Successful Leaders Drive Change

“Perhaps the greatest challenge business leaders face today is how to stay competitive amid constant turbulence and disruption.”
John Kotter, Harvard Business School Professor and Chairman of Kotter International

Kotter’s thinking on change management resonates with Vertex’s emphasis on leadership and driving performance. I also suspect his approach to leading organizational change may be broadly applicable to a variety of change-intensive settings, including tax functions.

Inside Vertex, we talk a lot about the need for our successful leaders to drive organizational change. While this objective certainly sounds like it’s on the mark, it’s important for us to lift up the hood to truly understand what we mean by “successful.” When we sit down and reflect, we see that performance improvements occur through changes in people, process or strategy. As a result, leaders really need to be able to inspire and direct organizational change.

That’s easier said than done, of course. That’s also where Kotter’s change-management framework offers practical guidance. His methodology for leading organizational change contains eight steps that we’ve adapted to align with how we operate at Vertex:

  1. Create a sense of urgency around the change opportunity
  2. Form a powerful coalition to guide the change
  3. Create a strategic vision for the change
  4. Communicate the vision and the strategy for implementing it
  5. Empower action and progress (i.e., remove barriers)
  6. Celebrate quick, significant wins along the way
  7. Build on the change by continuing to learn from the experience
  8. Make the change part of the culture

That’s a decidedly high-level view of the steps our successful leaders strive to work through as we implement the changes necessary to thrive amid a constantly changing industry. This is also a partial view; leaders are not the only enablers of change, as I’ll discuss in a subsequent post on how employees also enable change.

Explore more Resources from our Industry Influencers:

Colleen Kirk

Director Organizational Development

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Colleen Kirk is Director of Organizational Development at Vertex where she is responsible for enabling cross functional teams to successfully manage change. She has over 20 years of professional experience in organizational development and change management, and supports the Talent Management efforts within Vertex. Colleen has a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Behavior Studies from Immaculata University and will complete her master’s degree in Organizational Leadership from St. Joseph’s University in May of 2014.

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