Friday, 15 July 2016

That's not how we do it here! by John Kotter & Holger Rathgeber - Book Review

That's not how we do it here! is a fable which addresses the issue of how organisations and the individuals within them can respond to the present phenomenon of constant change. Whereas their previous fable, Our Iceberg is Melting, tackled the issue of how to lead change in a crisis situation, illustrating Kotter's eight step process for Leading Change; this book builds on Kotter's work in Accelerate XLR8. The essence of Kotter's argument here is that that established hierarchical managerial structures do not provide the agility for organisations to respond sufficiently quickly to the demands of the ever changing world of modern business. 
The fable is set in a Meerkat colony in the Kalahari Desert. 
  1. Kotter first presents us with an established colony which has rigid leadership and management structures which are tried and tested and have seen the colony thrive in the past; and where innovative ideas are greeted with "That's not how we do it here!". However the colony is incapable of responding to the new challenges that a changing environment brings (drought, attacks by vultures).
  2. Kotter then presents us with a "Start-up" Meerkat colony where there is shared vision and shared ownership. Meerkats are given the licence to explore new ideas and to solve problems creatively. However, this colony hits problems when it grows to a size where there is a loss of accountability and a lack of the discipline that allows larger organisations to operate.
  3. Finally, Kotter presents us with his model which has features of both the established and the start-up models, thus allowing complex organisations to operate in changing environments.
At the heart of Kotter's approach is a different way of looking at the relationship between leadership and management. Organisational size and complexity demands management ; technological and other forces demand leadership. The modern era demands an approach that has the best of traditional leadership and management models. He illustrates this in the following grid:
  1. Most organisations are in the bottom right quadrant: 'well run but bureaucratic and unable to change quickly'; 
  2. Start up organisation are in the top left quadrant: 'Innovative, adaptive and energetic, but chaotic.
  3. Kotter's model is in the top right quadrant, 'Well run and Innovative, adaptive and energetic.'
This book only touches on Kotter's theory in this respect and readers would be well advised to invest in  Accelerate XLR8 for deeper insight.
Once again this is a hugely accessible book which enables leaders to help their organisations understand why there is a need for change and paints a clear picture of what that better organisation might look like once that change has come.

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