their positions. In the long run, this only creates fear and resistance against change, even when it is for everybody’s good.
Kotter suggests that quashing the attacker is not a way out, since they will comeback in some other form, if not then than later on at most crucial times. He suggests to respectfully engage adversaries with simple and convincing response. He suggests that one indeed should ‘invite the lions’ to critique your ideas and prepare yourself to what they will throw at you. The ultimate objective is to secure their commitment.
Under such a situation, Kotter says that sales, complex manipulation, long logical reasoning do not work. Instead he suggests that you use the concept from Judo and turn the attacks to your advantage and capture peoples attention and help them grasp the idea better and ultimately build strong buy-in. Yes his advice is counterintuitive, since instead of keeping the naysayer out of the room, it welcomes them into the discussion of a new proposal and virtually encourages them to shoot at you and deal with their sharp shooting questions with respect in a simple and practical way.
What is the basis Kotter starts from? He acknowledges that there are already enough good ideas, however, hit rate of these ideas is abysmally poor. The reason being that the amount of thought and education put into creating good ideas is far higher today compared to the knowledge and instruction (or may be attention) given to implementation, and the logistics on transforming these ideas into reality. And if one could find a better way to improve the conversion ratio of ideas into successful implementation, the world will be a better place.
The traditional mistakes most of the idea generators (read knowledge bearer) and most of highly competent intelligent folks do is, standing on the assumption that good ideas can stand on themselves. Have a check ! How many people know about the struggle Microsoft had before it thought of ‘Windows’ and by the time it finally took a decision to bring it to the market. And how about the idea of bringing ‘Google Search’. For normal users like us it looks cool, and we settle with the impression that Windows and Google Search stand solely on the merit of the idea. But it was not cool for Bill Gates and the entrepreneurial team of Google.
Kotter contends that creation and implementation of good idea is a basic life skill for every one, personally, in corporates, in government, families and elsewhere. He also warns that it is not about persuasion and communication in general nor about selling, nor about charismatic magic nor rhetorical skills.
While Kotters uses harsh words of “adversaries” and “attackers”, for those who would object or resist your idea, lets have the perspective clear without distorting the message. Whether because of perception of people or lack of your preparation to buy-in because of urgency; there will be validity in objections being raised and it would be unavoidable to allow these objection surface if success of the project depends on everybody’s support and collaboration.
Given this perspective, Kotter classifies these attacks into 24 specific objections that will form a majority of directions of objections. And these can be reclassified into 4 strategies of attack, in terms of the immediate impact it will have on the idea.
The 4 strategies are:
The 24 attacks are very familiar, very generic, difficult to answer arguments and concerns any one of which has significant potency to kill your idea.
Before he explains the 24 attacks and the way to handle them in a simple way; he classifies them into 3-sections based on the implicit attitude of the attacker.
Have a look at this link at http://kotterinternational.com/kotterprinciples/buyin/attacksandresponses; just to realize how simple and practical they are. But do not undermine, the preparation you need to do. It is possible that you already use some of these rules, but having a consolidation of these points will help you a great deal.
31 March 2014