Leadership and Organizational Change

Recently, while reading a book on Organizational Change and Project Management, I noticed a disturbing pattern.

The book I was reading discusses the creation of a central project office to manage all projects within organizations (note…it is not the book I reviewed here) and looked interesting when I saw it at the local half-price book store.

The first chapter, which provided an overview of the the topics covered in the book, started off on a bad note.  The first few paragraphs eluded to topics like “create a sense of urgency”, “develop political acumen”, “find a champion” and “master the art of persuasion”.

These topics disturb me for a few reasons…but mostly because they make me believe that the authors are trying to ‘teach’ a reader how to ‘play the game’ rather than ‘change the game’.  Organizational change should be about changing the game rather than playing it.

The book continues on about processes and ‘tips’ for getting people to ‘buy in’ to the change that needs to occur.  The authors write about ‘projectizing the organization’ to add value and ‘creating a sense of urgency’ for employees so they understand how important the change is.

As I mentioned, I have a problem with this approach.

As a leader, If i have to ‘create’ urgency for change have I been doing my job? A good leader should already have people aligned with the necessary changes and have them ready to implement change. Steve Roesler over at All Things Workplace described leaders in a recent post titled “Leadership: Facilitating The Show You Are In” as:

People who are engaged with what needs to happen while orchestrating how to make it happen.

Steve is exactly correct.

As a leader, if you are engaged with your team (and they with you), you and your team should already have a grasp on what changes are needed and your everyone should fully understand why those changes are necessary.

If a leader is doing their job, there should be no need to ‘create a sense of urgency’…it should already exist.

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a sense of urgency by John P Kotter - Book Review | Aligning Technology, Strategy, People & ProjectsReasons for Resisting Change | Aligning Technology, Strategy, People & ProjectsNote to Self: Think before publishing | Aligning Technology, Strategy, People & ProjectsEric D. BrownBruce P. Henry Recent comment authors
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Bruce P. Henry
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While I understand the sentiment, I don’t really draw the same conclusions. It is all fine and good to say that a good leader “should already have people aligned with the necessary changes and have them ready to implement change.” But how does the leader do that exactly? Well, one way is to create a sense of urgency. And to say that if a leader is doing their job a sense of urgency already exists is just plain silly. That implies that a leader doing their job has created a sense of urgency. But that’s exactly the advice you’re arguing… Read more »

Eric D. Brown
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Hi Bruce, Thanks for the comment…good stuff and thanks for making me take a step back and think about what I said. You make some excellent points here…and are 99% correct. I think what bothered me about the book the most was the comment about ‘creating a sense of urgency’ and the description of how to ‘create’ that urgency. My thoughts, which I may not have described well in my original post, is that you shouldn’t have to ‘create’ anything….the sense of urgency should already be a part of the culture of the organization. The term ‘create’ is what bothers… Read more »

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[…] me complaining about the term ‘creating a sense of urgency’ in a previous post (see here and here)….I still don’t like the term ‘create’ but am coming to grips with […]

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