To change or not to change - that is the question

Kate Cooper
Head of Research, Policy and Standards
Institute of Leadership and Management
Share this content

A new year is always a good time to make changes – whether personal or professional. And London theatre The Globe’s new Artistic Director Michelle Terry chose January 2018 to unveil her bold plans to “dismantle theatrical hierarchies" and overhaul longstanding stage traditions in her organisation.

In a recent article in The Guardian, Terry said theatre culture was too “director-centric” with “too much responsibility on one person” and suggested that what it needs is a more collaborative approach.

Terry was appointed Artistic Director of The Globe in summer 2017. And, less than a year into her new role, she clearly means business when it comes to implementing change in her organisation.

Creating turbulence

Dismantling hierarchies in any organisation is an exciting prospect. And assessing the need for change is one of the most important tasks any leader or manager must face. But implementing those changes is never easy. And I wonder, in the case of Terry’s role at The Globe, if her collaborative plans might clash with some directors’ leadership styles and some actors’ more competitive instincts to secure cherished roles?

That question in fact leads to a wider one about leadership and management: Is it possible for a leader to instigate radical change in an organisation without creating turbulence?

At the Institute of Leadership & Management, this question is something we think about a great deal. And the theme of traditions giving way to change is a major leadership issue. Change is a word that can strike fear into many people. And when it comes to making changes in any organisation, it can be an even more sensitive subject.

So, the answer to the question “can you have change with turbulence?” is, quite simply, “No”. But as a leader or manager, there are things you can do to make the change process in your organisation easier for everyone involved.

Dimensions of leadership

The Institute of Leadership & Management recognises five dimensions of leadership.  These are “authenticity”, “vision”, “collaboration”, “ownership” and “achievement”.  When it comes to the issue of leading change, Vison is the dimension to focus on, and the recognition that leaders see the need for that change and can constantly adapt to it.

Visionary leaders recognise the need for change and can constantly adapt. A shared vision of what the change means and what it’s for is the key to making successful changes in any organisation. Of course, you also need a properly managed change process.

Change management models

Being a successful change leader and manager requires a broad range of skills. You need the business acumen to address the practical, organisational issues and well-developed interpersonal skills to encourage people to make it happen and ensure its sustainable success. 

Amazon UK suggests over 30,000 titles for ‘Managing Change’- it's a popular topic and one that vexes most leaders and managers. John Kotter’s eight-step plan, below, is a tried-and-tested approach that recognises the importance of buy-in at the beginning and retaining momentum at the end of the process.

John Kotter’s plan:

  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Build a guiding coalition
  • Form a strategic vision and initiatives
  • Enlist a volunteer army
  • Enable action by removing barriers
  • Generate short-term wins
  • Sustain acceleration
  • Institute change

Ruffling feathers

In the case of Michelle Terry’s plans for The Globe, only time will tell. Her vision for the theatre’s programme for the year ahead includes moves for audiences to be able to choose which plays are staged. She also wants actors to come to rehearsals without previously being assigned specific parts – instead workshopping crucial casting decisions among themselves.

Terry is very lucky, in the sense that she’ll have the support of high-quality personnel. Also, the performers who work with The Globe are all professionals who’ve been trained to a high standard.  Still, her changes will no doubt ruffle a few feathers – on and off stage. But then, it’s not really change if no one notices.


About Kate Cooper

About Kate Cooper

Prior to joining The Institute of Leadership & Management Kate Cooper worked in the university sector. She has appeared on, amongst others, BBC Television, BBC Radio 4 and has a regular column in Dialogue magazine. She is a key note speaker at conferences and provides expert commentary on a range of topics arising from the Institute’s research agenda. 


Please login or register to join the discussion.

There are currently no replies, be the first to post a reply.