Kotter's Phase 2:
Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition
Note this revised title from phase 2 appears in Kotter's 1995 HBR article. The original title (from the book Leading Change) was: Creating the Guiding Coalition. While this may not seem like a change of great magnitude, it is. The word power tells us why most change initiatives fail at Kotter's phase 2.
In traditional change management projects, the power resides with the golden few, while the rest of the organization ends up power-less.
The Problem Illustrated
In phase 2, the organization scopes a change initiative, choosing a select-few to be involved in "guiding" the change effort.
While this may seem rational, it violates the Lawrence Principle, as articulated by Kanter:
Change is a threat when done to me, but an opportunity when done by me.
Here is another way to look at it:
The select few change agents (leaders, implementers & facilitators) are energized by their involvement and participation. The change recipients (most employees and middle managers) are de-energized by their lack of meaningful involvement and active participation.
CREATE MULTIPLE ADVISORY TEAMS
A truly representative advisory group is more powerful than you think. They are able to use their role as "representatives" to deliver realistic news to the leadership team regarding the employee and middle manager perspective of the change initiative.
It is a much different dynamic than created by the traditional core team in most initiatives. This team often loses their perspective when put on a special assignment for the initiative.
Why advisory teams work
Kotter was right to insert the term power into his phase 2 (a.k.a. error #2). If the top leaders have nobody to provide a "check and balance" to their power, they are likely to let that power go to their head, often thinking, "if I see things this way, everybody else must see it this way too."
Second, the rest of the organization feels empowered when they find out that the advisory team was responsible for any changes to the original top leadership plan. If you choose the advisory correctly (using the right selection criteria), the grapevine spreads this word in a way the communications folks could never do!