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Change management is not just an important methodology in project management, it is essential. While other popular management methodologies, such as Agile, Waterfall or PRINCE2 all have their own merits and are perfectly applicable to the right situations, change management can and should be applied across all organizations.

The ability to adapt to new technology and changing circumstances is a prerequisite for an organization’s long-term survival, so adopting an effective process for implementing change management is naturally quite important.

John Kotter’s Steps of Change

One of the foremost architects of change management theory, John Kotter, established what he believed should be the guiding principles behind change in an organization, his Eight Steps of Change. In Kotter’s Steps of Change, a blueprint is laid out which can guide any manager along the path to delivering change management in their organization.

Here we’ll look at those Eight Steps of Change in terms of the different stages of change management they represent.

Creating the Right Environment

Before change can be undertaken, the recognition for why it’s needed and the foundation blocks of how it’s going to happen need to be laid out. This is what the first three of Kotter’s steps look at:

  1. Increase Urgency: This means sowing the seed of change in others by crafting an inspiring and memorable opportunity statement that makes people aware of how necessary and urgent it is.
  2. Forming a Focused Coalition: To build on the idea of change it is much better to have 10 people who are 100% committed to the idea than 100 people who are 10% committed. This early core of effective evangelizers will help to coordinate and communicate its actions.
  3. Outline a Clear Vision: This is where you break down the initiatives that need to be taken to undertake change and the results that they will bring about.

Proving the Power of Change

Once the seed for change has been properly sown, the stage is set to expand the efforts to bring it about. This means spreading the word and displaying the benefits of what you want to bring about, which is where the next three steps of Kotter’s methodology come in:

  1. Get Buy-In Through Communication: To build a consensus for change you need to communicate and convince, not only at the top but also to seek buy-in at all levels of the organization.
  2. Remove Barriers to Empower Action: In any organization there can be inefficient hierarchies, reporting structures and processes which are draining time and resources, these need to be eliminated to allow for a real positive impact.
  3. Prove Success with Short-Term Wins: Gains and wins are the small victories that prove the truth of your vision, they get people on board and are also the best time to push even harder for change.
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Sustaining Progress

Once the process has begun and well and truly been bought into, the most important thing is to keep it going. It can be easy to sit back and think that the movement for change will snowball and continue on its own, to the contrary, it must still be guided and pushed, as described by the final two of Kotter’s list:

  1. Keep Up the Acceleration: After gaining early successes, your credibility is higher so now is the time to seek even greater change to the overall systems, policies and structure that need to adapt.
  2. Ensure the Changes Last: Demonstrate where possible how the changes have improved things and keep banging the drum of change until new, positive practices have become the norm.

As can be seen, putting a plan in place, such as Kotter’s Steps of Change, can greatly enhance your organization’s flexibility and capacity for adapting to new situations. That’s why, at Clarizen, as we are always focused on change, progress and improvement, we have initiated an e-learning series focused on change management. You can find out more at this link.

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