Dr John Kotter is professor of Harvard Business School and globally known as the expert change management and change leadership. In his bestseller book, Leading Change, he presents 8-steps change model for implementing successful and lasting change in organizations.

 This model revolves around creating atmosphere of change in organization, engaging and enabling organization and implementing and sustaining change. This model is widely popular and studying change management is incomplete without knowing this model. 

Let’s check it out that what are Kotter’s 8 steps model of change management.

Create Urgency

Kotter says that change is happened when at-least 75% of employees are convinced that change is necessary. This sense of urgency is developed among employees by change leaders through having a candid and open dialogue. In these dialogues the focus should be on what are new realities, what are threats and new opportunities. The vision for change needs to be agreed upon through these dialogues.

Change leaders should present their arguments in a convincing way in front of employees and challenge the existing status quo and make a clear point that time for change is running out. If these dialogues create sense of urgency, then employees start thinking and discussing the concept of change.

Build a Coalition

Change leaders need a group of strong and experienced team who approve the idea of change. They are the individual who understand the value of change. This initial coalition of employees might be small in number but it is very crucial. Why? Because they will lead and implement the change.

Organizations are lucky if its coalition for change have a good mix of employees from different departments, having different skills set and level of experience.   

Create a Vision

The next step for change leaders and its coalition is to create a vision that what their organization look like in the future. An inspiring vision helps other employees understand the change; so it helps getting buy-in of employees.

An ideal vision should be in a written form and it should be simple and brief. But a good vision statement must have an appealing value in it.

Communicate the Vision

After creating vision, the next step is to communicate it powerfully and convincingly. It should be communicated frequently so that every one in organization clearly understands it.

Human psychology demands a continuous communication to influence their behavior.  When employees hear the message on vision on regular basis, they start retaining the message in their mind and heart. And then it becomes easy to follow it and implement the required change.

Remove Obstacle 

When an organization starts its journey toward change, there are obstacles on its way. Obstacles come from two sources – first, employees who may be resisting change and second, the old system and structure are the main hurdles. Knowing obstacles is more important. When identified, then strategies are formed to remove and manage those obstacles.

Create Short-Term Win

Leadership must create short goals and pursue these goals. Achieving these goals on timely and effectively manner will help to motivate employees. These short-term achievements or wins are extremely crucial for the successful journey toward the final goal. These short wins and feel of early victory are a great way to manage resistance among employees and more employees start joining the campaign.

Build on the Change

Leadership might get complacent after having early wins. Real destination is sometimes far and it requires a lot of patience. The next step according to Kotter is to keep focus on the real change or long-term change. Based on the learning on the short-term wins, leadership need to stick to create something real big and impactful change which is close to the vision set for change.

Institutionalize Change

The last step of the Kotter’s model of change model is to make a deliberate effort to institutionalize change in every aspect of an organization. It should be like core value of an organization. The entire culture shows change and it can be seen in day to day working of an organization. Again, it is emphasized here that change leaders play their role in institutionalizing change. They accept change, support it and make it happen.

Let’s discuss some pros and cons of Kotter’s Change Model:

Advantages of Kotter’s Change Model  

Easy model

It is an easy model which provides clear guidance on each of it step. With clarity of each step, it is also easier to implement and it makes smooth transition from one step to another for the process. It can be applied various type of organizations from business to public entities.

Focus on buy-in for change

The focus of Kotter’s model is to get buy-in for change from employees. As it emphasizes on creating urgency of change among employees, building coalition, creating violation, and communicating vision; so these all steps are focused on preparing employees to accept and getting prepared for change.

Relevant to Big Organizations

Kotter’s Change Model suits to the need of big organizations with have strict hierarchies. Since big organizations have huge human resources so this model has more relevance to such organizations because its steps are more about winning hearts and minds of employees.

Disadvantages of Kotter’s Change Model     

It’s a rigid model

Though it is easier to understand and follow, yet it is a rigid model on the other hand. Its steps are connected with each other in a sequence and can not be separated easily. There is no room for alternation and further creativity, if organizations want to make it suitable to their specific needs.

Time Consuming

It takes a long time to implement each of 08 steps of Kotter’s model. As each step is different and separate from each other so it consumes a great deal of time to implement each step and then move forward on the next.

Only for top-down Management

Kotter’s change model works well with organizations which have top-down management approach.  This model has limited scope and suits those organizations where decisions are made by leaders at the highest hierarchy and followed by the employees at the last rung of such hierarchy. It does not allow working of different teams together and has less room for two-way communication.

Take Home Points

Although Kotter model is very popular but it management scientists also criticize it for its over simplification. They also criticize that Kotter put too much focus on acceptability of change instead of real process of change. Following are the take home points:

  • The model starts with creating urgency for change;
  • Next step is to bring together like-minded employees to form coalition for change;
  • Then comes in creating vision of change;
  • Communicating vision of change is of foremost importance;
  • Removing obstacles is the next step of Kotter’s model of change;
  • Creating short wins are the first signals to realize the change;
  • Building on small change leads to real and big change; and
  • Finally, making this change a part of organizational culture is the last step of Kotter’s model.
  • The biggest advantage of this that it is easy to implement as its focus is to get buy-in of employees for the change.
  • The down side of this model is that is rigid, and suits only big organizations with strict hierarchies.