• Tara Humphrey

Lessons From Peter Kotter: 4 Key Insights To Support A Successful Change Process

For all of you that have studied change, I know you will be familiar with Peter Kotter and his article: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. This is a fantastic article which features his 8 steps to transforming your organisation, and I studied this in my MBA from 2014 – 2016. Having re-read this article recently within The Harvard Business Review 10 Must Reads on Change; I now see this with a slightly different lens, as I am now sitting firmly in the seat as a healthcare leader, here are my key insights on supporting change.

1. Transformation is a process and not an event. It advances through stages that build on each other, and it can take years.

My particular interest lies in supporting workforce transformational change in primary care, and I have been a part of the Community Education Provider Networks for almost 4 years.

While significant progress has been made, there is still a long road ahead of us.

Trying to adapt the workforce and how training is delivered and designed certainly is a process of constantly strategising and analysing; what approaches are most effective, who we need on the team, how we respond to last-minute opportunities, how we can operate in the public sector with an entrepreneurial mindset, how we can work collaboratively when trying to bring sometimes 40+ organisations with different operating structures and cultures together and how to plan long-term on annual budgets are just a few of the elements we need to constantly address.

My mantra is ‘slow and steady wins the race’ but often there is a pressure to deliver immediate results, so when I re-read Kotter's article, it gave me the wider perspective I sometimes overlook, and I hope this does the same for other leaders too.

2. We must invest in studying the stages and pitfalls of change to boost our chances of success.

Writing my blog posts is one way I try to further my understanding. I also study and teach the stages of change, leadership and project management. It’s here I reflect on the mistakes I have made and share my lessons learnt, and this has really helped improve my performance as a business owner and as a business consultant.

I encourage you to find an outlet to share, debate, study and reflect the changes and projects you are leading. You could start a blog, write a regular piece in your organisation's newsletter, mentor another colleague, start a book club, keep your own personal work diary or you could even just speak up in your next meeting to provide a perspective that others may not have considered.

3. Be credible in your communications, maximise every vehicle to communicate the vision, tell stories, meet in person, be real, be you and talk your talk. Many colleagues feel issuing one, or an ad-hoc newsletter is their communications strategy, and it is here the above sentiments come in to play. We can’t be shy when trying to communicate the change we are trying to implement. At every opportunity, we need to be sharing what we are doing, why we are doing it, how we are doing it, and why we need the help of others.

Make it easy for people to participate and don’t invest all your time in writing complicated strategic plans or emails. Get out from behind your computer, make your project visible, talk to people like you would a friend, and when you do have to put pen to paper be creative, be bold and be different.

4. Don’t underestimate how hard it can be to drive people out of their comfort zones. I have attended many leadership workshops where we are advised to speak to people’s pain points, but often they simply aren’t ready (check out my blog on the real reason people struggle with change)

I believe here we must be patient, remain positive, be personal with our approach and share what is working and what can be better when we work together.

I hope this week’s post either reaffirms where you are performing well, provides some food for thought or stimulates some new ideas and if you are looking for support to move your project or business idea to the next stage, our mastermind may be for you. Details can be found here.