Kotter’s Change Model and Schools

This post will look at Kotter’s Change model, another model of change for an organization. In all, there are eight steps for this process, as shared below. There will also be several brief examples of how one educational leader has perhaps unknowingly used this model, at least in part.

Establish Urgency

Step one of bringing change, according to Kotter, is to develop a sense of urgency. Since most people are emotional by nature, they may need an emotional push to accept and work for change. Urgency can be developed through creating a narrative about why change is necessary and sharing some of the prophesied consequences if change does not happen.

I once worked with an administrator, and we will call him Jim, who was a complete master of establishing urgency. Whenever he wanted something done, Jim was sure to mention how the entire school was endanger if what he wanted was not done. However, because everything he wanted was a “do or die” scenario, people started to ignore him. What happened to him is similar to “the boy who cried wolf” or chicken little and the sky is falling.” Urgency can be a great tool, but it must be used sparingly; otherwise, it will lose its power to mobilize.

Form Coalition

Once urgency is established, a leader needs to build a team of influential people within the organization to shape the change. The people involved in this colation should be influencers who are affected by the change. These people serve as local go-to contacts to influence the masses within the institution to support and make change happen.

Jim was also an expert at building coalitions. When he wanted to change, he knew he needed help and had the political acumen to build complex alliances. One mistake I think he made was that sometimes he would team with people who were established and influential but maybe not popular. When unpopular people are pushing change, it is often rejected because people often value relationships over performance.

Make a Vision and Communicate it

Once the team is in place, they work together with the leader to develop the scope and rationale for change. By scope, it is meant the breadth and depth of the change and rationale are the motives behind the change. Creating this vision helps the team determine what they are focusing on for a change and how they will know when they are successful.

Once the vision is set, it needs to be communicated with the institution. People need to know where they are going and how they will get there. Communication can help people to buy in and accept the change.

Jim was always good and sharing the vision even if nobody else contributed to it. Once his colation was aware of the plan, it was shared with the institution. One thing to be careful of is how much of the vision to share. If your plans are overly ambitious, people may be intimidated by what you want to do. Tell people enough to get things started and slowly reveal more details as small goals are achieved.

Remove Obstacles and Strive for Small Wins

Removing obstacles is about problem-solving. Whenever people try to accomplish anything, some surprises try to disrupt the process. The leader must solve these problems by providing training, resources, encouragement, supplies, etc., so that the vision can be achieved.

Small wins relate to sharing the vision. Many people struggle with the big picture as they are more detail-oriented. If you tell some people all the work they have to do, they will become discouraged. Breaking the large vision into small wins or goals is critical for managing people psychologically.

Small wins are created when the leader develops milestones that help to achieve the vision. These milestones are shorter and less complex in nature compared to whatever the final vision is. Therefore, they are easier to attain. When people begin to have success completing small goals for wins, it helps motivate many individuals.

Consolidate Improvements and Anchor Changes

Consolidation involves reinforcing what has worked well so far and removing what has not worked well. As success is experienced and momentum develops, people begin to get excited about the changes they have been a part of making happen. In other words, focus on sharing the success to help push people to finish the changes.

The final step is anchoring changes. Anchoring changes involves making what changes were made permanent. Doing this requires discipline to support change long-term. It is common for people to get so excited about the change that they do not make an effort to maintain the new normal. The same energy that was brought to bringing change must be used to maintain it.

Conclusion

Change is part of the journey of any institution. Having a process to guide the change process can help leaders who need to push for change. Kotter’s model for change is one tool for walking through change and making it a reality.

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