All You Need to Know About Kotter's Change Model

Executing transformational change within organizations isn’t easy. To simplify this process, companies turn to various frameworks and theories that outline how to do so. The most famous of these comes from change management guru, John Kotter. A professor at Harvard Business School, he introduced Kotter’s model of change in his 1995 book, ‘Leading Change’.

Kotter’s 8 step change model lists the steps that organizations must undertake to successfully implement change. This framework is popular because it provides a step-by-step roadmap to execute a change initiative. We’ll explore this model in greater detail, its advantages, and try to see whether it remains the best way to think about change, especially given the rapid transformations occurring in the modern workplace.

What is Kotter’s 8 step change model?

Kotter’s change model breaks down any change initiative into 8 steps:

Step 1: Create urgency

The first step in Kotter’s change model is about creating a sense of urgency about the change. This helps others see the need for the change and the consequences of not adopting it. You can do this by showcasing past statistics, current data, or future projections that highlight the necessity of the change. This sense of urgency acts as the foundation for any transformation. So, the first order of business is to make the purpose and importance of the proposed change crystal clear.

Step 2: Form a diverse coalition

Driving change becomes easier if there isn’t only one, but many people who advocate for it. Getting fellow leaders and other key members with varied expertise on board will not only make your case more convincing to important stakeholders, but it will also strengthen and increase the skills of the team driving the change.

Step 3: Develop a vision and a strategy

Change initiatives can feel confusing and complicated, especially at the lower hierarchical levels of an organization because companies fail to communicate _why _the change is important and what it’s expected to achieve. A clear vision of what this change will look like and how it aligns with the company’s core mission and values will encourage team members to work towards bringing about this change. If you have a clear plan of the strategies needed to execute the change, it will ease the transition and show preparedness.

Step 4: Communicate the Vision

A fantastic vision is of no use if you’re the only one who understands it. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure you communicate your vision clearly and often so that everyone, right from senior leaders to employees understand it. This will ensure greater buy-in for your proposal, which will result in more people working towards making it a reality.

Step 5: Remove obstacles

You’re now at the point where you’re ready to start executing your plan! The foremost thing to do now is remove every hurdle possible that is standing in the way of progress since they can cause your team to give up. Examples of these include unnecessary processes, and excessive rules that serve no purpose.

Step 6: Set short-term goals

It will be rewarding for your team to see their progress towards the goal. But this becomes difficult for large-scale transformations that require a great deal of time and effort to be completed. In such situations, you can put in place smaller goals and equivalent rewards which will provide a sense of accomplishment. This will act as encouragement when the going gets tough.

Step 7: Build on the change

While small victories are nice to achieve, they shouldn’t give way to complacency. If a proposed change has been adopted successfully and brought fruitful results once, you must not assume that such will be the case in the future. You should seek improvements and try to replicate success multiple times.

Step 8: Make it stick

For the change to persist after the impetus of novelty has worn off, you need to absorb it into the core values that are at the center of the company culture. Make sure your intended vision behind the change is visible in everyday activities. From transformation of processes to infrastructural revamps, you need to take such measures if you want lasting change.

Why Use Kotter's Change Model?

Kotter’s change model is an excellent framework that is built on extensive research. It breaks a change initiative implementation into smaller parts that change leaders find easier to manage.

It also goes into a great amount of detail for each step, and provides a lot of valuable information on how to execute each part. This is especially helpful for leaders and managers with little to no experience managing change. Since this theory has been around for a while, there are likely to be experts who have implemented this in many organizations. Therefore, there are practitioners with experiential knowledge to complement the theory, which less established theories may not have.

Where Kotter’s Change Management Theory Falls Short

While Kotter’s model of change provides a framework on how to drive a change initiative, it is too simplistic. The step by step process implicitly assumes that you can achieve all change through a linear process. But in reality, complex changes can be messy and unpredictable, where you might take two steps forward and one step back, or perhaps even two steps sideways.

Another major shortcoming of Kotter’s change management theory is that it overemphasizes a top-down approach. Here, the change sponsors and senior leaders are the only ones shaping the change, and the majority of your employees, the ones most affected by it, remain passive bystanders.

Yet its most severe drawback is that it doesn’t prime your workforce to recognize change as a continuous process. Consequently, it does very little to help you create a culture where people see change as an opportunity. This will inevitably lead to less enthusiasm and adoption each time you propose a new initiative.

Change Readiness: A Modern Approach

With recent advances in the fields of automation and artificial intelligence, change is bound to be a perpetual presence in the modern workplace. This puts Kotter’s model of change at a disadvantage when compared with more modern frameworks like change readiness.

Change ready organizations view change as a necessity, as a chance for new possibilities. Adopting this approach helps you create a workforce which welcomes change by encouraging engagement, enabling mobility, and empowering productivity. It prioritizes giving employees the necessary tools and skills to deal with change and thrive in the modern workplace. This in turn helps build their confidence, reducing resistance and increasing your probability of success.

Unlike Kotter’s model which adopts a top-down approach, change readiness emphasizes making employees the drivers of change in your organization. It involves creating opportunities for employees through avenues such as change projects, to get hands-on involvement in the planning and execution of change. They feel a greater sense of ownership and simultaneously gain a better understanding of the rationale behind your decisions.

Our platform provides many features that are geared towards making your organization change-ready. Book a demo now to see this in action and transform the capabilities of your organization!