Organizational Change Management vs. Leadership

Do you hire dedicated organizational change consultants to help with the development and implementation of organizational change management (OCM) strategy and plans, or do you rely on your internal leadership to develop OCM strategy and plans?  This is a debate that has been going on for many years regarding the deployment of OCM resources in organizations.

My position is that Organizational Change Management is a core leadership competency that anyone who calls him/herself “leader” should be well-versed in.  In fact, I would go as far as to add, that anyone in a leadership role who is not skilled in OCM is, in-fact, not a competent leader.

On the surface, common sense tells me they are the same.  But to make my case, I’ll compare two well-known, highly-regarded models – one for OCM and one for leadership.

First, let’s look at a time-tested change management model, The Kotter 8-Step Model,[i] first published in 1996 and recently updated.

Kotter’s 8-Step Org Change Model (2015)

Step 1 – Create a Sense of Urgency

Craft and use a significant opportunity as a means for exciting people to sign up to change their organization.

Step 2 – Build a Guiding Coalition

Assemble a group with the power and energy to lead and support a collaborative change effort.

Step 3 – Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives

Shape a vision to help steer the change effort and develop strategic initiatives to achieve that vision.

Step 4 – Enlist a Volunteer Army

Raise a large force of people who are ready, willing and urgent to drive change.

Step 5 – Enable Action by Removing Barriers

Remove obstacles to change, change systems or structures that pose threats to the achievement of the vision.

Step 6 – Generate Short-Term Wins

Consistently produce, track, evaluate and celebrate volumes of small and large accomplishments – and correlate them to results.

Step 7 – Sustain Acceleration

Use increasing credibility to change systems, structures and policies that don’t align with the vision; hire, promote and develop employees who can implement the vision; reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes and volunteers.

Step 8 – Institute Change

Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success, and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.

Compare Kotter to a Leadership Model

For a leadership model, I’ll use what I consider to be the gold standard; the model put forward in 1987 by James Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner in “The Leadership Challenge.”[ii]  To make the comparison, I’ll insert relevant steps from Kotter following each component of their leadership model.  You might quibble with my choices, but you’ll get the idea.

The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership (Kouzes & Posner) – With Kotter added

Model the Way – Clarify Values, Set the Example

Leaders establish principles concerning the way people (constituents, peers, colleagues, and customers alike) should be treated and the way goals should be pursued. They create standards of excellence and then set an example for others to follow. Because the prospect of complex change can overwhelm people and stifle action, they set interim goals so that people can achieve small wins as they work toward larger objectives. They unravel bureaucracy when it impedes action; they put up signposts when people are unsure of where to go or how to get there; and they create opportunities for victory.

Kotter Step 5 – Enable Action by Removing Barriers

Remove obstacles to change, change systems or structures that pose threats to the achievement of the vision.

Kotter Step 6 – Generate Short-Term Wins

Consistently produce, track, evaluate and celebrate volumes of small and large accomplishments – and correlate them to results.

Inspire a Shared Vision – Envision the Future, Enlist Others

Leaders passionately believe that they can make a difference. They envision the future, creating an ideal and unique image of what the organization can become. Through their magnetism and quiet persuasion, leaders enlist others in their dreams. They breathe life into their visions and get people to see exciting possibilities for the future.

Kotter Step 1 – Create a Sense of Urgency

Craft and use a significant opportunity as a means for exciting people to sign up to change their organization.

Kotter Step 3 – Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives

Shape a vision to help steer the change effort and develop strategic initiatives to achieve that vision.

Challenge the Process – Search for Opportunities, Experiment and Take Risks

Leaders search for opportunities to change the status quo. They look for innovative ways to improve the organization. In doing so, they experiment and take risks. And because leaders know that risk taking involves mistakes and failures, they accept the inevitable disappointments as learning opportunities.

Kotter Step 7 – Sustain Acceleration

Use increasing credibility to change systems, structures and policies that don’t align with the vision; hire, promote and develop employees who can implement the vision; reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes and volunteers.

Kotter Step 8 – Institute Change

Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success, and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.

Enable Others to Act – Foster Collaboration, Strengthen Others

Leaders foster collaboration and build spirited teams. They actively involve others. Leaders understand that mutual respect is what sustains extraordinary efforts; they strive to create an atmosphere of trust and human dignity. They strengthen others, making each person feel capable and powerful.

Kotter Step 2 – Build a Guiding Coalition

Assemble a group with the power and energy to lead and support a collaborative change effort.

Kotter Step 4 – Enlist a Volunteer Army

Raise a large force of people who are ready, willing and urgent to drive change.

Kotter Step 5 – Enable Action by Removing Barriers

Remove obstacles to change, change systems or structures that pose threats to the achievement of the vision.

Encourage the Heart – Recognize Contributions, Celebrate the Values and Victories

Accomplishing extraordinary things in organizations is hard work. To keep hope and determination alive, leaders recognize contributions that individuals make. In every winning team, the members need to share in the rewards of their efforts, so leaders celebrate accomplishments. They make people feel like heroes.

Kotter Step 6 – Generate Short-Term Wins

Consistently produce, track, evaluate and celebrate volumes of small and large accomplishments – and correlate them to results.

In Summary

When you look at these two models side by side, the similarity is obvious.  You might argue that the difference between leadership and OCM is that OCM is about creating a strategy and plan to apply to a specific initiative whereas leadership is a continuous activity – like the difference between a project and a job.  Perhaps, but the skills required to be successful remain virtually identical.  I would push back by pointing out, that very few organizations have the luxury of managing one or two discrete change initiatives.  Most organizations are now perpetually managing many, complex, long-term initiatives.  The notion of “managing changes” is virtually obsolete.  In today’s world you must “lead change.”  Organizational change management is a core leadership competency, that anyone who wants to be a successful leader must have skill in.  It cannot be delegated to a consultant.

[i] Kotter, J. P. (2012). Leading Change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

[ii] Kouzes, J. M., Posner, B. Z.  (2008). The Leadership Challenge (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

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