Step 2: Form a Powerful Guiding Coalition

In my previous post I mentioned John Kotters view on managers and leaders. Managers maintain the status quo, whereas change demands leaders.

Imagine we hired a group of strong leaders, but left them with no sense of the company’s direction. What would they prioritize?  For any change to gain traction, the leaders in the company need to develop a shared commitment to drive the mandate. If each leader drives his/her own agenda that is misaligned to that of his fellow leaders, what direction will the followers take?

What is a guiding coalition? Dennis Goin from Kotter International describes it as a “powerful, enthusiastic team of volunteers from across an organization”.

Kotter explains the more influential the members of the coalition, the greater the chances to success. This seems to be rather self-explanatory statement, but for a moment consider how much time you have spent strategically identifying who the key people are that you should gain support from in your efforts to change? How much effort have you spent in obtaining their support? Do they really have influence over their peers or teams? Who has influence over the peers or teams?

We have found that gaining the support from the influential members of our client is fundamental for the success of an Energy Leadership Program (ELP). Many of our initial projects on any site are change management projects. This means we rely on people to implement changes to systems they’ve run according to a certain recipe for years before the start of an ELP. In the beginning phases of a program, this truly pushes people out of their comfort zone. How will people react when pushed out of their comfort zone, without the support from their leaders? In practice, we count on the support from senior leadership to endorse ELP efforts.

How do we gain and sustain support from leadership practically?

One of the largest drivers for success of an ELP are the monthly Working Committee Meetings (WCM) and Steering Committee Meetings (SCM) with client leaders.

The WCM:

WCM is chaired by the program sponsor (client Operations General Manager), where the project champions (client Plant Managers) report back on the projects in their areas.

The SCM:

Following the WCM, the SCM is conducted where the progress of the ELP is chunked up and presented by the program sponsor to the Managing Director, Chief Financial Officer and fellow Operations GMs.

The presentations are prepared by the Ensight staff, but presented by the client’s staff (champions and sponsor). This aids in preserving the client’s time in the preparation for the meetings, but administers ownership of the projects in each member’s area.

A gathering of leaders at this level should naturally tend to create a sense of urgency and strive for results. Regular feedback of decisions up and down the hierarchy of the business then maintains the sense of urgency and direction set out by the leaders.

Ensight Solutions