ITLPviii Group Kotter

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Conf Call scheduling - May 21-25

Group Kotter

Group Members

What time is it
for everybody?

Phone meetings

(We have 30 minutes Tue & Wed, and as much as 90 minutes on Thurs. See full schedule.)

May 15
1 pm 3 pm 4 pm
May 16
noon 2pm 3pm
May 17
9:30 am 11:30 am 12:30 am
Sherif's Conference Bridge
  • (212) 998-2280
  • 49657 - when prompted, enter this conference bridge number.
  • 100607 - when prompted, enter this six digit access code to enter the conference.

Our Paper

What Leaders Really Do by John Kotter
Harvard Business Review, December 2001
HBR_What_Leaders_Really_Do.pdf (704 KB)

The Other Papers

The Work of Leadership by Ronald Heifetz and Donald Laurie
Harvard Business Review, December 2001
HBR_Work_of_Leadership.pdf (316 KB)

The Leadership Advantage by Warren Bennis
Leader to Leader, No. 12, Spring 1999

The Leaderful Community by Joseph Raelin
Innovative Leader, Volume 12, Number 6, June 2003

The Assignment

Develop a brief synopsis of the author’s views on leadership to be presented to the group on Day One. Please contrast the author you are reading with at least one of the other authors’ perspectives on leadership; discuss how your team wants to make your ten minute (or so) presentation. You are encouraged to be innovative in how you share this work with the class. Reading PowerPoint slides does not qualify as innovative: A leader needs to have the ability to capture and hold people's attention while communicating a message. (Full description.)


Conf Call scheduling - May 21-25

Kotter (What Leaders Really Do) - 1977 (1990)

From Jim Loter, UW, 5/3/2007...

I'm keeping my non-editorial notes on the reading here:

From Erik Lundberg, UW, 5/3/2007...

I've only just started to read the Kotter article (What Leaders Really Do), but the main point that crystalized for me is that:

  • "Managers promote stability, and leaders promote change".
  • And secondarily, "One person can do both".

Jane DelFavero, NYU 5/10/2007

- The balance between vision and planning seems to be a key point, in particular, the uselessness of long term planning (esp without a vision to guide it)

"visions and strategies" v plans

 Question from Jane: Is it really possible for a leader to be both a good manager 
 and a visionary thinker? Kotter says yes, I have my doubts

As we all know - all too well - good managing takes time and focus. Leading takes time too, and for sure visionary thinking requires getting above the day-to-day grind of managing. I agree that it is hard to do that when you have to spend all your time managing, and the rest of it fighting fires. But maybe you can apply some leadership principals to dealing with managerial-type issues, such as asking the right question instead of solving somebody's problem... Maybe that's sort of what Kotter is saying: leadership is more than just visionary thinking... Lundberg 18:29, 10 May 2007 (PDT)

Kotter synopsis

Leadership vs. management

Initial distinction: "management is about coping with complexity", " about coping with change"

1. Setting Direction

  • goal: produce change
  • how: create vision and strategy
  • instead of: planning

2. Align People

  • goal: "Line up individuals so that they move together in the same direction"
  • how: "Communicate with the individuals... all the time"
  • instead of: organizing people

3. Motivate People

  • goal: Make people feel like they are part of the process and are important to the organization.
  • how: "by satisfying basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of control over one's life, and the ability to live up to one's ideals."
  • instead of: pushing people in the right direction (as control mechanisms do)

4. Create a culture of leadership

  • goal: leadership at many levels
  • how: push responsibility lower in the organization, thus creating more challenging jobs at lower levels. Create more smaller units.
  • instead of: a centralized management system with a few large units.

Heifeetz-Laurie (The Work of Leadership) - 1997

From Erik Lundberg, UW, 5/7/2007...

The Heifeetz-Laurie article (The Work of Leadership) is about "Adaptive Work". Leaders don't solve problems themselves. Instead, they

  • (a) pose the questions that engage others to take on the responsibility to identify the problems, and
  • (b) create an environment that makes it okay to break the rules and do things differently.

From Jim Loter, UW, 5/7/2007

My summary:

Interesting point to contrast with Kotter: "The prevailing notion that leadership consists of having a vision and aligning people with that vision is bankrupt because it continues to treat adaptive situations as if they were technical: The authority figure is supposed to divine where the company is going and people are supposed to follow." (13)

Doesn't this sound like a direct challenge to Kotter?

Maybe more of an expansion on the "domain" of leadership, in a new dimension. Kotter was all about the Man on the Balcony, because that was the prevailing view of that time (20 years prior). Heifeetz-Laurie (and the others) are pushing those same principles, but are now driving them down into the organization. (summary from our Wed meeting) Lundberg 13:54, 9 May 2007 (PDT)

Bennis (The Leadership Advantage) - 1999

From Erik Lundberg, UW, 5/7/2007...

My summary of the Bennis article (The Leadership Advantage) is:

  • Key to an organization's success is the "capacity to create the social architecture capable of generating intellectual capital."
  • "Exemplary leaders are distinguished by the master of the soft skills, above all, character."
  • "Exemplary leaders believe they have a responsibility to extend people's growth and to create an environment where people constantly learn."

need something about how Bennis relates to Kotter

Raelin (The Leaderful Community) - 2003

From Erik Lundberg, UW, 5/7/2007...

These two quotes lifted from the article seem to distill it for me:

  • "Leadership becomes a collective property, not the sole sanctuary of any one (most important) member."
  • "Leadership of the unit needs to come from within the community, not from an ultimate authority imposed from the outside."

Jane 5/16/07

  • Leadership is: concurrent, collective, collaborative, compassionate

Query: does the parallel nature of leadership in Raelin's vision conflict with Kotter's idea that leaders are the ones who set the tone and direction of an organization? It seems to me that in order for a "leaderful community" to arise, there has to be consensus about direction, goals, etc., and an understanding of corporate purpose.


Evolution of Leadership "Theory"

  • Kotter's original paper was seminal - and 30 years ago - and was all about the person at the top. Very hierarchical - but that was normal for the time: an authority-figure at the top shows the masses where to go and how to get there.
  • The other authors accept these "new" principles of leadership that Kotter laid out, but are all about the organization. Driving leadership concepts down into the org, flattening the org. Power to the people! In what ways does this reflect more general societal move (eg, social networking, the internet)?
  • In other words, Kotter was revolutionary, and the others were evolutionary in their contributions to leadership theory.

Presentation Ideas

TIME: 2.5 - 3 minutes each!

A two-part presentation:

(1) overview of the evolution of thought about leadership, represented by these papers

  • Focus on Kotter (that is our prime assignment, after all) - Erik
  • Point out how each of the authors who followed in his footsteps have expanded those principles, and pushed them into new dimensions. - Sherif
    • Not surprising that Raelin, which is the most recent, goes the furthest in pushing the idea of leadership down to the community level. From his perspective, if leadership is about dealing with change (one of Kotter's theses), then the multiple perspectives of distributed leadership have a better chance of foreseeing and dealing with that change.
  • Summary: Kotter built the house of leadership. Twenty to thirty years later, the others have done some remodeling, but the foundation remains untouched. Kotter was revolutionary, the others were evolutionary. (EL)

Hi. I'm John Kotter - Erik

====Kotter vs. Raelin==== - Sherif

- Kotter seems to have been a revolutionary in his ideas on management versus leadership. - Kotter sets the definition and standards of good leadership. - A good manager is also a good leader.

- Raelin takes Kotter’s leadership definition and puts it into a different scope. - Raelin goes further out of the box and expands the idea of leadership to more than a single person who “leads” - He suggests that a group of people, in some situations, can get along without a leader. That leadership can become distributed among all members…. Thus he coins the word “leaderful” or “leaderful community” - Raelin does take leadership into a new light, but he is not necessarily aligned with Kotter’s roles of leadership.

- Kotter says that Leadership sets Direction - Raelin says that Leadership is Collective (Decisions are made by whoever has the relevant responsibility) - Kotter says that Leadership Aligns. - Raelin says that Leadership is Collaborative (All members of the community are in control and may speak for the entire community) - Kotter says that Leadership Motivates. - Raelin says that Leadership is Compassionate (Each member of the community is valued regardless of his background or social standing… all viewpoints are considered regardless of whether they conform to current thought)

• Kotter’s views open the floor but still maintain some control… • Raelin’s views, it appears, can easily head into chaotic situations.

(2) case studies from each institution

Each university takes one of the three Kotter Principles for their case study (if it works out that way. If not, that's fine - just reflecting on the Kotter article in the case studies is another approach we can take):

  1. Aligning People vs. organizing & scheduling (NYU)
  2. Setting Directions vs. planning & budgeting
  3. Motivating and Inspiring vs. controlling activities and solving problems (OU)
  4. Creating a Culture of Leadership (UW)

NYU - Jane

Alignment: about 8 years ago, there was the first step of a reorg with the creation of central ITS from 3 existing groups (telecom, Academic Computing and UCC/administrative computing). After a couple of years, a survey was done of the staff, and the biggest issue that people identified was inter-group communication. As a result, it was decided that every Tuesday, there would be a subject-matter based, cross-group meeting. The attendees are generally not director-level, but line staff and managers. The topics and structure of these meetings have changed over time, but they produced some useful, and perhaps unexpected output. First, they allowed communication between groups and people who had not met regularly before, which allowed knowledge and respect to develop (as well as improving communication). But, they also allowed natural "affinity groups" to develop, made up of people who shared interests in larger organizational issues. It also created an environment where people who were not in a managerial role could exercise their leadership skills. This seems to be a good example of aligning people, rather than organizing them (see Kotter, p 7)

[maybe something about how, after the reorg, our org structure was very flat, but that was inefficient, because it makes it hard to resolve disputes, allocate resources]

UW - Jim

In the article, Kotter states that a leadership culture encourages people "to grow beyond the narrow base that characterizes most managerial careers." (11) Fostering this culture, he continues, "pushes responsibility lower in an organization and in the process creates more challenging jobs at lower levels." (11)

In recent years, the University of Washington has been home to a cultural shift that in some ways corresponds to Kotter's notion of a "culture of leadership." IT managers in campus business units and academic departments have been given (or have taken) opportunities to propose, catalyze, and lead change for the institution. This new culture represents a significantly different way in which the business of IT is conducted at the UW.

Initially, this change in culture was grass-roots driven. Voices from the so-called "lower level" began to ask hard questions and propose reasonable solutions to long-standing problems. The existing IT leadership took notice and contributed to a growing environment that supported those voices and encouraged others to speak up. Informal, largely organic groups, such as the UW Computing Directors and the IT Resource Sharing Group, began to exert real influence and encourage -- even demand -- change. Staff members who, just a few years ago were known simply as their unit's chief "computer guy" now meet regularly with campus IT executive management, lead task forces that report to the Board of Deans, serve on advisory and steering committees, and participate as real change agents at the University.

It has largely been through the work of these "rank and file" leaders, for example, that the UW recently constructed an entirely new organizational structure called the Office of Information Management, headed by a new position of Chief Information Officer for the UW.

In many ways, the type of leadership culture that has grown at the UW is similar to the "leaderful community" described by Joseph A. Raelin in that it is "concurrent" (many leaders operating at once), "collective" (decisions are made by those with relevant responsibility), "collaborative" (all members speak for the community), and "compassionate" (members of respected and valued).

In my analysis, four major shifts in thinking were required for this community to emerge and evolve:

  • The central IT organization recognized the value in expertise and experience within "decentralized units." "Customers" needed to become "partners."
  • IT managers recognized that many technologies benefit from economies of scale and gain significant value through increase use.
  • Users began to demand new and better ways to collaborate with colleagues outside of traditional silos.
  • Deans and unit heads began to recognize that IT was a serious business sector that demanded real managers and leaders, not the traditional "computer guru."

Despite these recent changes, there remains a great deal of work to be done. Not all units on campus have achieved the "nirvana" necessary to contribute leaders to this culture. There also remain significant gaps in top-level IT leadership, and the IT governance structures are varied and confusing. However, the ground work has been laid and there are enough models, proofs of concept, and examples that the outlook is positive for the UW to continue growing its culture of leadership over the next several years.


  • New Office of Information Management (OIM) is founded on change
  • IS Futures Task Force (which recommended the formation of the OIM) was intended to produce change and included membership from across campus
  • Central IT (C&C)'s strategic plan is open to change
  • Computing Directors group and IT Resource Sharing Group push change

OU - Ashish

Motivation: Here are some steps implemented (and currently in use) to motivate and inspire people towards the goal of offering better customer service: I would like to apologize, beforehand, for some of the cheesy headers.. I blame it on Mountain Dew! :)

Open Door Policy: The executive team (CIO and directors) pushed this initiative to make themselves accessible to everyone in the organization. For day-to-day activities, they encourage walk-ins over formal meeting requests.

Collaborative Environment: Team leads actively promote a collaborative working enviroment where members are encouraged to participate in problem resolution and vision accomplishment. One team lead has a weekly “team huddle” with his team to debate various issues currently on the table.

Run with it: Fostering a culture where individuals are encouraged to take ownership of projects within their scope.

Freedom!: Inter-team communication is strongly emphasized, and individuals (with expertise on the matter at hand) are encouraged to make recommendations, offer suggestions and educate others.

Round of Applause: Accolades and customer endorsements are treated as a high priority and well communicated within the organization.

An "innovative presentation" idea?

Perhaps as a follow-up to the panel discussion, we could attempt to engage the audience - by asking our colleagues from each of our institutions to come up with further examples to support the Kotter Principles that we outlined in the first part of our presentation. Maybe drawn from their particular area of the organization, or something they've noticed in the broader community. ("A leader needs to have the ability to capture and hold people's attention while communicating a message.") (EL)

Since our presentations cover 3 of the 4 major points listed in the Kotter synopsis above, maybe we can turn to the audience to ask them about what a culture of leadership means to them? Or, use that point as the comparison with Raelin, who's very interested in the community aspect of leadership.(JD)

Time Out!

Ok, so we realized that if we all take just three minutes for our piece, we're already at 15 minutes for the whole presentation. So we need to both cut back to 2.5 minutes each, and maybe drop the "discussion" aspects. If we had half an hour, it would be different. But we're going to be crunched for time as it is. So we're scaling back the second part from "panel discussion" to simply "case studies".

Visual Aids

And we're dropping Powerpoint, but still, visual aids are nice. Instead, we can have old-fashioned posters or signs with the things we want to really emphasize. Maybe somebody else can hold up a sign at the right moment, to emphasis one of the principles being illustrated by the person who is presenting at that moment.


We all come on stage wearing Manager hats, and during our presentation, we drop those, and don Leader hats.

We could even hand out Leader Hats to people in the audience, either as prizes for a contribution to our case studies, or maybe just hand them out at the end to everybody.

Manager Hat
We could all bring an old comfortable hat, and all be wearing those as we start the presentation.
Leader Hat
We could get a big pile of novelty top hats... maybe even enough to give them to everybody (24?). (I might even be able to swing some budget for this (EL)...)

This plays beautifully with Jane's observation that it is really difficult to juggle the roles of active manager and effective leader. This is our challenge to the workshop - teach us how to wear both hats!

A New Format

In order of apperance...

  • Kotter Synopsis - Erik
  • IT management at UW, NYU & OU - Jim, Jane & Ashish
  • Kotter reaction to each university's issue - Erik
  • Raelin - Sherif
    • (with interludes from Kotter)

Kotter - The Script

Kotter introduces himself and gives an overview of his theories, then suggests we illustrate them by examining issues confronting IT organizations at three universities (3 minutes)...

IT managers each describe their problem and the traditional managerial approach they've taken and how it isn't really working. Kotter offers sage advice on a leadership approach:

Raelin suddenly bursts in and we play it like an old movie serial:

Kotter: "Raelin! My old nemesis!"

Raelin: "Yes, Kotter. I've escaped from that managerial trap you set for me -- all that budgeting, organizing, and controlling. Well, no more. Now, no one can stop me from discussing the leaderful community!"

Kotter: "Curse you, Raelin. Stealing my thunder. You're nothing but a derivative hack. If it weren't for me, you'd still be selling hot dogs at Fenway Park!"

Raelin: "I'll admit that my concepts are based on your work, you fiend. But here is how they differ..." A better solution would be to implement my idea of the Leaderful Community, the 4 C's:

  • concurrent
  • collective
  • collaborative
  • compassionate

For example, at NYU you need to allow leaders to grow within the groups! If the existing leaders drive everything, there's no room for innovation from the ground up.

At OU Teams leads should encourage members to voluntarily take ownership of projects as it would make them more likely to succeed. Basically, allow people to develop in an environment that fosters growth.

At the UW, you need to recognize that leadership needs to come from within the community, not from an ultimate authority imposed from the outside. Allow the direction setting and prioritizing come from the community.

Off-shoot topics

Kotter Breakout Topics - How these articles apply to higher-ed. Some strawman topics for discussion...

  1. What drives change in the higher education sector?
  2. To what extent are we (Universities) hamstrung by financial and organizational models that keep our units (colleges, schools, departments) autonomous and siloed?