Applying the Enhanced Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

Mohit Jain Change Management
Applying the Enhanced Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model

The only thing that is constant is change,” and John P. Kotter has proven that change management models are no exception.

His 1996 book, Leading Change, introduced Kotter’s 8-step change model. Although he (and many change management professionals) continue to refer to this established framework, eighteen years later, Kotter saw an opportunity to enhance it.

Applying the Enhanced Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model

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An updated version of Kotter’s 8-step change model was published in his 2014 book, Accelerate. The revamped framework is designed to help businesses speed up the transformation process in an increasingly fast-paced world.

The accelerated process recognizes that, for many changes, time is of the essence. Take transitioning to Salesforce, for example. Salesforce CRM is an incredibly powerful tool, and while all the extra capabilities and features will help employees down the line, making the switch is difficult. The longer you spend trying to get your team fully integrated with a system like Salesforce, the more likely they are to get frustrated and want to revert back to old systems and processes. The four additional principles that Kotter added in 2014 can be used in conjunction with Kotter’s 8 steps of change to speed up the switch.

In this article, I will briefly describe each of the 8 Steps in the model (Listed below) and shed light on changes made in 2014.

Walkthrough of Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency by Making Your Case
  2. Build a Guiding Coalition by Designating Change Leaders
  3. Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives Through Documentation
  4. Enlist a Volunteer Army by Generating Excitement
  5. Enable Action by Removing Barriers
  6. Generate Short-Term Wins by Celebrating Before, During, and After the Change
  7. Sustain Acceleration by Using Wins as Proof of the Effectiveness of the Change
  8. Institute Change by Solidifying it as the New Norm

Let’s say Company X has identified several issues in its customer relationship management process:

  • Response time to sales leads is too slow, which results in lost sales.
  • Customer service department productivity is suffering due to time wasted answering common questions.
  • Customer engagement is difficult to measure across departments.
  • Documentation is spread out over several systems, which creates communication silos.

Company X decides to solve these problems by transitioning all customer relationship management into Salesforce in order to keep everything in a central system. This will affect a huge portion of the company and needs to happen quickly.

We’re going to take this transition to Salesforce through Kotter’s 8-step change model and incorporate the additional four change principles. Remember, the enhanced process recommends running through the steps simultaneously and continuously.

1) Create a Sense of Urgency by Making Your Case

Kotter’s research shows that organizational transformations often fail because a sense of urgency was not created or sustained. It’s human nature to want to stick to the status quo, so you need to present the change as an urgent opportunity.

Here’s an example of Company X making the case to their employees:

Explain why: We’re losing new customers due to slow response time to sales leads.
Provide evidence: Sales leads engaged within 24 hours have a 73% chance of closing, whereas those engaged after 72 hours (our average) have a 21% chance of closing.
Appeal to personal motivations: Using Salesforce makes it possible to shorten response time to 24 hours, which increases your chances of earning a commission.

It’s difficult to argue with this reasoning. It provides a solid explanation of why transitioning to Salesforce is an urgent need. Plus, it addresses Kotter’s Head + Heart principle by framing the switch in a way that highlights the benefits to the sales team.

2) Build a Guiding Coalition by Designating Change Leaders

Transformations cannot be led by a single person. The Leadership + Management change principle stresses that organizational changes need the opinions, ideas, and support of multiple leaders. Your guiding coalition, made up of people you choose as your support system, should include managers, supervisors, and team leads.

Begin with what Kotter’s 8-step change model refers to as the Select Few + Diverse Many principle. Designate change leaders (select few) who have a wide range of job experiences, skills, and duties (Diverse Many). Educate them about the reason for the change so that they feel confident in the need for it. Doing so ensures that you have support from a variety of areas within the company.

Company X builds a guiding coalition composed of the heads of the sales, customer service, marketing, and IT departments. While the head of IT works with their team to migrate data and processes over to Salesforce, the other department heads will create customized workflows to show their team how Salesforce will be applied to their work. When leaders know how daily routines will be affected, they are able to provide detailed guidance throughout the transition.

Lastly, ensure that the change is approached with empathy. Shaking up the status quo can be difficult. Change leaders should be understanding of the initial reactions, even if they are not positive.

3) Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives Through Documentation

You can’t start the journey without a destination in mind. Start with a change management plan that clearly outlines what you want to achieve — not just the end result but also milestones along the way.

Always put your vision into writing so that you get a full view of the entire process. When the vision is just in your head, it’s easy to underestimate how long the initiatives, such as training or data migrations, will take. A written vision helps you strike a balance between creating a sense of urgency and setting a realistic timeline.

Company X is aware that handling customer service in Salesforce will call for additional training. They acknowledge concerns about training by assuring their team that they will be supported by self-guided training directly in Salesforce as well as through weekly one-on-one check-ins with their change leader. This frames the change in a way that appeals to the Head + Heart principle.

4) Enlist a Volunteer Army by Generating Excitement

Ordering your employees to support the change only leads to frustration and resentment. The keyword is volunteer. Start by building excitement so that people will listen with an open mind.

The difference between the volunteer army and the guiding coalition comes down to the “Have To” + “Want To” change principle. The change leaders were asked to support the change; “volunteers” are employees who want to make the change.

Win people over by explaining the change in detail. Presenting the benefits of managing sales, customer service, marketing, and analytics all within Salesforce can make people want the change. As you gain volunteers, your guiding coalition should work with them to continue generating excitement and support for the transformation.

Another way to enlist volunteers is to show that they can trust you because you have anticipated potential concerns. Company X knows that learning the ins and outs of Salesforce lead management can be overwhelming, so they are specific about their plans to make the transition easier.

Instead of touting the powerful capabilities of Salesforce, Company X shows their team how Whatfix self-guided learning will help sales agents learn how to use them. By demonstrating that in-app guidance will walk employees through how to sort leads by contact date, view open leads, add leads to campaigns, etc., Company X proves that they plan to provide support for their team throughout the transition.

5) Enable Action by Removing Barriers

No change is without obstacles. It’s important to determine potential barriers as you plan for change and during the transition, so you can strategize how to move past them.

Think about what caused past initiatives to fail. What could have been done differently? Acknowledging previous failures not only helps you create a better strategy, but it also shows your team that you are willing to own up to the mistakes and work to improve.

Resistance from employees is a frequent barrier. Instead of pulling rank and ordering employees to get on board, work to understand why they are hesitant. Many forms of resistance can be addressed by listening to employee feedback and being willing to adjust your strategy so that your team can feel more confident.

When Company X realizes that their customer service team was apprehensive about automated Salesforce responses, they provide a hands-on demonstration of the customization options to reassure them. As soon as the marketing team expresses concerns about losing data by switching reporting systems, Company X works with them to transition to Salesforce in stages.

Throughout the move to Salesforce, Company X makes adjustments to their original plan because they recognize that it’s always better to find a way to remove a roadblock than to hit the gas and try to drive through it.

6) Generate Short-Term Wins by Celebrating Before, During, and After the Change

Wins can be anything from a great communication experience to a lesson learned. Tracking and celebrating wins throughout the transformation helps build and sustain enthusiasm.

Have you ever added easy tasks to a to-do list just so you could feel good about checking them off? Apply the same idea here. Set simple goals and use the achievements to build momentum.

Be sure to involve the whole team when celebrating wins. Tools like Lattice or Honey allow you to publicly recognize employees for their efforts. Once employees start to see shout-outs for creating a new sales campaign or using Salesforce Chatter instead of email to share files, they’ll be more motivated to get involved.

Enthusiasm is incredibly valuable, so it should be rewarded. As employees show their support, try out creative reward systems such as raffling off gift cards or extra vacation days. These small acts can go a long way when it comes to keeping your team on track.

Keep in mind that the enhanced Kotter change model encourages addressing all steps continuously and concurrently. When you celebrate wins, be aware of opportunities to continue building your volunteer army. As you encounter successes, you may also identify new barriers that need to be addressed. Accelerating change requires staying on top of all of your initiatives simultaneously.

7) Sustain Acceleration by Using Wins as Proof of the Effectiveness of the Change

Don’t make the mistake of easing off the accelerator too soon. There is a large gap between implementation and full adoption. If you want your team to maintain momentum, you need to keep pushing forward.

Throughout the transition, analyze what helped you achieve short-term goals and what could have been done better. Wins can also be used to build trust in the change. Highlighting decreased customer wait time and increased customer service team productivity could convince hesitant employees that the Salesforce switch is great for everyone involved.

It’s crucial to make the change part of the culture so that people don’t slip back into old habits. If people are tempted to backslide, find out why.

When Company X notices sales reps are still using the old system, they talk to the team. Once they determine that the issue was that employees were unsure of how to sort leads in Salesforce, they solve the problem for them by using Whatfix to design custom workflows that provide step-by-step guidance.

8) Institute Change by Solidifying it as the New Norm

In order for a change to be fully adopted, it has to be deeply rooted in the culture and processes of the organization. According to Accelerate, “accelerators 1-7 are all about building new muscles.” The final aspect of Kotter’s 8-step change model is about maintaining those new muscles.

It’s important to offer continuous training until the change is second nature. If you abandon your team too soon, you risk them falling back into old practices and losing all the new muscles you fought so hard to build. Success stories keep employees on board with new processes.

Company X motivates employees to stick to Salesforce by sharing that the sales team spent 25% less time on email while decreasing response time to 24 hours. The customer service team is excited by how many tickets were automatically answered and closed thanks to automated responses. Finally, Company X continues to unite the team by sharing that using Salesforce Quip reduced meeting time by 38%.

The transition is only complete when everyone involved is fully on board. Keep moving through all eight steps until the change has become the new status quo.

Changes to Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model

While Leading Change encouraged completing Kotter’s eight steps sequentially, Accelerate recommends running the steps concurrently and continuously. Instead of treating them as separate steps, they should be worked on simultaneously and revisited as needed throughout the process.

Accelerate also enhanced the process by including four change principles:

  1. Leadership + Management — Managers must support the change required by leadership in order for it to be successful.
  2. Head + Heart — Data and logic alone are unlikely to motivate people to adopt a new process or tool. Clearly present how they will personally benefit from the alteration in order to make what’s new more appealing or, even better, desirable.
  3. Select Few + Diverse Many — You need a core group of supporters from different levels of the hierarchy and with varied job experiences. Prepare to recruit support from multiple levels of management, including those closer to the employees whose day-to-day work is most affected by the transformation.
  4. “Have To” + “Want To” — Transitions run more smoothly — and faster — when those affected by it want it to happen.

Working through the steps concurrently can help you move through the change process faster, but it only works if you have a large amount of support from all levels. The Leadership + Management and Select Few + Diverse Many principles help you build the foundation. The Head + Heart and “Have To” + “Want To” principles are designed to keep the momentum building throughout the transformation.

Ready to Accelerate Your Transformation?

Whether you’re transitioning to Salesforce, updating compensation packages, or bringing on new hires, Kotter’s 8-step change model can be used as a guide. Working on the steps simultaneously helps speed up transitions, but it also requires you to juggle multiple initiatives at once. Plan ahead and seek out the support of the right tools for change management to save yourself some headaches down the line.

Contact Whatfix to discuss how our customized digital transformation solutions can speed up employee onboarding, provide ongoing training, and support your team through big organizational changes.

Mohit Jain

Mohit Jain

Associate Director - Professional Services at Whatfix
A highly skilled change management expert with over a decade of corporate and entrepreneurial experience. Being a Georgia Tech grad who has developed the skill of managing change during his time co-founding three different startups, Mohit brings the perfect blend of technical know-how and a business growth mindset. He currently manages the smooth and effective launch and adoption of Whatfix within top Fortune companies.
Mohit Jain
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