King of change

Published in Project 

How can project managers help their organisations navigate today’s most complex challenges? SALLY PERCY spoke to change guru Dr John Kotter for his insights 

In the world of change management, Harvard professor Dr John Kotter is royalty. Widely considered the foremost authority on the topics of leadership and change, he is a prolific writer who has authored 20 books, including 12 bestsellers. His seminal work, Leading Change, first published in 1996, remains the go-to guide on change management. It outlines a practical, eight-step process for managing change, from establishing a sense of urgency to anchoring new approaches in an organisation’s culture. More than a million copies of the book were sold within the first 10 years of publication. In 2011, TIME magazine listed it as one of the top 25 most influential business management books of all time.

The question of why some organisations do so much better than others has fascinated Kotter throughout his career, and continues to do so today. His interest was first sparked 50 years ago when he belonged to a college fraternity at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). There he studied electrical engineering, followed by a master’s degree in science in management. His fraternity was a “troubled institution”, he recalls. “We had two pieces of very expensive real estate and 70 members. We were responsible for feeding them, rooming them, tutoring them and organising their social lives. At the age of 20, I started becoming intrigued by what it takes to make this function better.”

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