The 8 steps of change of Kotter in agile?

8 steps of change of kotter
8 steps of change of kotter

If you don’t know the 8 steps of change described by Dr. Kotter who was a professor at Harvard Business School, here is an article to discover them. Would it work for an agile transformation? What are the 8 steps of Kotter?

Dr. Kotter’s 30 years of research seems to show that 70% of change transformations of the companies  are failing because of a holistic approach.


The 8 steps of change of Kotter

Dr. Kotter has therefore decided to describe the 8 steps required to successfully transform an organization. They are called the 8 steps of Kotter.

1 / Create a sense of urgency

It is not uncommon for the comfort of employees within organizations to be the cause of a transformation failure. Why change if all is well for the moment?

Creating a sense of urgency creates a click in the minds of some employees; these could become the engine of this future transformation.

2 / Form a coalition

Even with the greatest of charisms, one person will not be enough to create enough impetus for a transformation. I have already seen agile coaches miss the changes they hoped to make. Indeed, they failed to create a real coalition around the changes.

For my part, I always try to create a coalition around the topics I want to bring; alone and this is more true in large structures, the chance of success is really reduced.

3 / Create a vision

So the coalition will have to create a real vision of this transformation. It will be necessary to prepare this one to reassure and motivate all the troops impacted by this future transformation.

4 / Communicate your vision

To successfully embark a maximum of people in the future transformation, it will be essential to share this vision to reassure the troops and give them the desire to follow you.

Without a shared vision, it is sincerely very difficult to make an organizational transformation. It’s important to understand that it will be difficult for the troops to put in place a transformation that they do not necessarily understand.

 5 / Incite action

When the vision is shared, it is essential that the transformation is also propelled by a part of the impacted population. The chances of success will be much greater if the transformation comes directly from the troops themselves.

6 / Demonstrate short-term results

It is very important to be able to quickly prove positive results because the risk of breathlessness happens very quickly. Do not expect the troops to put energy into a transformation if they never see the results.

For my part, I have already experienced massive transformation stop at this step because no result was visible … or at least made visible. The leaders of transformation must ensure that results are quickly visible to everyone.

Do not hesitate to make some potential pivots to achieve certain results if you feel that no positive result emerges quickly.

Growing skepticism can really put a transformation in check.

7 / Building on the first results

As soon as the first results are visible, they will partially accredit the transformation. We must not hesitate to decide of actions to continue to evolve these results while working in parallel on actions that will only give results in the long term.

Achieving short-term results will avoid the often dangerous inertia of a transformation and allow more time to work on the actions that require more time for results.

 8 / Anchoring new approaches in the corporate culture

It is essential to put a continuous improvement approach in the transformation that is underway to consolidate this transformation and to avoid any monotony.

Can an agile transformation be done like this?

From experience, I can tell you that an agile transformation is very complicated to operate within large groups. These 8 steps of Kotter are really a big help when you want to make one.

These 8 steps of Kotter change do not guarantee the success of an agile transformation. However they will allow you to increase the chances of success.

How do you go to make an agile transformations? Do you use the 8 steps of Kotter?


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About Judicaël Paquet 190 Articles
Judicaël Paquet (agile coach and senior devops) My activities in France and Switzerland: - agile transformation architect - customized agile training - sensitization and manager coaching - agile maturity audits and situations - agile coaching (teams, orga, product owner, scrum master, agile coach) Specialties: scrum, kanban, management 3.0, scalability, lean startup, agile method.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Judicaël,

    For people who wants to go more in details about the 8 steps of change, Kotter wrote a great book names “Our Iceberg Is Melting”.
    A must have in your libraire … 🙂


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