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Change by Kotter — book review with a People-Led Growth perspective.

Kotter is really moving away from the burning platform with his new book and embracing the people-led world. Here's my review from a PLG perspective.

Change by Kotter

Change is the newest book by the well-known Professor John Kotter and two of his team members from his consultancy, Kotter Inc, Vanessa Akhtar, and Gaurav Gupta.

It carries the subtitle: “How organizations achieve hard-to-imagine results in uncertain and volatile times”, which gives away what it’s all about.

The book was released in March 2021 post the Covid19 pandemic which even further underlines the need for rethinking how organizations can thrive in an uncertain world.

The first part of the book sets the scene by stating that changes happen faster and are more complex today.

We as humans are not prepared for this complexity and speed – neither is the way we traditionally have organized ourselves in the traditional hierarchy.

Therefore, we need to work with change in a different way using the principles Have to + Want to, Head + Heart, Management + Leadership, and Select few + diverse many.

In general, all the principles are about making the organizations more People-Led.

The second part of the book devotes a chapter to 7 methods to change; Strategic Planning, Digital Transformation, Restructuring, Cultural Change, M&A, Agile Methodologies, and Broad Social Initiatives.

For each of the 7 methods, the book shares successful and unsuccessful cases and provides advice on what is required to achieve hard-to-imagine results.

The third and last part of the book is summarizing what it is all about – More Leadership from More People and provides five tactics on how we may encourage people to take more leadership.

Three important take-aways

First, I like the fact that modern American business literature now promotes new way of leading businesses.

Many leaders globally are reading books from America and especially the large Universities. So, I like the fact that Burning Platforms has been replaced with a different positive mindset on change.

This is one (small) step in the right direction to make the world more People-Led.

Secondly, I learned the terms Survive vs Thrive in the context of change. I will bring these terms with me in our work to make the world People-Led.

I find terms easy to understand and probably easy to apply for most leaders in a busy day.

Lastly, I enjoyed reading part two of the books with the 7 sciences to change.

I especially enjoyed reading the examples from their consultancy practice and understand how they help customers solving these.

The cases make the book to some extent hands-on even though I have a couple of ideas for improvement as well.

Missing the "How"

The book makes me understand WHY and WHAT in relation to change. WHY; the world is changing rapidly and we need to change with it. WHAT; we must increase leadership and decrease management.

But I’m left with a lot of questions in relation to HOW.

HOW can we engage my people in large scale?

HOW can we ensure that we stick to leadership when things get tough?

HOW can we be inspired to implement leadership in my team?

HOW do we change our culture (even a chapter was dedicated to this subject)?

The book could have shared company names and quotes of the cases. It would have made them more credible and as I reader I would have understood the case for change even better.

Can I relate my business to the situation and what else can I learn from the case are some of the questions I’m left with.

I didn’t like the last part where the authors provide tactics for solving calming Survive and activating Thrive.

I think it could have been the most important chapter in the book, but it was not nailed. The chapter should have presented the readers with an easy-to-understand – easy to remember model.

Something I could leave on my office desk that would remind me every single day that I need to be a leader and not a manager.

Unfortunately, the book did not leave me with that.

Memorable quotes

These are some of the memorable quotes from the book:

  • Benjamin Franklin said: “When you are finished changing, you are finished” (p. 5)
  • In today’s world, not adapting fast enough is the greatest risk (p. 15)
  • Without enough sufficiently engaged people actually providing some leadership, it is not possible to overcome all the barriers to strategic change inside modern organizations in a timely manner (p. 57)
  • It is essentially a management solution to what is in fact more of a leadership problem (p. 115)
  • These strategic initiatives – led by employees at all levels, not senior management – drove new action, better results, communication, and celebration (p. 137)
  • Diverse mases of people are inspired to take opportunity-based action, with a real sense of urgency, because they want to make something happen. Their hearts are deeply in it. (p. 168)
  • Pushing for change from a small controlling group will never work as well as a pull from a broad group that is inspired to want to see change happen. (p. 169)
  • One could argue that of all the social movements needed in the world today, none might be more important in the long run than one that teaches humanity how to better deal with a more swiftly moving, more uncertain, and increasingly complex world. (p. 173).
  • For many reasons, what we generally find today are organizations that have an overactive Survive and an underactive Thrive. (p. 189)
  • At the more senior levels in management, one of the most important tasks will increasingly be creating the conditions that encourage leadership from everywhere. (p. 205).
  • …early movers, who uses the science of change and the playbooks created for its practical application, will develop a significant competitive advantage. (p. 206).

People-Led Growth Perspective

I would like to start this perspective by embracing the new book. I have always found the burning platform a wrong way to deal with change and the wrong way to engage people.

I have used the method once earlier in my professional life. It was unsuccessful and we failed in the change we needed to implement.

Obviously, there may have been thousands of other reasons for this – including my own competencies or profile in the situation.

But trust and positive change, leadership instead of management, is, without doubt, the way forward in the world today.

If you don’t yet know People-Led Growth, it is a methodology to drive change bottom-up.

The methodology is a very practical approach and explains how you drive the best engagement in three steps known to all leaders.

  • Strategy -> Stop planning and start exploring
  • Development -> Stop top-down and start bottom-up
  • Operation -> Stop instructing and start empowering

Reading the book Change there are a lot of similarities between People-Led Growth and the mindset presented in the book.

Should you read it?

I would recommend it to everyone who seeks a more people-centric approach to manage change in their business.

It is way better than the old change-management books by Kotter and the principles create a solid foundation, not just for change, but for business in general.

And you can buy a copy right here.

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