The Heart of Change

In this intelligently-conceived, succinctly-presented book, authors John P. Kotter and Dan S. Cohen consider eight steps they deem important in bringing about large-scale organizational change. Their categories are increasing urgency, building the guiding team, getting the vision right, communicating for buy-in, empowering action, creating short-term wins, not letting up, and making change stick. The Deloitte team, sponsors of this volume, interviewed over two hundred people representing organizations on four continents.

The authors gleaned from these interviews the thirty-four case studies included in The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations, which is divided into eight sections, one for each of their categories. The book analyzes each case study and encourages reader interaction. Chapters end with summary pages containing the classifications “What Works,” “What Does Not Work,” and “Stories to Remember.” This arrangements lends clarity to an already crystal-clear presentation. Kotter and Cohen contend that although analysis and rational considerations drive most organizational attempts at significant change, ultimately human emotions dictate the final outcomes. To ignore human feelings is to dehumanize the process of organizational change, a strategy destined for defeat.

The authors’ examples are vivid and memorable. Typical is the story of a huge organization that bought gloves nationally from 424 different suppliers. Some pairs sold for five dollars, others, virtually identical, for seventeen or more. The CEO brought in 424 pairs of gloves, each labeled with their price, and piled them on a table in the board room. He made his point in a way that no one was likely to forget: visually.