Change: Developing a Vision of Change

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Change management — today is about developing a vision of change.

As a reminder, we’re currently discussing John Kotter’s eight-step model.

The last two times we’ve talked about the importance of creating a sense of urgency and that you actually need a High Performing leadership team to make it happen.

If you don’t have both of those things, then change will fail. My favorite saying of them all, is:

“Grass doesn’t grow faster when you pull on it”.

Again as a reminder, here are the eight steps.

We’ve already discussed the first two, so now the third is to develop the vision of change. We’ll also discuss communicating that vision of change. 

Later, in the fifth set, getting obstacles out of the way will be a priority. The sixth set will be about short-term goals, while the seventh will delve into consolidating successes and deriving further changes. Finally, the eighth step examines how to embed change in the corporate culture.

We’ve talked about the need for vision in other blog posts. But this one is about developing the vision of change. Recall the first blog posts in this series; I needed to drive change in Telefonica’s online area and needed a vision for that change.

We’re simply going to put a lot of the revenue — the revenue responsibility of the group — on our shoulders.

We will become the Telefonica group’s most important sales and communication channel.

And I think that’s the case today. Not that only the team under my leadership more than ten years ago can take all credit for that, of course. Many teams have worked on this over the last decade. But we set the foundation and got there, and that was the vision’s point.

A vision serves as a basis for decision-making.

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Video: How to develop a vision according to John Kotter

Our vision motivated everyone at that time to run in the right direction and accept unpleasant steps (E.g., renegotiations: how is the media played out and on which channels? What forms of media shall we use, etc.).

The entire affiliate marketing was such a huge black box. We needed to turn it around and renegotiate and look in-depth into the topic to understand it. 

Were we being ripped off by agencies, or how could we manage the agencies better? Are we paying too much money there? Should we instead do it differently?

How can we make that more transparent than just pouring money in and hoping that some affiliate will then manage to shovel money or customers over to our site?

The vision of change is like glue.

And the vision you develop must be meaningful to the team members. It’s like the glue that holds everything together. It must be imaginable.

Yes, I can imagine that we will become the largest and most important sales channel in the future. That must be worth striving for. Yes, I would like to contribute to making the company more profitable. And also that the jobs are secured. 

Above all, I can imagine the customer has it much easier to order their products online (for example, to reserve them online and pick them up in the physical store).

What was so big and new back then is now the norm — we called it Omni Channel. At least we used to be way ahead of the game.

The vision of change in change must be feasible.

This vision has to be feasible, and one of the first steps we took at the time was to launch the possibility for a customer to check all stores throughout Germany.

In which Telefonica O2 store is there still an iPhone available? It’s enormously motivating when you see that it works — that two sales channels that previously worked against each other, like your own company’s brick-and-mortar retail and the online businesses, can suddenly work together.

How much better is the company when we work together?

That must be focused on, too. You must clearly formulate what it’s about. One of the values of Telefonica O2 back then was clear. So, everything we did had to be clear and understandable.

That applied to the language on the outside and the inside. These are all things we need for a vision. And clearly, it must be easy to communicate and quick to communicate. Essentially, we want to make a much bigger contribution to the company’s bottom line while making it as easy as possible for customers.

That’s relatively simple to communicate.

People understand that. Onliners were already a little bit ahead of the rest. Of course, communicating such a vision of change is a prerequisite in change management. The rule here is that you can’t under-communicate.

If the team members don’t understand, and if your colleagues don’t understand what it’s all about, then you don’t have to speak up. Instead, you must speak more often.

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Video: Communication of the vision is extremely important – John Kotter

That’s where you might have to use other formats.

What I often use is not me talking but having team members explain what they think needs to be done. 

Why do I do that?

Well, first, I do this because then someone sits at eye level and talks with his colleagues. That means they’ve also dealt with it. A basic rule is that the more people you use to communicate the vision at the various levels, the better it will be.

Change agents.

We changed agents in the past, and we still do that today. Take some person from the front line: a co-worker. Not only train them in communication but make them part of the change process.

They are like a buffer between management and the employee level when things go wrong. They can explain why this is the right thing to do with a completely different standing, whereas, as a manager or executive, you’re at a disadvantage. The point here is that the vision needs to reach the last person.

And a vision always means:

What does the vision mean to me?

You can’t communicate too much. It’s better to do one more round than one less, because communication and communicating the vision of change is also a basic requirement.

So we have once again:

The urgency has to be clear, and everybody has to understand that. Everybody has to want it, and everybody has to internalize that.

The second thing is, you need a high-performing management team. There can’t be a leaf in between. The group has to be one unit: a high-performing team. 

You need a vision of change. Where are we today? Where do we want to go?

You need to communicate that vision, and here’s the principle: you can’t communicate too much.

In the next post, we’ll talk about the remaining items, including “removing obstacles,” what that means and how to do it.

About the coach​

Kai Boyd has been a leader, trainer and facilitator since 1989. He supports leaders and their teams to work together effectively, trustfully and with ease. This involves each and everyone – in their respective roles and as people. Tailor-made formats and genuine attention enable potential to unfold and synergies to emerge.

The graduate industrial engineer, managing director and former management consultant knows the requirements of his clients from many perspectives. He works systemically, strength- and solution-oriented. Leading international teams as well as work and academic programs in the USA and the UK enable him to always contribute the international perspective.

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