Kotter’s model for change

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”
Gail Sheehy

The one constant in both our professional and personal lives is change. As a coach, I am often called to help people instigate or deal with change. One of the frameworks I use in these situations is the model for change popularized by John Kotter.

Kotter defines change as an 8-step process, as follows:

  1. Instill a sense of urgency
    Communicate as clearly and as broadly as possible that a change is needed.
  2. Assemble a change leadership team
    Bring together a cross-functional team that would lead the change.
  3. Figure out the vision and strategy for the change
    The leadership team should come up with a high level direction for the change.
  4. Communicate the vision
    Everyone affected by the change should understand what is coming.
  5. Empower everyone for action
    Make sure that everybody can contribute and influence the change, not just the leaders.
  6. Create a few short-term wins
    Make the first few steps with clear outcomes. Communicate the outcomes.
  7. Build on top of the gains and produce more change
    Be relentless after the first wins and produce more.
  8. Integrate the new approach in the culture
    Hold on to the new behavior until it’s deemed “normal”.

I have a few beefs with the model, namely that it’s been devised as a way for “managers” to change “employees”, but if you take care to be as inclusive as possible at each step of the way, I imagine it being useful regardless of the empowerment level in an organization.

You also need to sense how the system is responding to the change and adapt as needed. That means being as holistic as possible in your assessment of the change impact (what might have happened elsewhere as a result of the pending transformation?).

If you want to read more, here are some of Kotter’s books on the topic:


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