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Leading Change (Step 5): Empower Broad Based Action

In This Article

(Click the links below to move easily to sections of this article)
Empower Broad Based Action: Tackling the Barriers to Change
Why is Empowering Broad Based Action Necessary
How to Empower Broad Based Action
Conclusion
Video: Empowering Broad Based Action
Quiz: Empowering Broad Based Action
Leading Change in the Workplace Article Series
Member Content: Additional Resources

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Empower Broad Based Action: Tackling the Barriers to Change

a broken chain with the words break free shown over a sunburst backgroundIn my previous posts on John Kotter’s Eight Steps for Leading Change, I covered the roles of senior leadership and the guiding coalition in preparing the organization for a major change effort.

From creating a sense of urgency to communicating the change vision, senior leadership and the guiding coalition have mobilized the organization and prepared the various stakeholders to accept change.

With Step 5 of John’s Leading Change Model, senior leadership and the guiding coalition enter the world of implementation.  They enter difficult territory as the Devil is Always in the Details

Or, said another way, we can often agree that change is necessary. The problem occurs when we have to agree on how to make that change happen.

In Step 5, you and your guiding coalition empower broad based action.  You turn your attention to removing obstacles that do not support your change vision.

To make change happen, leaders have to actively remove organizational barriers. Click To Tweet

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Why is Empowering Broad Based Action Necessary

The word "why" and question marks repeating on a blue backgroundEmpowering broad based action is necessary. 

Many change efforts fail due to insufficient attention to this step and the result is the stalling of a change effort at the beginning stages of its implementation. 

Empowering broad based action is critical to the success of any change effort because the ties in an organization to maintaining the status quo are very strong.

Think about it! 

Over time, organizational procedures, systems, and structures were established to support the status quo.  Further, reward systems, performance measurements, employee performance, and organizational skill development have all supported the status quo.  Given these dynamics, your communication efforts alone are insufficient to make significant change lasting in the organization.

Further, not even the establishment of a talented guiding coalition to coordinate the change effort with you is sufficient to make significant change lasting in the organization. You and your coalition will have to make adjustments to your organization to remove barriers that stand in opposition to the changes you want to make.

Omitting Step 5 of the Leading Change process is similar to starting a cross country trip in the old family car without any assessment, repair, or maintenance of the vehicle.

While your older family car may still be reliable, it still needs to be checked out before you begin a long and difficult cross-country journey through areas that include desert and mountain terrains. You may need to make some repairs to your car and you’ll likely need to replace some parts altogether.

You can ignore this work and just take a chance that your decision to take this journey will work. Without any attention to your family car, however, your family vacation pictures may be social media posts of an unhappy family in a broken car on a deserted stretch of the highway.

Ignore the obstacles to change in your organization AND change will never happen. Click To Tweet

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How to Empower Broad Based Action

the word "how" shown on a white backgroundSenior leadership and the guiding coalition need an accurate understanding of the organizational barriers that hinder the change implementation. 

This is one area where your thoughtfulness in selecting your guiding coalition will help you greatly. Your selection of members from different levels of your organization who had position power, organizational credibility, functional expertise, and line leadership responsibility has given you a powerful engine to drive organizational change. Their understanding of your organization will be invaluable in helping you to understand exactly what you need to do to implement your change effectively. They truly understand how the organization operates.

Working with your guiding coalition and with other organizational stakeholders, you can collectively identify and eliminate barriers that hinder your change effort. This effort will show you the organizational processes, structures, procedures, and reward systems that you’ll need to adjust to align with your change vision.

Empowering broad based action also involves your investing in employee and managerial training and development.  This is a necessary expense, not a “nice to do” expense. Employees and managers can actively or passively resist your change effort but their resistance to what you want to do is not inevitable. Much will depend on how you lead your change effort.

People do not resist change that they believe is in their best interests. (For example, employees do not generally resist more pay, better benefits, improved work environment, etc.) Providing training not only positions your organization’s human capital to better support the change vision but it also is in their best interests as it allows them to do well in their jobs.

With this effort, it is critical that you and your guiding coalition identify the new behavior, attitudes, and skills that managers and employees in your organization need to have moving forward. With this information, you can adjust training and development programs and recognition and reward programs to align with the behavior, attitudes, and skills that are needed for your change effort.

Despite all of these efforts, however, there will probably still be some people that resist change. This resistance will likely come from the managerial level from individuals who believe they are losing some power or status with the changes you want to make. If you ignore them, these resistant managers can become significant obstacles to implementing your organizational changes.

The dynamic of managerial resistance to change is one reason why your continuing involvement in sponsoring the change effort is needed throughout each step of the leading change process. It puts everyone on notice that you are committed to making these changes and that you will not be easily distracted from this important work.

Implementing change is not only about removing barriers. It's also about helping your employees to accept and succeed with the changes you want in the organization. Click To Tweet

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Conclusion

the words "the end" are written on a chalk boardResistance to change is not always illogical.

Sometimes your managers and employees can have valid reasons for resisting changes that you want to make.

When you and your guiding coalition work with your managers and employees to integrate their valid concerns within your change effort, you will eliminate much of the resistance to change in your organization.

In those instances where managers and employees continue to resist your change efforts, you’ll have to address their behavior appropriately. (See my post, Organizational Change – 8 Reasons Why People Resist Change, for more information on how to counter resistance to change.)

The wisdom of John Kotter’s model is that it recognizes that significant organizational change does not occur easily. The first four steps of his model while challenging are still easier than Step 5 — empowering broad based action.

Think about it this way: It is easy to tell everyone to get on board the ship as it travels to a new direction.  It is harder, however to keep them engaged and working together compatibly on your journey to get there.

Forces will conspire–intentionally and unintentionally–to derail your change effort. By empowering broad based action, you and your guiding coalition can avoid having your change effort suffer the same fate as the Titanic!

The people who resist change may seem irrational to you. However, as they see it, your resistance — to their resistance — seems irrational. You need a thoughtful change process to get their cooperation. Click To Tweet

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Video: Empowering Broad Based Action


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Quiz: Empowering Broad Based Action


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Leading Change in the Workplace Article Series


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Member Content: Additional Resources


If you ignore the obstacles to change in your organization, then change will never happen. People can always find ways to actively and passively resist you. 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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