Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Gordon Brown, vision and the heart of change

All the debate about Gordon's vision, about change and aspiration has got me thinking. A few years ago I read John Kotter's excellent Heart of Change. Kotter argues that leading change in complex organisations is not easy and that traditional models have been based on a flawed concept of 'vision.' Kotter outlines the following eight stages that need to be gone through in order to ensure change takes place:

Step 1 - Increase urgency.
. Leaders use compelling visions that others can touch, see and feel, look for ways to reduce complacency and identify compelling opportunities. People start telling each other that things need changing

Step 2 - Build the guiding team.
A group powerful enough to guide a big change is formed and they start to work together well. The group consists of powerful ‘change agents’ including those who know enough about the issues facing the school, those who can do something about them and those who care enough to get the job done.

Step 3 - Get the vision right.
The guiding team develops the right vision and strategy. They develop compelling possible ‘futures’ that respond to the heart as well as the head. They link bold visions to bold strategies and find ways of involving others in the ‘visioning’ process.

Step 4 - Communicate for buy-in.
People begin to buy into the change, and this shows in their behaviour. Communications are simple, heart-felt and appeal to people’s emotions. New ‘visionary’ behaviours are modelled especially by leaders.

Step 5 - Empower action.
More people feel able to act, and do act, on the vision. Converts are rewarded and supported and are used to influence cynics. Barriers to progress are identified and gradually removed. People receive feedback which helps them to relate better to the vision.

Step 6 - Create short term wins.
Wins which touch the emotions come thick and fast. Successes speak to influential players who may not be fully engaged. Momentum builds as people try to fulfil the vision, while fewer and fewer resist change.

Step 7 - Don’t let up.
People make wave after wave of changes until the vision is fulfilled. Urgency and support are maintained. Distractions are reduced. Opportunities and resources supporting the vision are taken up.

Step 8. - Make change stick.

Can Kotter's model work in government? Does Gordon need a vision or does he need to create a sense of urgency?

1 comment:

Matt W said...

I don't especially like that list.
I think it looks like a way of implementing change without letting the little people have any input.

It is top down.

It is built around imposing the vision of a small group on the larger group.

Communication is just to convince the people of something that has already been decided by the leadership ("for buy-in").

Communication should be to help identify the vision, that can then be reviewed and made practical by the leadership. A top down "buy-in or bugger off" approach is only suitable when people have real alternatives - not suitable for a government.

Very manipulative.

It almost smacks of the "rapid change then managerial enforcement" model used by (I think) Ian MacGregor at British Steel.

Perhaps the approach can be justified when a revolution is necessary - British Steel above or perhaps Labour at the start of the Blair era may be good examples.

On the smallish change programmes I have I've always ussed a more consultative and "sell the benefits" approach.