What is the Kotter Change Management Model?
Kotter Change Management is a model that helps companies in phases of change to master the associated challenges. Invented by John P. Kotter in 1995, the 8-step model is one of the best-known methods for supporting employees and managers in times of change.
Kotter developed the model on the basis of the field theory of psychologist Kurt Lewin. He drew his conclusions from his studies of successful change projects in large organizations.
The focus of his change model for companies is on people and the communication surrounding change. Only by avoiding or dissolving resistance from employees and anchoring new habits can change in a company be sustainable.
Why is change management needed at all?
Rapid and ongoing social and economic changes, such as those described in the VUCA world, are increasingly challenging organizations. The need for change management models is growing accordingly.
How does Kotter's 8-stage model work?
Kotter's 8-stage model states that a company must go through all the stages of the model in the appropriate sequence in order to master the change process. According to Kotter, an organization in change can be on several stages at the same time.
John Kotter divides the 3-phase model of change into 8 stages. The three phases consist of:
- the unfreezing of the status quo
- the introduction of new behaviors and
- anchoring the change in the corporate culture.
Phase 1 - Establishing the status quo
Stage 1: Creating a sense of urgency
The first stage of change management is about demonstrating the need for change in the company to both employees and managers. The reason: only if people within the organization can understand the importance and urgency of the change will they support it cooperatively.
A decisive factor at this stage is clear communication in order to achieve emotional acceptance among all those involved. To this end, it is necessary to point out any consequences for the company (e.g. job cuts) if the necessary changes are not implemented.
Stage 2: Building a management coalition
To ensure that the employees of a company are as united as possible behind the necessary change process and the corresponding measures, it is important to build up a leadership team for change management.
Ideally, this leadership coalition should be made up of members of different teams in order to achieve broad acceptance within the company.
Stage 3: Developing vision and strategy
The stronger the vision of the desired change, the better employees can understand and support it. A sustainable strategy for implementing the vision is also important in order to create a common understanding of the change project within the company.
Stage 4: Communicating the vision of change
In this step, it is important to openly and regularly communicate the vision behind the change process to people within the organization. By using different communication channels, change agents make sure that all employees are really in touch with the topic.
Phase 2 - Introduction of new behaviors
Stage 5: Removing obstacles
In order for the change process to get underway and for employees to be able to implement the strategy at all, the systems and structures within the company must now also be adapted to the new requirements.
The systems that should be adapted most urgently at this stage are the human resources and information systems. The reason: cross-team information exchange is a prerequisite for employees to perform their tasks efficiently and share knowledge and experience in the spirit of a learning organization.
Stage 6: Aiming for and appreciating short-term successes
To ensure that the change project does not come to nothing halfway through, it is important at this stage to set short-term goals and to acknowledge them accordingly when they are achieved. After all, instead of focusing exclusively on the big vision behind the change processes and possibly losing motivation in the meantime during larger projects, employees keep the sense and urgency in mind when achieving short-term successes.
Another benefit is that critics of the transformation can be swayed and motivated by early successes in the process.
Phase 3 - Anchoring change in corporate culture
Stage 7: Continue to drive change
To ensure that the big picture behind the change project is not forgotten due to the focus on short-term successes, it is important at this stage to recall the urgency of the vision once again.
Thanks to the many smaller successes, managers and the change management team can now involve more people in the process of change and tackle larger changes.
Stage 8: Anchoring change in corporate culture
To ensure that the new values, procedures and behaviors from the change process become sustainably established, this final stage is about really anchoring them in the corporate culture. As is so often the case when we want to adopt new habits, the same applies to change management: If the pressure of the necessary change decreases, we quickly fall back into old patterns.
To maintain sustainable change, John P. Kotter recommends communicating regularly about how the changes have positively impacted the success of the company. It is also important to familiarize new employees with the changed orientation from the outset.
Summary on Change Management according to John P. Kotter
With his change management model for companies, Kotter has made the process of sustainable change comprehensible. You can use the different steps for your company like a checklist for change management.
According to Kotter's model, the following points are essential for sustainably anchored change:
- Control of the process by designated executives or a team of change agents,
- recognition of the need and urgency for change by all employees and following the common vision
- transparent, open and regular communication within and between the teams of a company across all levels.
John Kotter described his eight-step model in detail in his publication "Leading Change" (1996). The German language version is available as "Chaos, Wandel, Führung: Leading Change" (1997) by Kotter.