change management

How to Implement Change

Altering processes and norms can be a challenge for anyone, but it can be especially taxing for leaders who work with volunteers. Establish change too quickly and you risk losing people; don’t change at all and you become stale. A large part of my undergraduate studies focused on change management, but one author’s stuck with me more than any other: John Kotter.

John Kotter developed an 8 step process for change that I have found to be incredibly useful when it comes to change management. Perhaps it will benefit your area of focus as well. Here are the 8 steps in the change process:

1. Establish a sense of urgency

The first step is to identify the area where change is needed. In order to understand the opportunity ahead, we need to understand exactly why we can’t stay where we are. The time to look to the future is most beneficial when we understand the problem with the present. This becomes the catalyst for the change. Pastor Bill Hybels explains this fantastically well:

2. Form a guiding coalition

Once there is a sense of urgency within the team, establish a group of people who have the ability to lead the change effort with you. You have probably heard that changing ingrained traditions is like trying to steer a ship or push a boulder – it takes time to gather momentum. It’s slow. The stronger your support team leaders, the more power there is to move the boulder from the outset. You might be able to do it on your own, but it’s certainly more effective with a team.

3. Create a vision

I am a big fan of Bill Hybels, and I love the way that he describes vision: “Vision is a picture of the future that creates passion in people.” In order to move people from “here to there”, those people need to know where it is that they are going. A good leader allows as much autonomy as possible, and a clear vision enables team members to use their own initiative to fulfill it.

4. Communicate the vision

It’s one thing to have a vision, but it’s meaningless if it is not communicated effectively. Use every possible way to communicate the vision and strategies and teach new behaviours by example. It is also beneficial to spend time communicating the vision to allow people time to process any instability that may lay ahead.

5. Empower others to act on the vision

At this point, you must remove any obstacles to the change process. Adjust any systems and/or structures that could seriously undermine the vision. Encourage your team to take risks, pursue out-of-the-box ideas and generally use their initiative to achieve the vision. We all feel most part of a team when we get to contribute with our own ideas.

6. Plan for and create short-term wins

Without short-term wins, people can grow tired of a change process Рparticularly a long one. By using SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Timed), you can plan for visible improvements. Recognise and reward team members involved in those improvements.

7. Consolidate improvements and produce still more change

As change starts to take place, the boulder begins to roll. Momentum increases, and as a result, more modifications become possible. With successful implementation comes credibility – use this increased credibility to change any systems, structures or policies that don’t fit the vision. These changes will become more solidified as new members join the team.

8. Embed new approaches

Highlight the connection between the change and success within the team. As this continues, the change will eventually become strong enough to replace the old habits that initiated it in the first place.


How can you apply this in your teams? Do you have any questions or comments? If so, let me know!



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