Relating Topeka System with John Kotter’s Eight-Step Process and Black and Gregersen’s “It Starts with One”

In “Leading change” Kotter (1996) develops an eight-step process of ensuring successful organization change. These steps include creating a “sense of urgency” in the organization, establishing a leading coalition (team approach), building a vision and a plan to achieve it, and communicating change effort in the organization (Herrera, 1996, pp.75-76). Further Kotter has recommended, widespread action empowerment, having short-term goals, merging the benefits achieved to generate additional change and instituting new approaches to corporate culture to be important in achieving positive organization change (Herrera, 1996, p.76). This approach of leading organization change bears some similarities with the Topeka System.

Similarities in Kotter’s eight-steps to organization change and Topeka system first lie in the implication of team approach as a core driver of change. Both systems recognize that individuals cannot independently bring about needed change in the organization but require the input of others to ensure the development of appropriate vision, communication of this and elimination of barriers that may mar the change process (Herrera, 1996; Cohen, 2004). This then establishes the need for a vision and its appropriate dissemination in a clear, brief and focused manner to lead change in organizations (Herrera, 1996; Cohen, 2004). The eight-step process and the Topeka system also emphasize the need to empower individuals in a team. Herrera (1996), for instance notes that one advantage of such empowerment would be in the perception that by getting more people involved in the change, the change would more widespread and long lasting (p. 76).

Major differences in Topeka and eight step process however lie in creating an atmosphere of urgency in the organization. While the eight-step process views the creation of urgency by crises to be what eliminates complacency hence leading to appropriate environment for change (Herrera, 1996); Topeka system views such to be brought about by providing challenges to employees through task rotation thus developing attributes required to provide solutions to complex situations in future (Cohen, 2004). Further the long-term effects of urgency on employee’s stress levels may not be in line with Cohen’s (2004) view of treatment of first time failures in innovative approaches.

In “It Starts with One: Changing Individuals Changes Organisations,” Black and Gregersen (2008) demystifies the models of change that begin from the top downwards. In their perspectives the authors argue that organizations can only achieve meaningful change by focusing on the individuals the change is aimed at rather than changing organization systems. It is advanced further that though the top leaders may be visionary; it is those who practically carry out the vision who ensure its success or failure. In these aspects then transformational leadership is viewed to be more necessary in the lower levels of the organization rather than the top. The similarity of this perspective with Topeka system is the emphasis of both on empowering individuals in teams to drive change.  However, while the Topeka system views visionary leadership at the top to help in guiding successful change in organization Black and Gregersen view these to have a minimal outcome on organizational change. Go to conclusion.

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