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Navigating Change

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  1. Urgent and important. These tasks are essential, perhaps as a result of approaching deadlines, like submitting a report or filing your taxes. Do these now.
  2. Not urgent, but important. These tasks will help you achieve your goals and execute changes. Specifically, these include strategic planning, enrolling in a class or learning a new skill. There is no hard deadline to begin, but procrastinating will bring failure. Schedule time to complete these and dedicate consistent effort.
  3. Urgent, but not important. Such tasks are time-sensitive, but do not help you accomplish your goals. These may include others’ demands or routine emails that add no value. Delegate such tasks to someone else, or schedule time to do these at once and move on.
  4. Not urgent, not important. These are distractions that do not contribute to the end goal, like meetings that can be avoided. Avoid these and save time.

The tasks and activities in group two not urgent, but important are essential to achieving strategic change. The Eisenhower Matrix is more applicable to prioritization on a personal level to improve productivity; however, it is interesting how the “urgent and important” concept carries over to the corporate world.

Driving Organizational Change

In a Harvard Business Review article, John Kotter explains that the number one reason why organizational change management efforts fail is because they do not establish a high enough sense of urgency. Kotter studied many companies that tried to implement fundamental changes in the way they operate. His model identified eight steps that drive strategic transformation:

  1. Increase the sense of urgency for change and convey that doing business as usual is more dangerous than heading in a new direction.
  2. Build a guiding team that is powerful enough to drive change efforts. The team should include influential people, not just higher-ups in the company.
  3. Create a clear vision for where the company is going and be able to explain this vision in a concise and compelling manner.
  4. Communicate the vision consistently across the organization with all means possible. Moreover, lead by example.
  5. Empower broad-based action by removing obstacles, providing training, encouraging risk-taking, and doing things differently. Confront those who claim it cannot be done.
  6. Generate short-term wins by planning small, visible changes. Celebrate and recognize the individuals involved.
  7. Sustain change efforts. Recognize that more effort is needed and invest in hiring, promoting and developing people who can integrate the change vision.
  8. Institute change by emphasizing the connection between new action and company success.
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