DBC - "Leading Change" & “The Heart of Change” by John P. Kotter

Druid’s Book Club

Quick Take: Both are great reads on the process of managing change within an organization. Lots of great examples


Longer Take:


I just finished reading “Leading Change” and “The Heart of Change” by John P. Kotter.


Both books are on the process of implementing and managing change within an organization. “Leading Change” was written in 1996. “The Heart of Change” in 2012. The first takes readers through an eight-step process to manage change for positive results. Whereas, “The Heart of Change” tells real-life stories of people and organizations that have successfully implemented each of those eight steps. I decided to read the books together in parallel, which I thought added much to my enjoyment of both books. Reading the successful examples (plus analysis of why those examples were successful) in “The Heart of Change” helped bring the ideas home for me.

While neither of these books are filled with thrills that will keep you on the edge of your seat, I found the principles to be extremely applicable to any business. With the ever-increasing pace of change in the world, it is essential that every organization understands how to navigate this change.


Kotter breaks down the process of managing change into eight digestible steps. (1) Establishing a sense of urgency (2) Creating the guiding coalition (3) Developing a vision and strategy (4) Communicating the change vision (5) Empowering employees (6) Generating short-term wins (7) Consolidating gains (8) Anchoring new approaches in the culture. I found these steps took much of the mystery out of navigating the murky waters of change.


While I know large-scale change is never a simple process, the many techniques and examples used by Kotter will empower people at any level of an organization. You will see that it has been done before and therefore you can do the same.


These are probably not books you will rave about at a party, but an excellent read for anyone hoping to ride the waves of change.



Some of My Favourite Quotes:


“We fail at change efforts not because we are stupid … We fail because we haven’t sufficiently experienced highly successful change.”


“…successful transformation is 70 to 90 percent leadership and only 10 to 30 percent management.”


“People will find a thousand different ingenious ways to withhold cooperation from a process that they sincerely think is unnecessary…”


“A hero CEO doesn’t work … there aren’t enough hours in the day for even the strongest executive to accomplish change single-handedly.”


“One simple question – is this in line with the vision? – can help eliminate hours, days, or even months of torturous discussion.”


“Great leaders know how to make ambitious goals look doable.”


“Whenever you cannot describe the vision driving a change initiative in five minutes or less and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest, you are in for trouble.”


“Nothing undermines the communication of a change vision more than the behavior on the part of key players that seems inconsistent with the vision.”


“Good communication is not just data transfer. You need to show people something that addresses their anxieties, that accepts their anger, that is credible in a very gut-level sense, and that evokes faith in the vision.”


“In successful transformations, the answer is, at one level, very simple: When you have too much work to do, jettison some.”


“In a change effort, culture comes last, not first. Enterprises often try to shift culture first. The logic is straightforward. If the culture is inward-looking, risk-averse, and slow, we’ll change that first. Then nearly any new vision can be implemented more easily. Sounds reasonable, but it doesn’t work that way. A culture truly changes only when a new way of operating has been shown to succeed over some minimum period of time.”

Druid’s Top Entrepreneurship Lesson: Today, change is inevitable. Managing your organization through that change is not easy, but it is also not a black box of mystery that only a select few can figure out. Anyone can implement and manage change with the right tools.




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