So how can an organization implement change? In 1996, John Kotter wrote "Leading Change," and followed it up with another book in 2002 with Dan Cohen, "The Heart of Change." He describes an eight-step change process, briefly outlined below:
1. Create a sense of urgency around the need for change. Kotter notes that to really change behaviors, it is important to share information to influence a person's feelings, not just their thoughts. He suggests that 75 percent of an organization's leadership must buy into the change for it to be successful. Data from clients and other external stakeholders can be very important in presenting the need for change. It must be strong enough data to enable people to give the extra effort to go beyond the status quo.
2. Form a guiding coalition. For change to be successful, strong leadership is critical, as is support from a team of influential people, including those who represent all important areas and departments in the organization.
3.Create a vision for change. A vision is critical for helping to direct, align and inspire employees. The leader must define a clear and compelling statement that captures what he or she sees as the future of the organization, as well as a strategy for executing that vision.
4. Communicate the vision. It is imperative to communicate the vision frequently and powerfully, and to embed it in everything the firm does. The top leader must "walk the talk" and demonstrate the type of behavior that is desired of others.
5. Remove obstacles. Put in place the infrastructure to support the change. This might involve changing the underlying compensation system or other human resource systems. It also may mean identifying leaders who are resisting the change and helping them to see what's needed. Quick action on removing any barriers (whether people or systems) is critical.