“The only constant in life is change.” -Heraclitus
Leading Change is one of the classic manuals on change management. First published in 1996 and updated in 2012, the concepts have remained relevant to modern leadership.
Leading Change is divided into 3 parts: The Change Problem, the Eight-Stage Process, and Implications for the Twenty-first Century. Within part 1 we learn about why transformation efforts fail and factors that differentiate failures from successful efforts.
Part 2 accounts for much of the book. In it, the reader learns the classically taught 8-stage process of leading change: establishing a sense of urgency, creating a guiding coalition, developing a vision and strategy, communicating the change vision, empowering employees for broad-based action, generating short-term wins, consolidating gains and producing more change, and anchoring new approaches in the culture. Each chapter explains the concept through the lens of successful and unsuccessful change efforts. While many of these concepts will seem familiar, it was the final step that addresses culture that surprised me. As Dr. Kotter explains, culture plays a role in many of the prior steps but trying to change culture is tackled last. Many leadership books and articles focus on the need to change culture first. This conflicting view is well explained and inherently makes sense.
The final section tackles our modern work environment. Given the challenges we have faced as health-professions educators during the greatest pandemic in modern times, the chapters feel particularly important. We will continue to face change, both large and small, brought on by a quickly changing, volatile, and uncertain future. As leaders within our departments and programs, adopting these habits of mind will serve us and our learners well.
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