Managing change "When alligators sink into your heel"

The day-to-day problems of business often prevent leaders from taking the time to think, plan, and act on the transformational changes needed in organizations. The Heart of Change, by John Kotter, presents the case study “When Alligators Are Nipping at Your Heels” as an example of a leader who decided to deal with the crisis facing himself and his organization before finding ways to transform the organization. . Kotter quotes Nick Pierce as saying that before you begin work on a major transformation, “you must put out the great fire and focus on anything that can quickly restart that fire” (Kotter, p. 25).

However, in the current work environment, the pace of work and change is accelerating, and there is a risk of using “firefighting” as an excuse not to find the time, energy, and attention a leader needs to solve real problems. Must change within an organization. The perceived need to focus on wildfires can, of course, sabotage any attempt to make a difference. “Many of the current struggles with transformation are that leaders do not come to the cultural, behavioral and psychological components of transformation or participate in them in a way that has a real impact” (Anderson & Anderson, p. 16).

Managers are often forced to deal with day-to-day business issues. They feel they need their expertise and experience to help “put out the fire” in their area of ‚Äč‚Äčexpertise. Leaders, however, recognize the need to focus on the movement of building “burning platforms” as people and organizations begin to move away from their comfort zone, helping to understand the need for change (Kotter, p. 27). This takes time, energy and attention. Using excuses that the organization has too much fire to put out is a real distraction and encourages employees to go back to the old way of doing things rather than focusing on the change at hand.


Anderson D and Anderson L (2001). Beyond change management. San Francisco: Josie – Bass / Pfeiffer.

Cotter, JP and Cohen, DS (2002). The Heart of Change: Real Life Stories of People

Change their organizations. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

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