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Leading Change (Step 2) – Create the Guiding Coalition

In This Article

(Click the links below to move easily to sections of this article)
Why Senior Leaders Need Help to Make Change
How to Create an Effective Guiding Coalition
How to Empower the Guiding Coalition to Make Change
Conclusion
Video: Creating the Guiding Coalition
Quiz: How Well Do You Understand the Guiding Coalition
Leading Change in the Workplace Article Series
Member Content: Additional Resources

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Why Senior Leaders Need Help to Make Change

red button with the word help written on itIn my previous blog post on leading change, I discussed the first step of John Kotter’s eight-step leading change model.

This first step requires senior leaders to create a sense of urgency in the organization to gain the cooperation of affected stakeholders including employees and lower level managers. 

Once senior leaders have created a sense of urgency in the organization, the next step is for senior leaders to create a guiding coalition (change oversight team).

This is the second step of the leading change model:

Chart_John Kotter Model Leading ChangeChart Reference:  John P. Kotter, Leading Change, Harvard Business School Press

Sometimes senior leaders make the mistake of believing that their superior power in an organization is all that it takes to make change happen. In reality, power in every organization is distributed among all of its stakeholders.

Senior leaders who ignore the value of critical stakeholders will have minimal success with their change effort. Employees at all levels can sabotage a change initiative.

Generally, change has to be sponsored at the top of an organization, but it needs to be driven at the bottom and middle levels of an organization. For this reason, forming a guiding coalition (change leadership or change oversight team) is critical to the long term viability of any change effort.

Senior leaders cannot implement change alone. They need willing stakeholders. Click To Tweet

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How to Create an Effective Guiding Coalition

The success of the guiding coalition in helping you to implement a change effort largely depends on two factors.

The first factor is the quality of the members that you appoint to this team. An effective guiding coalition has the right mix of individuals at different levels of your organization with the following characteristics:

John Kotter Change Model, Guiding Coalition© Business Consulting Solutions LLC

The second factor is the quality of sponsorship, continuing support and attention that you give to the coalition. It is essential that you empower your coalition with enough organizational power to lead the change effort and keep it on target through its various stages. You must also stay engaged with you coalition.

The importance of this second factor is minimized at times and this often leads to failed organizational change efforts.

Senior leaders cannot just announce a change and expect it to get done. They have to empower others to work on their behalf to make it happen. Click To Tweet

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How to Empower the Guiding Coalition to Make Change

the words "time for change" written on a street sign in front of a clockThere are three common mistakes that senior leaders make when appointing managers to work with them as a guiding coalition to implement change.

Avoiding these mistakes is an effective way to empower your guiding coalition to make change on your behalf.

First, senior leaders often fail to stay actively engaged with their guiding coalition after they form it. 

This is a mistake as your ongoing participation with your guiding coalition is essential to bringing about the change that you want in your organization. Without your ongoing participation, your guiding coalition will be unable to counter the inevitable resistance to change that will occur from other organizational stakeholders.

Second, senior leaders can doom the coalition’s effectiveness by appointing the wrong people to the team.

Coalition members must be skilled at what they do, be credible to others in the organization, and ideally be influential (so they can influence others to accept change). The coalition members must also trust each other and egos and backbiting must be closely managed.  If the guiding coalition cannot work together, the change effort is doomed to failure!

The coalition composition must also have strong line-leadership membership. To encourage organizational buy-in, you must resist the temptation to “stack” the coalition membership with high-level staff positions. Some staff positions may be necessary but the team should primarily be composed of actual front line and middle managers who are effective leaders and managers. Putting a dual focus on both management and leadership capabilities will give your coalition vision (big picture) and process (detail) capabilities.

Third, senior leaders can harm their coalition by giving it a weak start.

To help your coalition ensure that it starts off on the right foundation.  Appoint smart and credible people and structure the coalition appropriately so it can be effective. 

This begins with letting the team work outside of the normal hierarchy with a direct reporting line to you for the change effort.  This is necessary to ensure that decisions are made for the good of the overall organization.  Finally, allowing the coalition to participate in off-site team building activities is an effective means for coordinating team efforts and keeping the group focused.

Senior leaders cannot implement change alone. They need smart, credible, and influential people at all levels of the organization to work with them. Click To Tweet

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Conclusion

the words "the end" are written on a chalk boardIf you perform the various activities of this step correctly, it will increase the likelihood of your coalition’s success. 

This will require you to (1) stay engaged with your coalition throughout the change effort (2) appoint the right individuals to the coalition and (3) structure the coalition appropriately.

With an effective guiding coalition in place, you can then move to the third step of the leading change model, Developing a Vision and Strategy.


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Video: Creating the Guiding Coalition


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Quiz: How Well Do You Understand the Guiding Coalition


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Leading Change in the Workplace Article Series


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Member Content: Additional Resources


Senior leaders cannot implement change alone. They need partners in responsible leadership positions who have organizational expertise and credibility to work with them. Click To Tweet
Written by Robert Tanner | Copyrighted Material | All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Robert Tanner, MBA

Welcome to my leadership blog. I'm the Founder & Principal Consultant of Business Consulting Solutions LLC, a certified practitioner of psychometric assessments, and a former Adjunct Professor of Management. As a leadership professional, I bring 20+ years of real world experience at all levels of management.

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