Change can be business CPR, but you have to do it right.
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2 min read

This story appears in the September 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations (Harvard Business School Press), John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen build on the eight-step change process from Kotter's 1996 Leading Change (Harvard Business School Press). The book relies on hundreds of interviews of senior managers at companies undergoing major change. Cohen's employer, Deloitte Consulting; did the interviewing. Kotter analyzed the results. His key finding: People change when their feelings change, not when their thoughts change.

If you're leading a company through change, say the authors, make employees feel differently by appealing to their emotions rather than making them think differently by appealing to their rational side. In practice, that means using stories, pictures, roleplaying and personal contact rather than spreadsheets, mission statements and other analytical, rational tools. For instance, one company tells how it got its employees energized to focus on customers by playing a videotape of an important customer complaining about problems with its products. Other ideas are equally specific and easy to use, in companies of any size.

Chaos Reigns

"When you personally face a business situation with an uncertain outcome, you imagine, anticipate and prepare for at least three possible outcomes so that you are not surprised by what actually happens. You do this: always, frequently, occasionally, rarely." That is one of 20 questions in a Volatility Leadership Assessment included in Leading on the Edge of Chaos: The 10 Critical Elements for Success in Volatile Times (Prentice Hall Press) by Emmett C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy. Only after you test your ability to lead in chaotic times do the bestselling co-authors of 1997's Leadership IQ (Wiley) recommend tackling the 10-step how-to in this book. The assessment will help you identify areas you need to work on, while the how-to helps your chaos-calming skills. To get you started, any answer other than "always" to the above question means you could stand some improvement.

Austin, Texas, writer Mark Henricks has covered business and technology for leading publications since 1981.


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