Kotter's 8- Step Change Model

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New title: Kotter's 8-Step Change Model as a tool in Program Management


As a program exists in a dynamic environment it is affected by external as well as internal factors this makes it necessary for a program manager to make changes to the program to adapt to changes from the environment. (standard p. 11) In the program management literature one find tools to make the decision of change but not many describes how the change has to be implemented in a program successfully without affecting the people in the program.(change man) When first the decision about making a change is taken the next step is to implement the changes. John P. Kotter has developed a method to implement changes which consist of eight steps. These steps are described in Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model to guide organizations through change.[1] As programs can be seen as temporary organizations(success) Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model can be used to implement changes in a program. This article will present The 8-Step Change Model as well as how to implement the model in a program. Since the model was developed it has been criticized for being inflexible because of its linear nature and Kotter have done further research in the area therefore Kotter has made an update to the model called; Eight Accelerators of Change. The updated version has other values than the first which makes the models suitable to different programs and situations.

Managing Programs

A program is affected by both internal and external factors; an example could be change of strategy from the top management which can mean big changes for a program. Change is in program management theory mentioned as one of the success factors for a program As a program manager one has to be able to handle changes both minor changes and bigger changes since the many stakeholders, the fast moving market and the duration of a program make changes inevitable and a program being dynamic. [2]

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model as a tool for managing change in a program[3]

John P. Kotter’s work is seen as some of the most important work within change management. The 8-Step of Change Model is seen as a model to guide organizations through major change. Since change is an important part of program management (1) the 8-Step Change Model can be useful for program managers. To use Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model in program management one has to look at a program as “a programme is defined as a temporary, flexible organization created to coordinate, direct and oversee the implementation of a set of related projects and activities in order to deliver outcomes and benefits related to the organization’s strategic objectives. A programme is likely to have a life that spans several years.” (success) Thus in this article the word program will be used instead of organization to avoid confusion.


  1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency

The first step to take in the 8-Step Change Model is to establish a sense of urgency in the program. This means that it should be clear why changes have to be applied now and not in six month. The change has to start from the top and the Program Manager needs to create urgency for the relevant stakeholders in the program to convince the stakeholders that action has to be taken now since they will be part of the change. (1) Challenges occur in this step if the Program Manager is not a great leaders because it takes a lot of effort to convince people to change. If the Program Manager does not succeed people can become barriers that makes the change difficult to make or even impossible.(1)

  1. Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition

When the sense of urgency is created a powerful guiding coalition has to be made. This is a group of people who will be the front runners in the change of the program. This group should not only be the top of the hierarchy but the people should have some part of power in the form of titles, information, expertise, reputations and relationship(1) The group also have to reach broad in the program so each project has a front runner so change will reach to all parts of the program.

  1. Create a Vision

The guiding coalition develops a vision for the change together. It is important that this step is done together to make every person in the group feel ownership of the vision to better promote it and not being a barrier.(?) The vision should be clear and possible to explain so the listener understands it and believe in it in five minutes.

  1. Communicating the Vision

When the vision for the change is made it has to be communicated to the stakeholders. If every person in affected by the change is not aware of the vision the change can move in different directions and the chance of success decrease. Change is not easy especially not if sacrifices has to be made therefore the vision has to be communicated so the stakeholders believe in it. (1)

  1. Empowering Others to Act on the Vision

If stakeholders still do not believe in the vision for the change they can become obstacles which will prevent the change to be a success. In this step of the model the obstacles have to be handled. This could be making an extra effort to convince a person, relocate the person or fire the person. The obstacles do not have to be people but could also be organizational structures or processes on operational level in the program. (1)

  1. Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins

The saying an elephant should be eaten in small bites also comply with this situation. The sixth step in the model tells the practitioners to make short-term wins meaning that the final goal could be far in the future so sub-goals should be made. This should be so managers have clearly performance goals (1) to do so the sub-goals have to be different for every project or even on lower levels than that depending on how performance goals are made normally.

  1. Consolidating Improvements and Producing Still More Change

Step seven guides the practitioner not to celebrate too soon but keep being aware of the changes that have to be made.

  1. Institutionalizing New Approaches

When a change becomes a part of the cultures mindset the changes are successful and at this point it is important to make sure the next generation of employees adapt the same culture.(1)


The Eight Accelerators


  1. Kotter, John P.| 1995 |"Leading change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail" Harvard Business Review pp. 59-67
  2. AXELOS, and Cabinet Office | 2011 | "Managing Successful Programmes" 4th ed.
  3. Kotter, John P.| 1995 |"Leading change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail" Harvard Business Review pp. 59-67
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