Bookcase: Leading change

• John Kotter • RRP $42.99 • Harvard Business Review Press

Leadership guru John P Kotter wrote his original version of Leading Change back in 1996. It became best seller. He’s reviewed what he wrote and added new preface.
Kotter believes, according to the preface, that despite the magnitude of organisational change and its accelerated pace, the eight change mistakes leaders make and which he identified almost two decades ago, are the same today and still the greatest obstacles to effective change management. These mistakes, individually, might not be so costly in “slower-moving and less competitive world”, but stability is no longer the norm and it won’t be again for long time to come, he ventures.
This new edition of Leading Change is, therefore, reminder rather than revelation. If you have read the book the following two paragraphs are reminder of Kotter”s eight most common organisational change errors. If you haven’t read the original, then this list might be something more personally revealing.
Too much complacency; failure to create sufficiently powerful guiding coalition; underestimating the power of vision; undercommunicating the vision by factor of 10 or even 1000; allowing obstacles to block the new vision; failing to create short term wins; premature victory declarations; and, failing to firmly anchor changes in corporate culture.
The consequences of these oversights and omissions are, Kotter argues, significant. They include new strategies not being properly implemented; acquisitions not achieving expected synergies; reengineering becoming protracted and costly; downsizing failing to control costs; and, quality programmes not delivering hoped-for results.
These now somewhat self-evident truths are probably still true. But I’m not sure they are as much at the heart of change leadership competencies as they were. The value of the book lies, and always did, in the explanatory flesh surrounding each revelation and case studies that seemed to prove the points. Some newer, more contemporary examples would more convincingly have made the point that the argument is indeed still relevant and the mistakes still prevalent in today’s organisations.
Leading Change is the book for which Kotter is best known and perhaps most admired. little more than just new preface would have suggested that there is more to this reprint than just marketing exercise to generate few dollars without much additional new thought or effort. –

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