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The Eight Step Change Process

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The following is a very brief summary of the 8 stage change process identified by John Kotter in his text 'Leading Change'. We only offer a brief insight here, which can not really do justice to the book, which provides in-depth analysis of each stage, illustrated with practical examples.  We hope the table below will whet your appetite. If you want to find out more, we highly recommend this book as an excellent change management resource.

In brief then, Kotter recommends the following 8 Steps.

1 Establish a sense of urgency
There are several techniques by which it is possible to establish a sense of urgency early on in the project lifecycle, helping to overcome most sources of complacency.

2 Create the guiding coalition
Put together a team of people with enough power to lead the change. Get the group to work together as a team.

3 Develop a vision and strategy
Create a clear and concise vision that will help direct the change effort, and develop strategies for achieving that vision.

4 Communicate the change vision
Use every vehicle possible to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies. Ensure that the guiding coalition role model the behavior expected of employees.

5 Empower broad-based action

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Get rid of any obstacles which threaten the project. Remove systems or structures that undermine the change vision and encourage risk taking in non-traditional ideas and activities.

6 Generate short term wins
Plan for visible improvements which can be implemented during the course of the project, deliver these 'wins' and publicly recognise / reward those who made them possible.

7 Consolidate gains and produce more change
Use credibility gained from early 'wins' to bring other structures & processes into alignment with the change vision. Get the people who can and will implement these new changes, and re-invigorate the process with new projects and themes.

8 Anchor new approaches in the corporate culture
Create better performance through customer and productivity oriented behavior, better leadership and more effective management. Articulate the links between the new behavior and organizational success. Develop ways to ensure further leadership development and succession.  

Adapted with permission from 'Leading Change' by John P. Kotter, Harvard School Press 1996 ISBN # 0-87584-747-1

Each of these stages involves many smaller steps. If the change  is significant, the effort involved is probably at least double your estimate. The advantages of the change may seem self evident. The CEO  may be fully committed to the project. You might have a 'foolproof' plan, and a high profile dynamo of a project 'champion'. Yet this is not always enough to see a major change project succeed. You must plan and implement a change effort, remembering that overcoming complacency and resistance, and bringing a change in culture is never easy.

We suggest adopting an approach along the lines suggested by Kotter, and using an experienced change agent or 'organizational development practitioner' to facilitate the process.