Change Management Critique of Kotter's Eight Stage Essay

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Change Management

Critique of Kotter's Eight Stage Model of Change

The development of change models to support the way that management undertakes change may be seen as a useful development; providing a framework from which change may be understood and therefore actively managed. One of the first models of change was proposed by Lewin (1951, p22), which presented a relatively simple format for managing change, made up of three stages; unfreezing, the change and then refreezing. It may be argued that this has formed the basis of many subsequent change models, which is built on this foundation and expanded and extended the concept. For example, the well-known eight stage change model by Kotter (1996, p33) may be seen as readily some inspiration from the simple predecessor from Lewin. Kotter's model, with eight stages, has been argued as being one of the most comprehensive change management models facilitates consideration for many different aspects associated with the change, including the way it is prepared for, the way it takes place and how it is entrenched following the change (By, 2005, p369). When examining Kotter's model, looking at the benefits and the strengths of this model as well as its weaknesses, a good starting point is to examine the individual stages before looking at the model in an holistic manner.

The first stage of Kotter's model is to create a sense of urgency (Kotter, 1996, p35). It is argued that if there is no sense of urgency there will be an absence of motivation which is required for a change to take place. This may be seen as aligned to the first stages of lumens unfreezing, preparing employees for the change (Lewin, 1951, p22). Kotter (1996, p9) notes that employees will often prefer the status quo, even where they are unhappy with this. This approach is supported by other theorists, including Peter Senge, who argues that employees are conditioned to resist change (Senge, 2006, p12). Urgency will need to be created by ensuring that the employees know why the change needs to occur. This understanding is likely to increase employee's facilitation of change, even where it is not welcomed. For example, the unions cooperated with General Motors (GM), when the firm is facing problems needed to reduce the working hours of employees (Newman, 2008, p1). Likewise, the pilots of Delta accepted a deal from the company which included a pay cut, understanding that the company was facing significant financial difficulties (Field, 2004, p13). The ability to create urgency will rely on effective communication from management, and should incorporate an honest and open dialogue (Kotter, 1996, p35). It is only after this date has been completed the next stage may be tackled.

The second stage is the creation of a "powerful guiding coalition" (Kotter, 1996, p51). This looks at the way in which management and leadership need to be seen as supporting the decision, as support for the change is likely to emanate downward. It is notable a number of change models argue for the importance of leadership to guide change and act as a centre of influence (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010, p22, Dervitsiotis, 1998, p109). This may be seen as leading to the third stage, which Kotter states is the need to create a vision and strategy for the change (Kotter, 1996, p67). This builds on the former stages, and includes determining the goals of the change and the desired outcomes and the way these will be achieved, as well as communicating their vision of that change and the outcomes to the employees (Kotter, 1996, p68). This communication is employees also need to see the leader themselves enthusiastic and committed (Kotter, 1996, p69).

The fourth stage is the communication of vision (Kotter, 1996, p85), which may be undertaken on a 'one to one' or 'one to many' communication strategy. During this stage it is critical that the actions as well as words of management are seen to support the change (Kotter, 1996, p85). This is also supported in almost all other models (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2010, p22; McCallum, 1997, p73). Simonson (2005, p7), notes that way employees do not see leadership as committed and enthusiastic about the vision, leadership is effectively sending a message to the employees that it is not important, a message which undermines the need for change.

The first four stages may be seen as preparation stages, aligned to lumens unfreezing stage, which will help…

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