Change management: create a climate for change (2)

Last time we discussed the first step in the Kotter model: (1) create a sense of urgency. This time around, we’ll talk about the second step:(2) form a powerful coalition. Stay tuned for the next part:(3) create a vision for change.


Step 2: form a powerful coalition

Before even starting to think about the vision for change, we first must form a powerful coalition that will give the change a chance to succeed. This coalition must consist of people from all layers of the organisation. You need the necessary support from senior management so nobody pulls the plug on the project when the going gets tough. You need the necessary support from people on the floor to avoid a negative spiral that will sabotage any chance of success. But how do you select the right people in order for your coalition to realize the change?

Generally speaking you could say that you would want a coalition of people that are the most influential among their peers. You want those individuals who are looked at for leadership and guidance on the different levels throughout the organisation. Now the obvious question arises, what if these individuals are generally not in favour of change? What if these people are exactly those who you expect will need the most convincing before they’ll accept the needed changes? Is there a way to quickly get a feeling for their natural tendencies when confronted with change?

There are multiple personality assessment tools that attempt to categorize people. Some of the more common are Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and DISC. I personally am a fan of using DISC because it is a behaviour assessment tool, which means that you can easily make an educated guess what profile the person has who’s in front of you by monitoring his behaviour attentively. An example of the usefulness of this tool can be seen in the DISC cheat sheet produced by Manager Tools. This cheat sheet lists how you can spot the different profiles based on what they say and what they do. It helps you communicate effectively with each type of person by adjusting your communication style. I must admit though that even when you know the profile of the people on your team, it is still quite a challenge to be mindful of your communication during meetings and one on one interactions.

The following image contains a schematic representations of the 4 DISC profiles: (D)ominance, (I)nfluence, (S)teadiness, (C)onscientious. As you can see the profiles are split up along two axis: outgoing – reserved, and people – task. The two dimensions that influence people’s emotional behavior. The first dimension is whether a person views his environment as favorable or unfavorable. The second dimension is whether a person perceives himself as having control or lack of control over his environment.

  • Dominance: Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavourable.
  • Influence: Perceives oneself as more powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favourable.
  • Steadiness: Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as favourable.
  • Conscientious: Perceives oneself as less powerful than the environment, and perceives the environment as unfavourable.

DISC profile overview

Now the nice thing about DISC is that it can also be used quite effectively when assembling a coalition for change. The diagram below indicates how the different DISC profiles deal with change. Now at first glance it seems that you would prefer a coalition that consists mostly of D’s and I’s, the profiles that seem most adept at handling change. The problem with any team that is loaded with people with the same profile is that it becomes dysfunctional though. A team loaded with D’s and I’s will have too many chiefs and no Indians, everybody will want to lead, nobody will want to follow. Therefor a healthy mixture might be more useful. There is no reason to exclude certain profiles from your coalition but it is clear that those expected to lead the effort should preferably be D’s or I’s. In reality, most people rather have a mixture of two preferential behavioural profiles, so unless you have a full DISC profile on file for everyone, your gut-feeling can only be used as a guideline for composing your coalition.


The coalition that was formed consists of people from different teams, different layers of the organisation. Every member is expected to contribute something different to the project but in the end, this coalition should provide the necessary support for the change to have a reasonable chance of success. On to the next step!

Once you’ve created a sense of urgency and formed a powerful coalition, you’re ready to create a vision! Stay tuned for part three.