8-Step Change Model - Kotter

John Kotter, thought-leader in the fields of business, management and change, outlined an 8-Step Change Model to create lasting transformations within an organisation.

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Kotter's 8-Step Change Model [edit]

John Kotter, thought-leader in the fields of business, management and change, outlined an 8-Step Change Model to create lasting transformations within an organisation.

John Kotter and Transformation

Research carried out by the team of leadership guru John Kotter has concluded the regularity by which change initiatives in organisations often do not lead to successful or lasting change. In fact, there was only a 30% chance, in the organisations researched, of the change initiative being successful.

This is why Kotter developed his 8 Steps to Change as a framework for organisations to follow in their journey to implementing change. It fully prepares the business and guides them through the process in such a way that by the end, all employees are fully prepared for and committed to the process. 


The 8-Step Model

Here are the 8 Steps as described by John Kotter:


Kotter's 8-Step Change Model


The 8 Step Change Model is designed to bring lasting change to an organisation, and every single step is equally as important in achieving this. The leaders within the organisation - those who will be charged with designing, initiating and managing change - must understand every stage fully in order to be able to implement it correctly.


1. Create a sense of urgency

The first step is all about taking everyone out of their comfort zones; followers and leaders alike. Everyone must understand and see the need for change, and be aware of how urgent this change is. This will create immediate support for an inspiring vision for the organisation. For a leader to achieve this, they must be open and clear in their dialogue, listing all the issues with current systems, processes and activities, and why they should be changed at this time. Followers can be involved in the discussion of possible solutions and potential threats to the change programme.


2. Form a guiding coalition

As this change initiative is a project in itself, it requires a project team to be formed. The leader should seek to form a group of volunteers who have fully bought into the need for change and understand the goals of the project. This coalition will manage the general running of the initiative and will encourage all other employees to buy in and aid in its implementation. Ideally, this inner coalition will be formed of individuals from across different sectors of the organisation or team, as this diversity can offer unique approaches to problem-solving and decision-making, but also so that individuals from the wider organisation can buy into the team. 


3. Develop an inspired vision

The guiding coalition and leadership now should coordinate to create an inspiring vision for change within the organisation. By formulating this clear vision, everyone throughout the organisation can understand fully what the project is aiming to achieve within the outlined timeframe. When change is outlined in writing, individuals can truly understand the intent and depth of the initiative, and by aligning it with organisational values and strategies, everyone can understand and buy in to the direction. Employees can be involved in strategising conversations so as to encourage further support for the project.


4. Convey the new vision

The predominant goal of the project is to encourage cooperation and support for the vision. Therefore, the way it is communicated to the wider organisation is paramount. Leaders should take every opportunity to discuss the changes with any individual followers or employees, accepting any concerns or issues on board and integrating them into planning considerations. The new vision needs to be integrated into activities of all individuals across the organisation, so if any one individual does not accept it, then it can lead to issues with synchronisation and cooperation.


5. Empower others to enact the vision

As the employees are those who will be forefront in implementing the change, then it is crucial that they possess all the skills, resources and confidence to do so. A good leader will empower their followers to be the best they can be, whether that be through training, coaching, mentoring, or any other method. As the vision is communicated across the organisation, leaders should become aware of any who are resistant to the change, and they should encourage openness to discover the root of this resistance. By removing any obstacles to progress in the initiative, and personal development, leaders can relieve this resistance whilst creating empowered and inspired individuals who have bought in to the vision.


6. Generate short-term wins

Nothing is more motivational at the individual level than success. By breaking the project down into smaller, short-term goals, then individuals gain a clear idea of progress, but are also motivated by immediate successes. Once they have achieved these short-term goals, individuals will be inspired to continue to build on these and to reach the next milestone for the initiative. By acknowledging and rewarding those who are crucially responsible for short-term wins, leaders can motivate individual followers, and others can become more aware of the route that the organisation is taking.


7. Sustain acceleration of the vision

In the experience of Kotter, many organisations fail to sustain real change as they declare victory over their change initiatives too early, mistaking short-term wins and immediate progress for long-term success. Change is a slow process - and to be fully accepted it must be ingrained in the underlying culture, values and objectives of the organisation. Quick wins are only the beginning of this long-term change, and the organisation must continue to seek improvements and push for new successes. Only after several successes have been achieved can it be established that the change process is paying off. Leaders should be open to accepting any failures or non-successes, and to listen to any suggestions from followers from across the organisation.


8. Institute permanent change

The final step is for leaders to anchor and truly embed change within the core and culture of the organisation. Change does not come about and sustain itself alone - all of the organisation's values and objectives, systems and processes must be inspected and evaluated in the context of the change initiative. Leaders are responsible for embedding this change at the team level, and altering the behaviours and standards of the team members in order to sustain the lasting effects. The progress of the initiative must be monitored closely and regularly in order to consolidate it at a deeper level. This should include discussions with individuals from across the organisation, as their inspiration and cooperation with the new change is crucial, and it is easy for this to drop off over time. Any new suggested improvements or changes can still be integrated into the progress of the project.


Enact Lasting Change

Once the entire change process has been completed, the change must continue to be embedded and evolve with the future of the organisation. Kotter suggests that it should be used as a starting point in any recruitment or promotion process - ensuring that individuals understand the organisation's processes, values and objectives, that they buy into them, and encouraging the leadership of those who can continue to drive the change from within. It should also be included in any training or personal development programmes for current members of staff, implementing it into their learning and everyday tasks. 

Individuals should be acknowledged, appreciated and rewarded publicly for actively contributing to the change process. This will consolidate their support for both leader and initiative, something which may be required for similar situations in the future.