Once you have decided that you need to adopt a new digital strategy, digitally focused business model, or perhaps to engage your audiences in new ways, you are embarking on a process of change. It is important in this context to embrace change and to manage it. Managing change is not about controlling it, as all change has elements of uncertainty and unforeseen outcomes. Managing change is about being in control of the change process and being able to build agreement with partners, staff, trustees and volunteers to ensure that the journey is as smooth as possible.
The adoption of a new business model to fully maximise digital opportunities for your heritage organisation requires that plans and strategies are put into practice. This resource explores the eight stages of transformation in John Kotter’s Leading Change as a valuable framework to guide this process.
Our expert, Dr Stephen Dobson, University of Leeds, breaks down the eight stages of transformation introduced by John Kotter and highlights how to apply this framework to your organisation.
Step 1: Creating a sense of urgency – from the outset it is important to be able to identify and then clearly communicate the need for change. You could use data or reports on visitor numbers, size of audience or sales figures to show that something needs to be done. Sometimes a critical event on site or local or national news item can help others see that a new way of working is needed.
Step 2: Forming a guiding coalition – in a small heritage organisation it is not necessarily about assembling a group to lead the change as staff numbers may be small. However, it is about everyone working together as a team and agreeing on the need for change. If your organisation is small, perhaps you could draw in stakeholders from your local community, external partners or funders to help form this coalition.
Step 3: Creating a vision – working together to develop a digital strategy can be a useful way to create a vision. Working through the digital canvas is one way of doing this. This is your direction or list of priorities. Read ‘Using the digital business model canvas to prioritise what to change’ to find out more about the digital canvas.
Step 4: Communicating the vision – creating a strategy document is a great way to communicate your vision for the future. If appropriate, you might consider making this widely available so that your partners and audience can see and understand the changes you are planning.
Step 5: Empowering others to act – removing any obstacles to change is a really important next step. Consider investing in tools and training to support your organisation’s journey.
Step 6: Planning for creating short-term wins – it is important for everyone involved to feel that incremental changes are having a positive effect. Celebrating short-term wins, however minor, can reinforce the idea that the longer-term vision is worth working towards and that your collective efforts are worth it.
Step 7: Consolidating improvements – you could consolidate change by increasing training and recruiting new staff, volunteers or trustees with digital experience to support these changes and help embed new ways of working.
Step 8: Institutionalising new approaches – establishing the connection between new ways of working and organisational success (e.g. increased visitor numbers, more efficient ways of working) is vital to help institutionalise change and make it ‘stick’.
You can group these eight steps into four phases. The first phase involves actions around observation and reflection. This is followed by a phase designing and describing what your future might look like. The third phase involves empowering people and planning the change. And finally, you evaluate and embed any successes.
Since change can often be seen as a continuous cycle, you can imagine these as an ongoing process, with Phase 1 (Observing and reflecting) leading into Phase 2 (Designing and describing), then Phase 3 (Empowering and planning) and finally Phase 4 (Evaluating and embedding). The process then begins again with Phase 1.
Now that you have explored the eight stages of transformation, consider how you might apply them to your organisation.
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Please attribute as: "Managing change using an eight-step model (2022) by Dr Stephen Dobson supported by The Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 4.0