Kotter’s 8-step process for leading change is one of the most widely accepted change management frameworks used by organizations and consultants worldwide to help ensure change initiatives are successful. When undertaking a change management consulting project, closely following Kotter’s 8 steps can help smooth the process and increase the chances of achieving the desired outcomes.
The first step in Kotter’s model is to establish a sense of urgency. At the start of the project, the change management consultant would work with senior leadership to assess why change is needed and help create a compelling case for action. Diagnosing the need for change based on market factors, competitive threats, productivity issues or other challenges facing the organization helps convince stakeholders change is imperative. The consultant would work with leaders to communicate this urgency through meetings, presentations and other forums to gain buy-in.
Step two involves creating a guiding coalition. The consultant facilitates formation of a high-powered, cross-functional team consisting of influential leaders, managers and change agents whose help is needed to drive the change. Their positional power and combined expertise helps provide change momentum. Coalition members get fully engaged by understanding the opportunity for their business areas and being involved in strategic planning.
In step three, the consultant helps the coalition develop and communicate a powerful vision for change. An inspiring new vision is crafted that offers a clear picture of what the future could look like after successful transformation. This vision aims to simplify the complex change process and direct the efforts of people in a unified way. Communication tools such as memos, speeches, discussion guides and websites ensure the vision is repeatedly shared across divisions and levels.
Forming strategic initiatives to achieve the vision is step four. Based on assessments, the consultant works with the coalition to identify essential projects and tasks needed to bring the transformation to life. These initiate platforms include new processes, technologies, products, services, capabilities or organizational forms that are tangible representations of achieving the vision. Clear milestones, timelines and deliverables are defined to build momentum.
Step five involves enabling action by removing barriers and empowering others to act on the initiatives. The consultant helps empower broad-based action by assessing perceived obstacles to change, obtaining resources and ensure training, systems and structures are in place. Policies are adjusted, direct reports are enabled with new skills and tools, and new performance management and reward systems recognize successes.
Generating short-term wins is step six. After initial thrusts, the consultant works with leaders to recognize and reward achievements that demonstrate visible progress. Highlighting success stories that resulted from early initiatives helps build confidence and momentum for further change, while motivating continued efforts needed to consolidate gains and propel additional progress.
Consolidating improvements and sustaining acceleration is step seven. As deeper changes take root, formal plans with goals and milestones guide ongoing efforts to ensure initiatives become standard practice. New approaches are continuously developed, leaders are coach to increase progress and hold the line against complacency. The consultant helps assess what’s working well and where more work is needed.
Institutionalizing new approaches is the final step eight. The transformation is complete when behaviors, systems and structures fully support the new state as the ‘new normal’. With the consultant’s guidance, leadership focuses on anchoring cultural changes through succession planning, performance evaluations, job descriptions and retirements to cement the transformation. Feedback from staff is gathered to understand what continues to work and where small adaptations are still warranted to sustain momentum.
The 8 step model guides change management efforts from start to finish over time. As a consultant, working closely with leadership using Kotter’s framework helps overcome barriers, move initiatives ahead and drive increasing buy-in. Continually monitoring each step ensures activities remain aligned and pace of progress is kept up. Completing all phases leads to a higher potential for achieving desired business outcomes. Consultants provide objective facilitation to help leaders make well-informed decisions and skillfully manage people side of change for sustainable success.
In conclusion, Kotter’s 8 step change management model offers a proven approach for consultants to structure engagement, guide planning and ensure activities are implemented to realize goals. By keeping leadership accountable to achieve defined outcomes at each stage, likelihood of overcoming resistance increases. And change becomes embedded rather than a one-time event. Combined with assessment-driven recommendations, facilitation of key stakeholder workshops and status reporting, consultants help organizations transform in a way that lasts.