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Change and Recovery: Kotter's Eight Steps

Posted by Thomas Edwards on May 19, 2018 11:35 AM EDT
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Some time ago, as a management consultant, I spent some time reading about the best practices in driving change in organizations.  Now I find myself thinking about the similarities in the principles for driving positive change....

... in organizations as that may relate to insights in strengthening healthier lives in individuals and those in recovery from unhealthy events in their lives.

During the course of that period of self-study and reading and workshop attendance, I became a great fan of the writing of John Kotter, a Harvard professor, researcher and author on the keys to successful change initiatives in organizations of all sizes.  In the consulting I did during that period of time, most of which was in the media industry, I found Kotter's research particularly effective.  And the application of his "eight step process of successful change" had many intersects with the challenges that old media organizations beset with competition from multiple fronts from internet and technology providers of all sorts proved to be extremely relevant.

Now, my thinking is that there may be interesting parallels with the application of Kotter's "eight steps of positive change" and effective change initiatives for large groups of individuals and driving healthier populations in general.

By way of context, here's John Kotter's "eight step process of successful change" as presented in multiple articles, books and lectures:

Set the Stage

1. Create a Sense of Urgency:  Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.

2. Pull Together the Guiding Team:  Make sure there is a powerful group guiding the change-one with leadership skills, credibility, communications ability, authority, analytical skills, and a sense of urgency.

Decide What to Do

3. Develop the Change Vision and Strategy: Clarify how the future will be different from the past, and how you can make that future a reality.

Make it Happen

4.  Communicate for Understanding and Buy-in: Make sure as many others as possible understand and accept the vision and the strategy.

5.  Empower Others to Act:  Remove as many barriers as possible so that those who want to make the vision a reality can do so.

6.  Produce Short-trem Wins:  Create some visible, unambiguous successes as soon as possible.

7.  Don't Let Up:  Press harder and faster after the firs successes.  Be relentless with initiating change after change until the vision is a reality.

Make It Stick

8. Create a New Culture:  Hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, until they become stron enough to replace old traditions.

So, there you have it.  Simple rules that have proved to be common factors in many successful change efforts in organizations that Kotter has studied for decades.  The question on the table is really this:  can well-researched principles such as these have impact in driving behavior change among large populations of people who may not be bound by their presence in a specific organization?  If so, our focus could be on what might be the appropriate mechanism for applying these principles to create meaningful, measurable, sustainable and repeatable changes across large populations who have members who may be affiliated with multiple organizations yet have a common health condition to remedy or recover from chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart conditions, obesity or from other health conditions such as mental illness or substance abuse recovery.

So, my objective for today's blog entry is simply to set the stage and raise the question of how such a principle (John Kotter's eight steps change process) could be applied to reducing the impact of the health care crisis as it relates to an increasingly aging and unhealthy population.  My next blog post will be set on trying to draw the parallels and connections between one well-understand principle to another context-putting a positive dent in reducing the costs of healthcare...or put another way, driving healthier people at scale.

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