Kotter’s eight-stage change model

Kotter’s Eight Phases of Change is a model that defines the primary problems that can occur at each stage of any change management programme:

  1. Allowing complacency – assuming that problems will go away or can be handled at a later time
  2. Failing to build a substantial coalition – not gaining organisational support for the change at the highest levels of management
  3. Underestimating the need for a clear vision – if there is no clear vision, then the objectives for the change will not be clear and people may not understand
  4. Failing to clearly communicate the vision – everyone needs to understand the vision and buy into it
  5. Permitting blocks to the vision – problems need to be eliminated, otherwise the change effort will struggle
  6. Not gaining short-term wins – people need to see some short-term success so that they can believe in the change
  7. Declaring victory too soon – changes need to become rooted in the behaviour and beliefs of people to be successful
  8. Not anchoring change in the corporate culture – the change needs to become, ‘the way we do things around here.’

What is it used for?

The model is used to plan and lead organisational change effectively. If each of the problem areas is understood and acknowledged, then it is thought that a change will be more effective and become more ingrained in the way that people work and in the corporate culture.

How do I use it?

It is important to plan any change, working through the list of issues that can arise in the order detailed above. At different stages of the change, specific types of skills are required. For example, at the stage where a clear vision is needed, it is helpful to have an inspiring leadership (individual or team), with excellent communication skills, who can help people to understand the change. However, short-term wins can be gained lower down in the organisation by managers, teams or individuals.

A strong leader is still required, though, to help people understand that there have been short-term wins and appreciate how important they are. Kotter felt that there was too much effort placed on the management of change, when actually it is more important to lead change, by winning people over with clear visions and driving the change forward. A big part of effective change lies in ensuring that change is not blocked by those who do not understand the importance of it. Following this model helps leaders to prevent this from happening by providing a systematic approach to dealing with the problems that will arise.

What are its limitations?

Regardless of whether the model is used or not to lead change programmes in organisations, changes will almost always be difficult and complicated. See the topic on Change.

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