Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model

John Kotter’s 2014 Book Accelerate builds on his 1996 book Leading Change and it recommends running the 8 accelerator steps concurrently and continuously now. Instead of treating them as separate steps, they should be worked on as if they were a continuum to revisited as needed throughout the process. Proof, if any was needed, that change is real and alive even in change management processes!

In Accelerate he also added to the process by including four change principles:

  1. Leadership + Management — To capitalise on windows of opportunity, leadership mist be paramount and not just from one executive. I’ts about Vision, Action, Innovation and Celebration, as well as the essential management processes..
  2. Head + Heart — Data and logic alone are unlikely to inspire or motivate people to adopt a new process or tool, you need to give greater meaning and purpose to the effort to inspire them by the fundamental desire to contribute to a greater cause
  3. Select Few + Diverse Many — More People need to be able to make change happen – not just carry out someone else’s directives. Done correctly, this uncovers leaders at all levels of an organisation including ones you never knew you had. select a few with diverse skills, knowledge, reach and influence!
  4. “Have To” + “Want To” — Transitions run more smoothly and quicker, when those affected by it want it to happen and help it to happen. Existing team members will provide the energy if you invite them and inspire.

Kotter’s 8 accelerators are:

  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Build the “guiding coalition” (change team)
  3. Form a strategic vision
  4. Enlist a volunteer army
  5. Enable People by Removing barriers to change
  6. Generate short-term wins
  7. Sustain Acceleration / Maintain momentum
  8. Institute & Embed change

Create a sense of urgency – Help others see the need for change through a bold, aspirational opportunity statement that communicates the importance of acting immediately. Your top leaders must describe an opportunity that will appeal to individuals’ heads + hearts, and use this statement to raise a large, urgent army of volunteers.

The principle of Head + Heart is important here

Build the change team / the “guiding coalition” – A volunteer army needs a coalition of effective people – born of its own ranks – to guide it, coordinate it, and communicate its activities. he Guiding Coalition is, in many ways, the nerve centre of the 8-Step Process. It can take many shapes, but must consist of members from multiple layers of the hierarchy, represent many functions, receive information about the organisation at all levels and ranks, and synthesise that information into new ways of working.

Transformations cannot be led by a single person. Therefore, your guiding coalition, made up of people you choose as your support system, should include managers, supervisors, and team leads and possibly team members.

Building on the Principle of “the Select Few + Diverse Many” , designate change leaders (the select few) who have a wide range of job experiences, skills, and duties (the Diverse Many). Educate them about the reason for the change so that they feel confident in the need for it. Doing so ensures that you have support from a variety of areas within the company.

Remember change is personal so ensure that you dial up the empathy of everyone involved. You are shaking up the “status quo” which has been fine for many so it is likely to be difficult. you need to be understanding of the initial reactions, both negative and positive and understand that shock may lead to a muted instant reaction.

Form a Strategic Vision & Initiatives – defines strategic initiatives as targeted and coordinated activities that, if designed and executed fast enough and well enough, will make your vision a reality.

Kotter suggests the Characteristics of an effective Strategic Vision are it is

  • Communicable,
  • Desirable,
  • Creates a Vivid Verbal Picture,
  • Flexible,
  • Feasible,
  • Imaginable, &
  • Simple.
  • To this list I would add
    • “Written Down” so it remains consistent and balanced.
    • 2 Pages max – we don’t need fatigue leading to TL;DR setting in!
    • Aspirational

Remember the very essence of this is to be your guiding light / your North Star so you know what your destination is – without a destination you can’t start the journey.

ENLIST A VOLUNTEER ARMY – Large-scale change can only occur when very significant numbers of employees amass under a common opportunity and drive in the same direction.

The Principle of Have To + Want To is critical here.

  1. Give people a reason and motivation to join the movement. A strong vision goes a long way.
  2. Don’t boil the ocean – about 15% of your organisation is enough to build material momentum toward real change while to make it very sticky you need 50%+.
  3. Don’t forget the existing team – Recognise the effort of existing volunteers to keep them engaged and to recruit more.

Enable People by Removing barriers to change – By removing barriers such as inefficient processes and archaic norms, leaders provide the freedom necessary for employees to work across boundaries and create real impact.

In order to remove barriers, you must identify them. Think about why past initiatives have failed. At what stage? Did they get off the ground at all? Stall mid-way? Get completed but then abandoned?

Barriers can be commonly accepted statements that, while appearing helpful, can deter attempts to get past legacy obstacles. These are statements like, “It’s just not done that way,” or “We tried that before — it didn’t work.”

Common barriers include: conflicting priorities, silos, parochialism, pressure to hit numbers, complacency, legacy rules or procedures, and limited access to key stakeholders and leaders.

GENERATE SHORT TERM WINS – as they are the building blocks of results. They must be collected, collated and communicated – early and often – to track progress and energise your volunteers to drive change. They may take the shape of actions taken, a lesson learned, a process improved, a new behaviour demonstrated, etc.

Wins will have the most impact when they scale across the organisation. They need to be

  1. Relevant to the opportunity you’re chasing;
  2. Meaningful to others – People beyond the winner or winners care about the win, be it members of your team, another team, customers, stakeholders, etc.;
  3. Unambiguous, visible, and tangible such that people can replicate or adapt it.

SUSTAIN ACCELERATION (MAINTAIN MOMENTUM) – Press harder after the first successes. It can be easy to lift your foot off the gas pedal after experiencing some success. Instead, this is the time to press harder and use those wins as momentum to further fuel the change. Your increasing credibility can improve systems, structures and policies. Be relentless with initiating change after change until the vision is a reality.

Revisit urgency after generating some significant wins. It is very easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is to move the initiatives into the culture and sustain them. It may be necessary to revisit some of the urgency-raising activities incorporated at the start.

Get more and more people involved, always looking for ways to expand the volunteer army.
With new volunteers and fresh eyes, you’ll find more barriers in need of knocking down. Remove them, too!

Institute & EMBED change – To ensure new behaviours are repeated over the long term, it’s important that you define and communicate the connections between those behaviours and the organisation’s success.

The Principle of Management + Leadership is critical here.

Years of a different kind of experience are often needed to create lasting change. That is why cultural changes come once you are deep into a transformation, not at the beginning. You first have to build the muscle and track record of antithetical experiences. Culture changes after you have successfully altered people’s actions, connecting the dots between new
behaviours and better performance.

From John Kotter’s book Accelerate

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