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In 1996, John Kotter, then a professor at Harvard Business School, published a book, Leading Change, which set out his seminal “Eight Step Change Model”. Despite being written nearly a quarter of a century ago, the Kotter Change Model is regarded as the leading methodology for implementing change management in a team or organization.

Understanding Kotter’s 8 step change model is important for all project managers interested in evolving processes and structures to improve their organization and is absolutely essential for any PMs seeking to implement change management. Here we’ll describe the various elements of the Kotter Change Model.

Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency

This is essentially setting out the business case for why change must happen. The saying, “the best time was yesterday, the second-best time is now” sums up the sense of urgency that needs to be fostered. It’s not that these will be problems in the future, it’s that they are already problems and they need to be dealt with immediately through change management.

  1. Build a Guiding Coalition

A project manager can only form one element of the change management process and going it alone is a very tough task. To get buy-in throughout a project or organization, it’s important to get leading stakeholders and sponsors behind the process as well.

  1. Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives

The individual aspects of change can often be complicated and not applicable to everyone involved. That’s why change management needs an overarching vision for what you are striving for, an easy-to-explain statement, with similarly well-focused supporting initiatives. This will improve communication and clarify the objectives of the change process.

  1. Enlist a Volunteer Army

Change will only be accomplished when everyone involved is working in the same direction. This “volunteer army” will represent the tipping point, when the majority of people are on board and change becomes more likely to happen than not.

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  1. Enable Action by Removing Barriers

The effectiveness of your movement for change can be constrained by the barriers that have been placed in its way. These barriers can include physical space, administrative delays or inefficient reporting structures. Only once these are removed or circumvented can change management proceed.

  1. Generate Short-Term Wins

Long-term change can provide great success, though this only arrives incrementally. For example, a 15% increase in productivity over three years is only around 1% per quarter. To keep stakeholders on board with the change management process, short-term wins that are highly visible and tangible can bolster the faith of the converted and justify the path that has been laid out.

  1. Sustain Acceleration

Use early successes to push even harder for change rather than resting on laurels. It is the moments immediately after wins when people will have most enthusiasm for pushing forward with implementing the change vision.

  1. Institute Change

The true success of change management is when the changes become ingrained in the organization’s culture, no longer seen as a “changed” practice but a natural one. The effects of change should be evident in the primary actions of stakeholders, the habits of employees and the adaption of newcomers to their new surroundings.

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