Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change

In “Leading Change” John P Kotter outlines his 8 step process for leading change. The article below contains a summary of some of the key messages for each of the 8 steps. This is a very useful book for anyone interested in a framework for successfully leading or managing change. 

1. Raise the sense of Urgency

  • Create a crisis by allowing a financial loss, exposing manager s to major weaknesses v competitors, or allowing errors to blow up instead of being corrected 
  • Eliminate obvious examples of excess (facilities ) 
  • Set revenue, income customer satisfaction target so high they can’t be reached by conducting business s usual
  • Stop measuring on narrow functional goals and instead insist that more people are held accountable for a broader measure of business performance
  • Send more data about customer satisfaction and financial performance to more employees, especially information that demonstrates weakness v the competition
  • Insist that people talk regularly to dissatisfied customers, unhappy suppliers and disgruntled shareholders
  • Use consultants to force more relevant data and honest discussion into management meetings
  • Stop senior management “happy talk”
  • Bombard people with information on future opportunities, on the rewards for capitalising on those opportunities, and on the current inability to pursue those opportunities


2. Build a Coalition That Can Make Change Happen

Find the Right People

  • With strong position power, broad expertise and high credibility
  • With leadership and management skills, especially the former

Create Trust

  •  Through carefully planned of-site events
  •  With lots of talk and joint activities

Develop a Common Goal

  •  Sensible to the head
  •  Appealing to the heart 


3. Develop a Vision and Strategy

  • First Draft: The process often starts with an initial statement from a single individual, reflecting both his or her dreams and real marketplace needs
  • Role of Guiding Coalition: The first draft is always modelled over time by the guiding coalition or an even larger group of people
  • Importance of teamwork: The group process never works well without a minimum of effective teamwork
  • Role of the head and the heart: Both analytical thinking and a lot of dreaming are essential throughout the activity
  • Messiness of the Process: Vision creation is usually a process of two steps forward and one back, movement to the left and then to the right
  • Time frame: vision is never created in a single meeting. The activity takes months and sometime years
  • End Product: the process results in a direction for the future that is desirable, feasible, focused, flexible and is conveyable in five minutes or less


4. Effectively Communicate the Vision

  • Simplicity: All jargon and technobabble must be eliminated
  • Metaphor, analogy and example: A verbal picture is worth a thousand words
  • Multiple forums: Big meetings and small, memos and newspapers, formal and informal interaction – all are effective for spreading the word
  • Repetition: Ideas sink in deeply only after they have been heard many times.
  • Leadership by example: Behaviour from important people that is inconsistent with the vision overwhelms other forms of communication
  • Explanation of seeming inconsistencies: Unaddressed inconsistencies undermines the credibility of all communication.
  • Give and Take: Two-way communication is always more powerful that one-way communication


5. Empower Employees for Broad-Based Actions

  • Communicate a sensible vision to employees: If employees achieve a shared sense of purpose, it will be easier to initiate actions to achieve that purpose
  •  Make structures compatible with the vision: Unaligned structures block needed action.
  • Provide the training the employees need: Without the right skills and attitudes, people feel disempowered
  • Align information and personnel systems to the vision: Unaligned systems also block needed action
  • Confront supervisors who undercut needed change: Nothing dis-empowers people the way a bad boss can.


6. Generate Short Term Wins

  • Provide evidence that sacrifices are worth it: Wins generally help justify the short-term costs involved
  • Reward change agents with a pat on the back: after a lot of hard work, a positive feedback builds morale and motivation
  • Help fine-tune vision and strategies: short term wins give the guiding coalition data on the viability of their ideas
  • Undermine cynics and self serving resisters: clear improvements in performance make it difficult for people to block needed change
  • Keep bosses on board: Provides those higher in the hierarchy with evidence that the transformation is on the track
  • Build momentum: Turns neutral into supporters, reluctant supporters into active helpers


7. Consolidate Wins and Produce More Change

  • More change, not less: The guiding coalition uses the credibility afforded by short term wins to tackle additional and bigger change projects
  • More help: Additional people are brought in, promoted and developed to help with all the changes
  • Leadership form senior management: Senior people frocus on maintaining clarity of shared purpose for the overall effort and keeping urgency levels up.
  • Project Management and Leadership from below: Lower ranks in the hierarchy both provide leadership for specific projects and manage those projects
  • Reduction of unnecessary interdependencies: To make change easier in both the short and long term, managers identify unnecessary interdependencies and eliminate them


8. Anchoring Change in a Culture

  • Comes last not first: Most alterations in norms and shared values come at the end of the transformation process
  • Depends on results: New approaches usually sink into a culture only after it’s very clear that they work and are superior to old methods
  • Requires a lot of talk: Without verbal instruction and support, people are often reluctant to admit the validity of new practices
  • May involve turnover: Sometime the only way to change a culture is to change key people
  • Makes decisions on succession critical: If promotion processes are not changed to be compatible with the new practices, the old culture will reassert itself


Next Steps

If you are an employer and have any questions, please contact your CollierBroderick HR Advisor, call us on 01 8666426contact us, or email us on enquiries@collierbroderick.ie.