Book Reviews: Organizational Change

I'm digging out of a pile from being in a class the last two weeks, and preparing to preach this Sunday so over the next few days I'm going to blow through some book reviews.

Most of my reading over the past two or three months has been about organizational leadership - the topic of my class. Some of those books have been helpful but aren't probably the kinds of reviews anyone wants to read (or write), so I'll just hit the good books I read in that vein today and move on to some more exciting books (for most of you) tomorrow.

The Leaders Change Handbook - This book, edited by Jay Conger, Gretchen Spreitzer, and Edward Lawler, contains independent chapters from experts in various aspects of organizational change. It deals with everything from leadership structure to organizational spin offs. As with most compilation books, some of the chapters are much better than others, but the book is helpful overall.

Managing Transitions - William Bridges is one of the world's leading experts on managing change. This book is short (125 pages), but immensely helpful. Bridges gives special focus to the reason people resist change, something most books on change do not address. He says people resist change not because of change itself, but because of the personal losses they inevitably experience by change. Leaders who address those losses openly, honestly, and creatively, will find much less resistance to change. Bridges also spends some time talking about leading through the "neutral zone;" the place between the casting of vision and the full implementation of whatever it is the leader is trying to change. "Managing Transitions" is an extremely helpful book.

Change is Like a Slinky - Hans Finzel is the president of World Venture, a Christian mission organization, so this book is written from a biblical perspective. Finzel describes six phases of change, and helps the leader think through successful ways to lead an organization through change. Honestly, the information in this book is great. Finzel is easy to read and offers great wisdom, but the Slinky parallels throughout the book drove me nuts. Read the book, but you've been warned ahead of time.

A Sense of Urgency - John Kotter writes for Harvard Business Press, and is one of the world's other great experts on change. He also wrote "Leading Change" and "Our Iceberg is Melting." "A Sense of Urgency" develops the idea that before change can be successful, the people who are being asked to change must feel the need to change. Kotter points out that the "need" must be experienced - it can't be handed down from a top-level executive. Kotter spends a chapter helping the leader deal with people he calls "NoNos" - the people who are chronically opposed to every sort of change. He also helps the leader differentiate between true urgency and false urgency that ultimately kill the change process.

The Leadership Challenge - James Kouzes and Barry Posner have written a book on Leadership that is possibly the most comprehensive resource for leadership available. If not, it is certainly one of the best selling leadership books of all time. They define 5 practices of great leaders: modeling, inspiring, challenging, enabling, and encouraging. If it is true that leaders are made, not born, Kouzes and Posner have taken a worthy stab at making great leaders. It's impossible to capture this book in a short review, so I won't try. If you're interested in organizational leadership and haven't read this book yet, it should probably be one of the next books you read.