Kotter's Steps to Change: A Case Study 08 November, 2013

Recently I've witnessed a change in management. With these management changes, came ideas on how work could be done differently to produce some fantastic results. After everything was said and done, there was an interesting division in the group. Many people liked the old way, and many people liked the new way. Regardless of whether the change was a good thing, I thought it would be interesting to use this experience as a case study for change.

John Kotter has taught leadership courses at Harvard, and is known for an eight step process for bringing about change. These eight steps need to happen in the outlined outlined order. Here are the steps.

Kotter's 8 steps What I observed
1Create urgencyCuriosity/excitement/fear of management changes/new vision
2Form a group of advocatesNew hires under new management
3Get the vision rightWe can be the best...
4Communicate to get buy inHappened hour by hour
5Empower actionBudgets/Autonomy were given
6Create short term wins???
7Don’t give up???
8Work changes into the cultureThis happened early in the process

So, did it work? Many people are now onboard with some general dreams of improvement, but the division I mentioned still exists between those who were for the change, and those who were against it. In this example, three things diverged from Kotter's process:

  1. It is debatable if there were short term wins
  2. The short term wins that existed were not observed by everyone
  3. Overall culture changes happened to early (before the benefits were seen)

It would seem that for this case, John Kotter was correct. I believe that if the three points that diverged from Kotter's process were done as he outlined, the change would have been embraced by most people, and there would be no division.

Here are the takeaways:

  • Short term wins are necessary
  • They need to be seen by everyone
  • Culture can't change until they come
Make sure these steps don't go awry, and you'll see your changes take place with the lowest amount of pushback.

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