Change Management: Professor John Kotter’s 8-step Process for Leading Change

John Kotter says that ‘To successfully react to windows of opportunity, regardless of the focus – innovation, growth, culture, cost structure, technology – a new methodology of change leadership is required’.

Kotter’s 30 years of research has proved that 70% of all major change efforts in organisations fail.

Why do they fail?

Because, Kotter, suggests organisations often don’t take an holistic approach required to see the change through.

A summary of ‘The 8-step Process for Leading Change’ follows:

Step 1: Create a sense of urgency

  • help others feel a gut-level determination to move on and win, Check out the ‘everything’s fine’ complacency piece; false v true urgency; guaranteed to fail or guaranteed to succeed. Take the organisations’ pulse regularly.
  • Aim for the deepest values of your people.

Step 2: Creating the Guiding Coalition

  • put together the right group with enough power to lead the change who have a significant level of mutual trust and commitment to a shared objective with the capacity to make change happen despite all the forces of inertia.
  • Effective Guiding Coalitions need 1. Position power 2. Expertise 3. Credibility 4. Leadership

 Step 3: Developing a Change Vision

  • clarify how the future will be different from the past. Clear visions serve 3 important purposes
  1. Simplifies decisions
  2. Motivates right action
  3. Enables fast, efficient co-ordination of actions.
  • Clear, powerful visions are crucial needing to heed current realities while setting forth ambitious goals. A clear vision is the glue. Sacrifices are needed too. Unless it can be communicated quickly that makes sense it is useless.
  • The 6 keys to effective visions are:
  1. Imaginable
  2. Desirable
  3. Feasible
  4. Focused
  5. Flexible
  6. Communicable

Step 4: Communicating the Vision for Buy-in

 ensure as many people as possible understand & accept the vision. Communicate clearly, communicate clearly, communicate clearly, effectively and regularly [hour-by-hour is good].

  • When communicating the vision for transformation 3 things are key:
  1. Simple, no techno babble nor jargon
  2. Vivid –picture worth 1000 words so use metaphor, analogy, examples
  3. Invitational – 2-way communication is essential as is powerful eg: We are going to become faster than anyone in our industry at satisfying client’s needs.
  • Leaders need to walk their talk, be consistent, back words with behaviour.
  • When senior management team starts to behave differently, embodying the change a powerful message is sent to whole organisation increasing motivation, inspiring confidence, decreasing cynicism.

 Step 5: Empowering Broad-Based Action

  • removing as many barriers as possible and unleashing people to do their best work. Honest dialogue is the best approach.
  • Effective efficient management Information systems are essential and cost-effective way to disseminate information quickly.
  • Need to identify people who may be barriers and enable them to shift their behaviour etc. Ignoring them is NOT an option.

Step 6: Generating Short-term Wins

  • creating visible, unambiguous success as soon as possible.
  • Short-term wins are essential to keeping momentum on track and fresh and the benefit is that they turn neutral people into supporters and reluctant supporters into active helpers.
  • In any change initiative agendas change so factoring in short term wins to demonstrate progress is vital. They undermine the credibility of cynics and the self-serving resistors.

Step 7: Don’t Let Up

  • consolidating gains and producing more change.
  • Resistance is always waiting in the wings to re-assert itself. Never let up as once do re-building momentum is a daunting task.
  • By step 7 the following will become evident:
  1. More projects being added
  2. Additional people being added to help
  3. Senior leadership focused on giving clarity to an aligned vision and shared purpose
  4. Employees empowered at all levels to lead projects
  5. Reduced interdependencies between areas
  6. Constant effort to keep urgency high
  7. Consistent show of proof that the new way is working.
  • Make sure changes are firmly embedded so as not to stall.

Step 8: Make it stick

 anchoring new approaches in the culture for sustained change.

  • Culture is composed of norms of behaviour and shared values.
  • New employees are indoctrinated without realising it happening.
  • General rules about cultural change are:
  1. Cultural change comes last not first
  2. Must be able to prove that new way is superior to the old
  3. Success must be visible and well communicated
  4. Some people will be lost in the process
  5. Must re-inforce new norms and values with incentives and rewards including promotions
  6. Re-inforce the culture with every new employee.

Tradition is a powerful force.

We keep change in place by creating a new, supportive and sufficiently strong organisational culture.

A Guiding Coalition alone cannot root change in place no matter how string they are.

It takes the majority of the organisation truly embracing the new culture for there to be any chance of success in the long term’.

Thank you to Professor John Kotter for his explanation of his 8 Step Change Model

For more information:

Professor Kotter’s latest book is ‘That’s not how we do it here’