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How To Use the Eight Step Kotter Change Model in Your Business

Change isn’t something that anybody likes in a business setting, but it is, unfortunately, a reality that any business will face eventually. If you’re unprepared for these necessary changes, your revenues and efficiency can take a hit, not something you want to happen!
When you’re dealing with organizational change, it can be tricky to know where to begin when you want to plan the change(s) out. Fortunately, that’s where pre-existing models come in. The Eight Step Kotter Model was developed by Dr. John Kotter of the Harvard Business School and is a tried and tested guide to how to implement change in your organization. Below you’ll find the basics of the Kotter model:
First Step – Creating Urgency
The first step in the Kotter model is to create a sense of urgency in your team. This depends entirely on what type of change you’re dealing with and the scale of it, but generally, it’s easy to identify most of those employees that will be affected. By getting them on board, getting them enthusiastic about the change and its coming implementation, you remove their potential resistance to change and allow them to embrace it.
Second Step – Building A Coalition
Secondly, you must form a team to guide the change. This team should be composed of employees from different levels of the organization in order to get all the different perspectives and the widest range of possible insights. However, in this case, when prioritizing conflicting advice, you should refer to the old saying – in matters of boots, refer to the bootmaker. Those closest to the problem will have a better idea of what impact the proposed change will have than those several layers removed.
Third Step – Forming A Strategy
The third step is to form your strategy, taking into account advice from your team. This strategy should be flexible in order to maneuver around any unforeseen problems that you encounter. You should also take care to keep your strategy grounded in reality and account for human error in implementation; no change goes over completely smoothly no matter how much you plan for it, so keep that in mind when planning your timetable.
Fourth Step – Enlist A Volunteer Army
Whenever you’re implementing change, you’ll need a large amount of work power in order to carry it out. The keyword here is “volunteer,” your personnel should be given the choice of whether they want to be at the center of driving the change. After all, someone who isn’t interested is far more likely to make mistakes or overlook small details that can derail your entire process. If you’ve succeeded in step one, however, you should have a good pool of volunteer candidates to pick from.
Fifth Step – Removing Barriers
When you have barriers to change, whether those be technical, physical, etc., they must be removed in order to prevent them from impeding the process. Ideally, you have already identified the vast majority of barriers in step two and accounted for how to remove them, but bear in mind that no one can anticipate every barrier that will come up. Any further barriers that crop up need to be identified at their root cause and removed before they pose real problems.
Sixth Step – Generating Short Term Wins
If you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere, it can be easy to become demoralized and therefore lose focus. This applies to your employees who are implementing the change especially, thus you need to show them how much progress they are making and communicate to them that they should feel proud of their accomplishments. When done right, this can ignite the fire even further and motivate your team even further.
Seventh Step – Sustaining Acceleration
Tying in with the sixth, this step ensures progress will continue to be made even after hurdles are reached and the first short-term wins are created. By continuing to remind your personnel of the urgency of the change and how their role is important in this, you spark their motivation again and allow momentum to continue at a sustained pace. Ideally, this will be done throughout the rest of the change implementation.
Eighth Step – Reinforcing Change
The final step in this model is to reinforce changes that are made in order for them to become the new norm, as changes can be easily lost or muddled once management focus shifts away from them. You need to keep this in mind even after the project’s official completion, revisiting the changes to see not only if they have stuck but to spot any potential improvements that can be made.
A Handy Tip
When it comes to the Kotter Model, emphasis is on the management and their engagement with those directly under them. The way employees are treated will determine their engagement and, therefore, the overall success of the project, so it’s important to take into account their views and feelings on the matter. Emotion is just as important as logic in the Kotter Model, with the ideal implementation using both.

A Few Last Words
The Kotter Model is certainly useful, but it’s more a series of guidelines that you should follow than a rigid set of instructions. If you find yourself needing to revisit steps as you go, don’t panic, it’s perfectly normal and doesn’t mean you’ve failed to make progress. Steps four through six especially are an ongoing process that you engage with rather than a rigid framework.

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