Step 5 of Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change is: Enable Action by Removing Barriers. From the website it continues: Remove obstacles to change, change systems or structures that pose threats to the achievement of the vision.
What does this mean?
Whenever a major change is initiated, a new vision is presented. If the new vision is to be successfully adopted, then new structures and systems also need to be adopted. This means that old structures and systems need to eliminated or radically overhauled.
Leadership’s job is to communicate the new vision (Step 4). The rest of the organization’s job is figure out how to achieve this new vision. This is where existing structures and systems must be closely examined. Then, they need to be eliminated, replaced, and/or updated.
To achieve this successfully, real two-way communication needs to take place. Employees need to be able to communicate openly about existing systems and structures. Leadership needs to hear from the people who know which systems and structures are obstacles. Leadership needs to support and empower the organization’s employees to make these changes.
In a perfect world, this communication channel already exists and is easily implemented.
In reality, there is often a gap between leadership and the employees.
Human nature often interferes with the perfect world scenario of open and honest communication:
- Territory is protected
- Fear of losing respect or one’s job prevents open communication
- It’s easier to go along with the crowd than to stand for principled change
If an organization is serious about making a real change, then the barriers of imperfect communication need to be eliminated.
The majority of people are reasonable and will accept change if they understand the vision and can contribute meaningfully towards its implementation. In other words, people need to be heard. They need to be listened to. They need to see that their concerns and ideas are understood and acted upon.
If that occurs, then the follow will happen:
- Systems and structures that need changing will change
- Systems and structures that need eliminating will be eliminated
- Systems and structures that need radical overhauling will be overhauled
- Systems and structures than need minor tweaking will be tweaked
This will only occur if a good process is in place for leaders to hear and understand the real concerns of those most effected by the new vision.
New Vision+ Old Systems & Structures = Failure
New Vision + New Systems & Structures = Success
Step 4 of Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change is to communicate the vision.
Step 5 of Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change is to remove the barriers.
Steve Weber is the Change Ambassador. Steve works with organizations specifically on Steps 4 & 5. He works as leadership’s voice in communicating Step 4. He works as leadership’s ears in Step 5. Steve gives employees an opportunity to be heard. He helps leadership understand the barriers that prevent the new vision from succeeding.