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What is John Kotter’s 8-Step Change Process? | Video

What is John Kotter's 8-Step Change Process? | Video

John Kotter articulated his 8-step process model for leading change in his 1996 best seller, Leading Change. And, although there have been some changes in terminology, all of his team’s research since has continued to endorse the basic 8 steps. So, what is Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change.

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Leading Change, Accelerate, and the 8-Step Change Process

Although I still refer to my original copy of Leading Change, I will use the more up-to-date labels for Kotter’s 8 steps, from his 2014 book, Accelerate.

These 8 steps are: 

  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Build a guiding coalition
  3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives

These first three set up the basis for change

  1. Enlist a volunteer army
  2. Enable action by removing barriers
  3. Generate short-term wins

The second three create an empowered cadre

  1. Sustain acceleration
  2. Institute change

The last two steps make create change

Let’s look at them one at a time…

1: Create a sense of urgency

Ensure people recognize the need for change, to motivate them both to start to let go of the past, and to participate in the change to come.

Whilst fear of consequences is a powerful motivator, crafting an inspiring vision of the future is more sustainable.

2: Build a guiding coalition

This is a team that understands the need and is committed to leading the work to deliver the change. Ideally, this group needs to span every dimension of the organization – regionally, functionally, demographically, and hierarchically.

3: Form a strategic vision and initiatives

This step combines articulating what you want to achieve and the practical plan of how you can achieve the changes.

The guiding coalition (change leadership team) needs to be able to articulate this clearly and effectively.

4: Enlist a volunteer army

Now you need the numbers to share the load and make things happen. You need to craft a movement if your change is to stick.

This means communicating the vision, building momentum, and harnessing the enthusiasm as you create it.

5: Enable action by removing barriers

You need to lift every possible barrier of unnecessary procedure or policy, so people can work efficiently and effectively across the silos that could prevent progress.

This means giving real power to your guiding coalition. And it means them delegating their power to your enthusiastic volunteer army.

6: Generate short-term wins

Success motivates and it proves a point. Look for opportunities to succeed, and then make use of them through recognition, communication, and celebration. Do this from day one and do it often.

Quick wins, easy wins, small targets. But don’t over-focus on these to the extent that they sap all your team’s energy, leaving nothing for the big things.

7: Sustain acceleration

This means you need to pace yourself and your team. Build change into the culture, so you can sustain progress and remain resilient in the face of inevitable setbacks. Create changes in a sequence: ‘change after change’, not ‘change upon change’..

8: Institute change

Now you need to lock the changes into the culture, so they stick.

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About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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