John Kotter of the Harvard Business School built on Lewin’s three step model to create a more detailed approach for implementing change. Kotter began by listing common mistakes that managers make when trying to initiate changes. These included the inability to create a sense of urgency about the need for change, failure to create a coalition for managing the change process, the absence of a vision for change and to effectively communicate that vision, not removing obstacles that could impede the achievement of the vision, failure to provide short term and achievable goals, the tendency to declare victory too soon, and not anchoring the changes into the organization’s culture.
Eight sequential steps were established to overcome these problems. They are listed below.
The first four steps essentially extrapolate on the unfreezing stage. Steps 5 through 7 represent ‘movement’. And the final step works on ‘refreezing’. Here the contribution lies in providing managers and change agents with a more detailed guide for successfully implementing change.
Action research refers to a change process based on the systematic collection of data and then selection of a change action based on what the analyzed data indicate. Its importance lies in providing a scientific methodology or managing planned change. The process of action research consists of five steps: diagnosis, analysis feedback, action and evaluation. You will note that these steps closely parallel the scientific method.
The change agent, often an outside consultant in action research begins by gathering information about problems concerns, and needed changes from members of the organization. This diagnosis is analogous to the physician’s search to find specifically what ails a patient. In action research, the change agent asks questions, interview employees employee reviews, records, and listens to the concerns of employees.
The Eight Step Plan for Implementing Change
1. Establish a sense of urgency by creating a compelling reason of why change is needed.
2. Form a coalition with enough power to lead the change.
3. Create a new vision to direct the change and strategies for achieving the vision.
4. Communicate the vision throughout the organization.
5. Empower others to act on the vision by removing barriers to change and encouraging risk taking and creative problem solving
6. Plan for and create reward short term wins that move the organization toward the new vision.
7. Consolidate improvements, reassess changes, and make necessary adjustments in the new program.
8. Reinforce the changes by demonstrating the relationship between new behaviors and organizational success.
Diagnosis is followed by analysis. What problems do people key in on? What patterns do these problems seem take? The change agent synthesizes this information into primary concerns, problems areas and possible actions.
Action research includes extensive involvement of the change targets. That is, the people who will be involved in any change program mist be actively involved in determining what the problem is and participants in creating the solution. So the third step feedback requires sharing with employee what has been found from steps one and two. The employees, with the help of the change agent, develop action plans for bringing about any needed change.
Now the action part of action research is set in motion. The employees and the change agent carry out the specific actions to correct the problems that have been identified.
The final step consistent with the scientific underpinnings of action research is evaluation of the action plan’s effectiveness. Using the initial data gathered as a benchmark any subsequent changes can be compared and evaluated.
Action research provides at least two specific benefits for an organization. First, its problem is focused. The change agent objectively looks for problems, and the type of problem determines the type of change action. Although this may seem intuitively obvious, a lot of change activities aren’t done this way. Rather, they are solution centered. The change agent has a favorite solution for example, implementing flextime, teams or a process reengineering program and then seeks out problems that the solution fits. Second, because action research so heavily involves employees in the process, resistance to change is reduced. In fact, once employees gave actively participated in the feedback stage the change process typically takes on a momentum of its own. The employees and groups that have been involved becomes an internal source of sustained pressure to bring about the change.