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John Kotter's Change Management Model

Posted by Joe Antle on August 28, 2017 12:00 PM EDT
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Award-winning author, Harvard professor, and change management expert, John Kotter's best advice for driving improvements in population health management....

...would most certainly include applying his eight steps methodology to the challenge.  While in previous blogs, I and others have espoused the wisdom of the collective impact model, Kotter's eight steps would be another powerful and proven way to make meaningful progress at scale to driving improvements in population health using the emerging population health management model.

Having spent the bulk of my career in media management roles, I became quite a fan of a number of great researchers and authors.  Among my favorites from that era of changing organizational models in order to create more urgency, or reduce costs of archaic processes, find new solutions to bring to our advertising customers or to improve execution in writing and in advertising design and sales are:  Tom Peters, Edwards Demming, Michael Hammer, Clayton Christensen and John Kotter.  These are all great writers, with consistent messages on the importance of finding and deploying changes in various components of the business model that large media companies should embrace in order to cope with the ever-increasing impact of new media and new technology platforms for information and knowledge exchange.

When I think of my new passion, finding ways to improve population health at scale the author whose writing seems to be the easiest to apply and is the most in alignment with the principles of collective impact is John Kotter.  Kotter's change management model is very flexible. While it is most directly applicable to organizations with clear boundaries and hierarchies, it's equally relevant to cross-organizational efforts to achieve large changes that affect many organizations or changes which organizations can impact on behalf of specific populations or affected people-so the obvious connection to collective impact and large scale changes affecting many people are very much adaptable to Kotter's eight step model.

In fact, of his many books involving how to apply change principles to drive positive impact, my favorite is the parable, or fable, called Our Iceberg is Melting, which he wrote in 2006, right before massive changes in the economy, financial markets and all manner of things including the Affordable Care Act.

Here's a short description of this great little book:

Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions by John Kotter

The fable is about a penguin colony in Antarctica. A group of beautiful emperor pen­guins live as they have for many years. Then one curious bird discovers a potentially devastating problem threatening their home—and pretty much no one listens to him. 

 Our Iceberg Is Melting is based on pioneer­ing work that shows how Eight Steps produce needed change in any sort of group. It’s a story that can be enjoyed by anyone while at the same time providing invaluable guidance for a world that just keeps moving faster and faster.

So, the colonies of penguins, affected disruptively by climate change, become a community of determined survivors, even thrivers, facing a social community challenge-their iceberg is melting!  By applying Kotter's eight principles of large scale and dramatic change, the penguins are able to find a solution that makes their lives better. It's pretty easy to see how this can apply to population health management and the crisis of aging population and other factors creating enormous disruption.

The following details the eight steps in Kotter's model.  Steps that truly could be healthy steps towards better and more sustained solutions to creating healthier populations:

John Kotter’s 8 Step Model for Change Management

1 CREATE A SENSE OF URGENCY:  Help others see the need for change through a bold, aspirational opportunity statement that communicates the importance of acting immediately.

2 BUILD A GUIDING COALITION:  A volunteer army needs a coalition of effective people – born of its own ranks – to guide it, coordinate it, and communicate its activities.

3 FORM A STRATEGIC VISION AND INITIATIVES:  Clarify how the future will be different from the past and how you can make that future a reality through initiatives linked directly to the vision.

4 ENLIST A VOLUNTEER ARMY:  Large-scale change can only occur when massive numbers of people rally around a common opportunity.  They must be bought-in and urgent to drive change – moving in the same direction.

5 ENABLE ACTION BY REMOVING BARRIERS:  Removing barriers such as inefficient processes and hierarchies provides the freedom necessary to work across silos and generate real impact.

6 GENERATE SHORT-TERM WINS:  Wins are the molecules of results. They must be recognized, collected and communicated – early and often – to track progress and energize volunteers.

7 SUSTAIN ACCELERATION:  Press harder after the first successes. Your increasing credibility can improve systems, structures and policies. Be relentless with initiating change after change until the vision is a reality.

 8 INSTITUTE CHANGE:  Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success, making sure they continue until they become strong enough to replace old habits.

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