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Applying Kotter’s change management model

Elissa Farrow
September 23, 2013

I have previously outlined the importance of change managers having a clear idea of the theory that underpins their change methodology. In this post I will outline the Kotter International model and give some examples of how I have applied it.

Dr John Kotter’s model has 8 steps:

  1. Establish a sense of urgency
  2. Form a powerful guiding coalition
  3. Create a vision
  4. Communicate the vision
  5. Empower others to act on the vision
  6. Plan for and create short-term wins
  7. Consolidate improvements and produce still more
  8. Institutionalise new approaches

I have applied the Kotter model in a number of client organisations. Firstly, we want to establish a sense of urgency: what is a compelling reason for the change? What benefits are we looking to achieve? What happens if we stay where we are? Our environment can sometimes apply urgency. I usually do a change impact analysis here and have a range of tools in my chosen method to map the change.

From there we get the key people together, senior leaders and those with influence, who create a powerful guiding coalition. See it as a Board and network of sponsors. That group creates a vision, a clear view of the future, ideally inspiring and powerful. The vision is communicated to staff in the organisation through multiple channels and it is repeated and amended as we travel through the process.

We need more than our powerful guiding coalition. We also need to empower others to act on the vision and fulfil the range of change activities we need them to. Local sponsors and advocates are key here. They are working to a planned change process and ideally that plan has a number of short-term wins. I see change and project plans being together as best practice rather than having two separate plans with the risk of both not being in synch.

As we progress, Kotter suggests we need to consolidate and produce more improvements. Again, following a structured plan, assessing impact and effect of action is key here to the point we have institutionalised the new approach or basically embedded it within the business.

Kotter’s model has stood the test of time and is certainly one to have in your change toolkit. But there are others and in time we will look at other models.

Elissa Farrow
Elissa is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptative capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2018, Elissa commenced her doctoral studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research is exploring organisational adaptation to the evolving field of artificial intelligence using qualitative and participatory research methodologies. Elissa is an experienced board director and considered a thought leader in her field having won a number of national and local awards for contributing to Women in Project Management and for Change Management Research.
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