mark cerqueira well-rounded nerd

Manager Reads - The Heart of Change

Since I started reading leadership and management books Tina has been recommending I read The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations by John Kotter and Dan Cohen. Yes, that complete title is quite a mouthful!

Who recommended the book? Tina recommended this book!

Judge the book by its cover, font, page quality? The cover of The Heart of Change is a real winner: clean and endearing. The lone sad penguin on a small piece of iceberg seals [sic] the deal: this cover is awesome. This cover even ties into two other books Kotter has written which also feature penguins on them. Unlike otters which look cute but are actually nefarious, penguins are okay in my book. Inside The Heart of Change we see good decisions from the cover carry through with an eye-pleasing font selection and some thick sheets.

Thoughts on the book and the big take-aways? The Heart of Change posits that the biggest challenge when pushing for change is changing people’s behaviors. To succeed at change we must resist being purely analytical and understand the centrality of emotion in change. The book explores the eight steps to follow to produce change:

  1. Increase Urgency - Raise a feeling of urgency so that people say “let’s go,” making a change effort well positioned for launch.
  2. Build the Guiding Team - Help form a group that has the capability - in membership and method of operating - to guide a very difficult change process.
  3. Get the Vision Right - Create there might vision and strategies to guide action in all of the remaining stages of change.
  4. Communicate for Buy-In - Communicate change visions and strategies effectively so as to create both understanding and a gut-level buy-in.
  5. Empower Action - Deal effectively with obstacles that block action, especially disempowering bosses, lack of information, the wrong performance measurement and reward systems, and lack of self-confidence.
  6. Create Short-Term Wins - Produce sufficient short-term wins, sufficiently fast, to energize the change helpers, enlighten the pessimists, defuse the cynics, and build momentum for the effort.
  7. Don’t Let Up - Continue with wave after wave of change, not stopping until the vision is a reality, despite seemingly intractable problems.
  8. Make Change Stick - Be sure the changes are embedded in the very culture of the enterprise so that the new way of operating will stick.

For each of these steps the book provides real-world anecdotes of the step in action and an assortment of good things to do and things to avoid doing. Ultimately, the key is to show people something that highlights the need for change which spawn feelings that are useful for change and then watch as behaviors adjust and change begins.

Favorite quote from the book? “Urgency sustains change.”

Elevator pitch for suggesting (or not suggesting) the book? I came into The Heart of Change thinking that throwing facts and truths at people would bring about change. After putting the book down, I realize that this strategy is not a winning one or one that will promote lasting change. Whether you are a leader by definition in an organization or someone who simply wants to be an agent for change, I highly recommend this book.

Notes in Evernote? Feel free to review my notes on 🐘.

Most of the world’s wisdom is written down in its best books. Manager Reads is a series covering books on management and leadership, focusing on books that can improve your own leadership with the wisdom of others. Enjoyed this post and want to see more? Check out more at Manager Reads.