Kotter's Leading Change Step 3 Creating a Vision


Transforming an organisation takes vision. Kotter's seminal book Leading Change* outlines eight steps to turn a vision for change into reality. The third step in his process is creating the vision, this is done once a sense of urgency for the change has been created and a powerful guiding coalition is formed to then create the vision.

Developing a vision and strategy establishes the foundation for the change by investing time and effort in agreeing, through a process of debate and buy-in, the direction and expected outcomes of the change. It is the picture of the future and describes the reason why it is important to create that future.

Leading Change John Potter Creating a Vision

According to Kotter, the vision serves three purposes, it:

  1. Clarifies the general direction of the change. This simplifies decision making when detailed discussions arise later on and it helps to minimise disagreements and confusion when individuals work to understand the direction of the change.
  2. Motivates individuals to take action in the right direction including understanding why they should work through their own personal short term pain. Seeing and understanding the long term view gives them something to fight for.
  3. Coordinates the actions of everyone involved which in turn reduces waste and therefore costs. Asking the question "Is this in line with the vision?" allows people to quickly return their focus to the change effort.

Kotter states that from his experience:

"developing a vision is an exercise of both the head and the heart, it takes some time, it always involves a group of people, and it is tough to do well."

Test your vision

To test if your vision has the characteristics of a good vision ask the following questions:

  • Can you imagine what the future described in the vision will look like?
  • Is it easy to see why stakeholders, employees and customers would want the vision to come true? Is it desirable?
  • Can the vision be achieved and is it feasible?
  • Is the vision clear and focused?
  • Can the vision work flexibly alongside the changing conditions and pressures of the organisation?
  • Can the vision be successfully explained within 5 minutes and is it easily communicable?

Getting to a vision that is agreed and shared across the organisation is not an easy step, but any shortcuts made at this step will have significant ramifications later on in the process and will inevitably cost more in both time, effort and money to rectify rather than spending the time now to get it right.

Go to the next step - Communicating the Vision.

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