My “Leading Change” Story

Tomorrow Professor John Kotter visits my workplace, to see how successful we’ve become at using his model to create real, lasting change.  (link to the press release) Today I found Rogue Polymath’s post about what reading Leading Change did for him, and his post prompted me to write “My Leading Change Story.”

I can’t remember how I found the book (and that’s odd because I can usually tell you exactly how I found each book on my shelf) but I first read Leading Change in 2005.

I had just entered a newly created position as the Theory of Constraints Project Engineer for a more than 700 person department.   My job: Implement Theory of Constraints principles throughout the department.  I had a huge job on my hands, lots of idealism and very little experience in change management; I needed help.

Then, somehow, I found Leading Change.  I read it, loved it and in my excitement promptly formed my own Guiding Coalition.  I recruited deputies from each area of the department to serve, I set up meeting, worked on a vision and people came to my Guiding Coalition…for a while.

My Guiding Coalition members, rightly, lost interest in spending their limited time listening to me tell them how to make my change.  I hadn’t built the sense of urgency.  I’d jumped straight to the Guiding Coalition, ignored a vision other than my own, refused to empower people and never captured a single win for them.  I had tried to drive people and driving people never works for long.  I learned that lesson hard.

My first attempt at Leading Change was such a huge failure I should say it again:

My first attempt at Leading Change was a huge failure.

Why did I fail? I hadn’t followed the model.  I hadn’t built a sense of urgency.  I didn’t yet understand how to make it work (i.e., the difference between driving people and driving change).

In 2007, on my second try at Leading Change, I had the opportunity to work with the newly formed command Guiding Coalition.  In that group I found people who’d brought their own sense of urgency with them to every meeting.  They’d applies to be there and were grateful for the opportunity to lead change.

What a difference their inner energy made!

They were coming to the Guiding Coalition not because they “had to” but because they “got to.”  They were focused and ready to drive change, and they immediately started to make a difference.

In my years with our Guiding Coalition, I’ve had the privilege to learn:

  • what it looks like when you’ve created a compelling vision and communicated that vision well
  • what if feels like to empower others to take action and then capture, celebrate and consolidate their wins
  • and what is means to everyone involved and everyone affected when you embed the successes in the culture.

Everyone who’s been a part of our Leading Change journey should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished.

I know I’m proud to be associated with all of them.

Let’s keep driving change by Leading Change.  Who’s with me?

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3 thoughts on “My “Leading Change” Story

  • March 19, 2010 at 1:44 pm
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    I’m with you! And not because I’m overly enamored by Dr. Kotter’s visit (although it was very impactful for me), but really because the 8-step process is like a recipe card. If you just follow the steps, you will be successful “Leading Change.”

    The process, people, and momentum are on our side 🙂

  • March 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm
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    BTW, Great job today! You appeared as if you were “in the zone.”

  • March 21, 2010 at 3:50 pm
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    You’re going to fail sometime so it might as well be in the beginning. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Great job April!

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