Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model

Kotter’s 8 Steps for Leading Change

What is Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model? Why is it important?

Organizational change

Kotter's 8-Step Change Model

A majority of Operational & Organizational Change Initiatives fail to achieve the intended results.

Over 4 decades Dr. John Kotter observed countless organizations as they were trying to execute their change strategies. He witnessed their failures, identified the common success factors and documented them as the 8 Steps for Leading Change.

Kotter introduced this “8 Steps for leading Change” in his 1995 book, "Leading Change."

Other references to his model include “8-step Change Model”, “8-step Model for Change” and “8-step Change Management Model”.

Step 1: Create Urgency

For change to happen, the whole company needs to really want it, and understand the sense of urgency for the need for change (“expect a change coming up in 10 years from now” will not spark much engagement…).

  • Identify potential threats (trends in the market place or technology, new competitors, plummeting customer satisfaction etc).
  • Start honest discussions, and give dynamic and convincing reasons to get people talking and thinking.
  • Request support from customers, outside stakeholders and industry people to strengthen your argument.
customer support
Operational & Organizational Change Management

Step 2: Form a Powerful Coalition

First of all: managing change isn't enough, YOU have to lead it.

Secondly: Kotter suggests that for change to be successful, 75 percent of a company's management needs to "buy into" the change. In other words, this step is important, even more so for larger organizations.

Hence, convince people that change is necessary. Find your supporters and change leaders within your organization (they don't necessarily follow the company hierarchy).

Bring these together in a coalition, or team, of people that will support the change program from within. Ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company.

Step 3: Create a Vision for Change

If you want to lead your people somewhere, don’t just wander off into the desert: you’ll need a destination. Have a clear Vision for your business, with clear long and short term goals and the associated strategies, and be able to present this to your organization in a simple manner that people can grasp easily and remember.

Your vision should help everyone understand why you're asking them to follow. It should help people understand the opportunities it may bring for them (e.g. promotion, personal development, access to new technologies, stability)

people talking

Step 4: Communicate the Vision

Now you need to communicate your Vision with your staff! Your success will be a function of how effectively you will be able to pull this off.

Be aware that all of us are inundated constantly by a relentless stream of information: you need to communicate your Vision frequently, consistently and powerfully. Do this whenever you can. Not just at a special meeting, but talk about it every chance you get: on the shop floor, during lunch hour, at the monthly BBQ.

When people address concerns, engage with them enthusiastically, be open and honest in your response. Answer their questions, clarify your Vision, pros and cons, opportunities and threats

Step 5: Remove Obstacle

If you have done all the above work, it’s time to check the change-readiness of your organization: is anyone resisting the change, are any processes or structures getting in its way?

Remove these obstacles as much as needed:

- Empower those people that will help you execute your vision (these are your change leaders).
- Ensure your organizational structure, job descriptions and compensation systems are all in line with your vision.
- Identify people who are resisting the change, and help them see what's needed.
- Take action to remove remaining barriers (human or otherwise).

Step 6: Create Short-Term Wins

Show that you are serious about your change program by delivering Quick-Wins. These short-term results motivate people, in particular when they alleviate people’s “pains”. It shows you are listening and taking their concerns seriously!

When selecting your Quick-Wins, look for changes that can be quickly and easily implemented, are inexpensive and have a high Return on Investment (financial, strategic, staff happiness or otherwise).

work table
continious-business-improvement - Portrait

Step 7: Build on the Change

Quick wins are only the beginning. Many change projects fail because of the lack of sustained execution.

Ensure the mandate of your Change Champion stays top priority. Celebrate successes and learn from failures (“lessons learned”).

Review your Vision, Goals and Strategies on a regular basis, and adjust if needed.

Apply the concept of Continuous Improvement and keep your program alive.

Changing your Change Agents may help keep things fresh and broaden the coalition.

Step 8: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

Finally, to make any change stick, it should become part of the core of your organization. Embed all changes in your work processes, procedures, KPI’s, value, hiring practice, management practice. This way, Continuous Improvement will become part of your company culture: people expect change to be part of everyday life.

How my Business Transformation program supports Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model

All major components of my 3-Step program to Business Transformation play a role within Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model:

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Transformation Map: a clear, visual, 1-page overview of your Vision that can be shared with your organization. Everyone seeing this will understand your Vision, how they’ll get there, and what may be in it for them.

Various Brainstorms, Process Mapping exercises: group brainstorms engages your people. It makes them part of the process and allows them to provide input. Some of their input will create the opportunity to deliver Quick-Wins, which will show you’re serious.

Current & Future Org Chart: shows your vision for the organizational structure and presents opportunity for promotion and personal development.

Structured and Collaborative Action Plan management platform and Management structure: supports the sustainable execution of your Change Program

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