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In our text Our Iceberg Is Melting, Kotter provides a story-based scenario of a situation needing a change intervention. Review the reading from our text and create a PowerPoint presentation about how Kotter’s first four steps were applied in the story and then reflect on an organizational change effort that you are familiar with from the past (failed, successful, or somewhere in between) using Kotter’s first four steps to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of the change effort. Make sure to include what was done well, what was done poorly, and what was lacking in the change effort.



Kotter’s Step 1 through 4 (Provide 5 – 8 slides) Sources should be cited according to APA style.

Required Reading:

Textbook: Our Iceberg Is Melting, Pages 1-81 (Stop at the section titled “Good News, Bad News”) and Pages 128-130

Additional Reading:

The purpose of this course is to teach aspiring leaders how to lead organizational change efforts effectively. If we made a “short list” of what skills defined effectiveness in leadership, leading organizational change would certainly be on that list. This is particularly true given that most organizational change efforts fail, and if leaders fail in an organizational change effort, it will hurt the organization and undermine their ability to lead in the future. The reason for this failure is that most leaders do not know how to lead organizational change efforts effectively. They attempt to lead organizational change efforts through dictating decisions, and that just is not enough—in fact, it is the wrong strategy for organizational change effort success. A better leadership strategy is to lead with influence, earned trust, strong communication, and an alignment of organizational resources to support the change effort. You will see the effects of both strategies throughout this course.

The best-researched model to lead organizational change effectively is John Kotter’s eight step model (Kotter, 2012). Kotter’s eight steps are:

1. Establishing a sense of urgency

2. Creating the guiding coalition

3. Developing a vision and strategy

4. Communicating the change vision

5. Empowering employees for broad-based action

6. Generating short-term wins

7. Consolidating gains and producing more change

8. Anchoring the new approach in the organizational culture

Great steps, but easier stated than done!

One of the strengths of Kotter’s eight-step model is that it can be used effectively to diagnose a change effort and to plan a change effort. In this course, we will do both, but in this module, we concentrate our focus on applying Kotter’s steps 1, 2, 3, and 4 in the diagnosis of a change effort, specifically diagnosing a change effort of penguins searching for a new home in the book Our Iceberg Is Melting (Kotter & Rathgeber, 2005). The book is a story of how a colony of penguins discover that their iceberg is melting and they have to move to survive. It is a fable mini-case of the kinds of issues facing leaders in organizational change efforts. It is a great read!

To get a better understanding of Kotter’s steps 1 through 4, perhaps some explanations with definitions are in order. Kotter’s first four steps are:

1. Establishing a sense of urgency

2. Creating the guiding coalition

3. Developing a vision and strategy

4. Communicating the change vision

Let’s review each. Establishing a sense of urgency is Kotter’s first step. A sense of urgency is needed, as complacency, comfort, and embedded beliefs of employees are the first hurdles for a leader to overcome in a change effort. It is easy for employees to not see the need for change until it is too late to remain in their “comfort zone” of “this is the way we have always done it here.” The deeply held embedded beliefs of employees about their work and the organizational culture fight attempts at organizational change. This is one reason dictating decisions does not work well, as it provides little power against the organizational culture. Famed management guru Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” This is particularly true in change efforts, hence the need for leaders to earn employee buy-in and hopefully employee ownership of the change effort through a solid rationale for why the change must occur. We will discuss this further in Module Three.

Creating the guiding coalition is Kotter’s second step. It is first and foremost about getting the right people involved in the key team that will drive and monitor the change effort. Leaders cannot delegate their responsibility in a change effort, but they also cannot accomplish a change effort alone. There is simply too much going on in multiple areas simultaneously for one person to lead, drive, direct, and monitor the change effort. A strong guiding coalition is the answer to these problems, as it can identity “blind spot” issues that are obstacles to the change effort, use knowledge and expertise to plan around obstacles to the change effort, influence key individuals and work groups thanks to the credibility of the group members, and monitor the change for needed interventions. We will discuss this further in Module Three.

Kotter’s third step is developing a vision and strategy, which is part of any leader’s role in a change effort. The key questions are, how will this vision and strategy development occur, and how will it be implemented? Clarity of the vision is critical in organizational change, as is the strategy to get there. Most leaders know this, but fail to realize the importance of the process in developing a vision and strategy. We will discuss this further in Module Five.

Communicating the change vision is Kotter’s fourth step. Unfortunately, many leaders treat communication as a “back-burner” issue that is not as important as the development of the vision and strategy in the change effort. Nothing could be further from the truth! When leaders discuss how they communicate the change vision, their answers provide a wide spectrum of communication modalities. Unfortunately, these modalities are almost always about one-way communication, meaning the leader tells others what to do or how to do it, and rarely about two-way communication with the viable feedback loops needed in organizational change efforts. So most leaders become uncommunicative in change efforts, and few understand that the most important communicator for employees in a change effort is the employee’s direct supervisor. Little is typically done to prepare those leaders for their communication challenges in an organizational change effort.

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