Kotter’s Organizational Change Model: 8 Steps To Smooth Digital Transformation

Kotter’s Organizational Change Model: 8 Steps To Smooth Digital Transformation
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It’s time to take your head out of the sand.

Change doesn’t just happen. You need to adopt a deliberate approach. This is clear from our CEO’s guide to successful change management.

A documented organizational change model can provide such an approach. Use this and specific change management techniques to improve results.

It sounds simple. Yet, 70% of all change initiatives fail. Why?

The main barriers are negative employee attitudes and unproductive management behavior. These are issues that Kotter’s organizational change model specifically addresses. It focuses on leading change, rather than managing it.

Common barriers to organizational change

Negative employee attitudes

“Expecting resistance to change and planning for it from the start of your change management program will allow you to effectively manage objections. Torben Rick

Employee resistance to change is a common complaint among change managers. You could try these fun exercises with employees to help overcome their fears. But be aware that this resistance is in our human nature. We would much rather experience the familiar than the unfamiliar. Or as a wise man once said, “better the devil you know”.

This is particularly true in a professional context. In a recent McKinsey Podcast, Nick Waugh explained:

When you start asking someone who’s done the same thing for 35 years to do their job differently, there’s a huge amount of change management or culture associated with that mindset change.

And the reality is that employee commitment to transformation initiatives is declining. McKinsey’s latest report identifies one possible reason — “the very nature of change efforts is evolving”.

More than half of respondents say their organizations’ most recent major transformations involved the implementation of digital solutions.

This poses even more challenges, like the scope and scale of digital transformation. And how to find people with the right skill sets to spearhead these changes.

It’s exactly these sorts of problems that a Digital Adoption Platform can solve.

Unproductive management behavior

The second most common barrier to organizational change is lack of management support. This is also a culture issue.

Jack Welch famously said: “If you want to change the culture of an organization, change the way it develops its leaders.” Culture comes from the top down. Employees learn the values, ethics, and expectations of a company from its leaders.

Not only that but culture impacts performance. Research at Zenger Folkman shows the strong influence leaders have on business outcomes. These include:

  • Employee engagement
  • Innovation
  • Intention to stay
  • Productivity

Leaders must take responsibility and actually lead when it comes to organizational change.

Kotter’s organizational change model

John Kotter is a leadership and change management expert. He developed his change model based on eight main reasons for unsuccessful change.

Over four decades, Dr. Kotter observed countless leaders and organizations as they were trying to transform or execute their strategies. He identified and extracted the success factors and combined them into a methodology, the award-winning 8-Step Process for Leading Change. Kotter

Kotter’s model is pragmatic. It includes eight simple steps. Follow these to plan and execute successful digital transitions.

8 steps to successful organizational change

Step 1: Establish a sense of urgency for change

Highlight the problem the change is designed to solve. You might hear this referred to as a “burning platform”. It’s an effective persuasion tactic for getting people on board.

Step 2: Create the guiding coalition

This is where leadership comes in. A strong team of people with skills and authority is required to champion the change. Ideally, the coalition should be sourced from different parts of the business.

Step 3: Establish a vision and strategy

You’ll need a strategy to complete the next step: communicating the change. Now is the time to define the vision. You should also put success metrics in place.

Step 4: Communicate the change vision

Communication should be clear and constant. Remember also that communication always begins with listening. So make sure you have an ear open for feedback, concerns, and queries.

Step 5: Empower broad-based action

Empowerment begins with removing obstacles. If there are any roadblocks to change, deal with them before employees can act.

Step 6: Create short-term wins

Always celebrate success. Good morale should be maintained throughout the change process, which is often long.

Step 7: Consolidate gains and produce more change

Don’t take your foot off the pedal. Use any short-term wins to inspire further change.

Step 8: Anchor new approaches in the culture

Entrench the change into company culture. You can do this by documenting the process, which must be enforced by future leaders.

Follow these eight rules to take a deliberate approach to change management. Kotter’s organizational change model offers a framework for smoother digital transitions. And better results.

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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