Sample Business Term Paper on Kotter’s 8-Step Approach

Kotter’s 8-Step Approach

Change forms part of the perpetual improvements realized in the contemporary world because any meaningful improvement in the existing situation can only be realized if there is a shift in the existing status quo. This means a new process of producing goods, as well as realization of new products can only be achieved through a change process. In an organizational context, change is accomplished if there is a considerable shift in the entire system within which the organization functions. This means that the change is realized through a shift in the workforce, as well as the work environment through which the existing conditions operates. Although the change is realized through the entire system support, it is conceived by an individual or a small group of people and sold gradually to the entire group. The success of such change is achieved when the entire organization accepts it and the change becomes part of the organization’s culture. This means that a change is resisted and thus one must device means of affecting it. One way is through the use of Kotter’s eight-step change model, which is the focus of this paper. The change model is applied to Norfolk Southern Corporation.

Overview of the Organization

Norfolk Southern Corporation is the owner of Norfolk Southern Railway, which is a railroad belonging to class 1under the category of railroads. The company is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. It manages more than 20,000 route miles in the Eastern Columbia. The most common cargo is coal. The company has a modern system of railroads developed in 1982. It facilitates the domestic transport, as well as exportation of coal. The coal is obtained from the north and eastern parts of Virginia and exported to myriads of steel mills all over the world (Norfolk Southern Railway, 2014). The company also transports auto parts to various parts of the world. The company is among the first companies in the world to make use of roadrailers. Roadrailers are trailers with interchangeable sets of wheels. According to the information by Borzykowski (2012), the company as more 30,943 employees. It also has 3,468 locomotives and 79082 freight cars.

Norfolk Southern Corporation has facilities and a number of places to affect its activities. In the first place, the company manages three hubs in its system, including locomotive shops, intermodal yards, and rail classification. These facilities are located in Chicago, Atlanta, Pennsylvania, and Harrisburg. The company has its own crew who operates the railroads on its trucks, as well as on its competitors’ trucks.

Issues in Norfolk Southern Corporation Than Require A Change Action

Norfolk Southern Corporation is a large company and thus this section will highlight the situation in a section of the company; the Southern terminal of Atlanta. This terminal has about 1000 employees who work in various departments to ensure the success of the organization. They load the spare parts, cargo, and arrange the passengers in accordance to their preference. Although the company’s operations are not in a bad state, its safety standards are not in accordance to acceptable standards.  Hardly a week passes without a major accident-taking place, and hardly a day passes without a minor accident-taking place. Major accidents involve fire outbreak, serious injuries to workers and broken track. Sometimes the train may delay because of the accident and the company may incur some loss in terms of medication, and loss of person-hours. Minor accidents are common and involve stamping on neglected items, spilling oils, and mishandling some cargo. Inside the company’s mechanical workshop and the warehouse, workers incur some minor cuts and bruises because of lack of strong safety culture.

The Change Needed By the Company

At the surface, Norfolk Southern Corporation appears as a successful company because most of the small incidents are not reported. Only workers of the company understand the issues that affect them and have the power to change. The company has decent facilities capable of handling a safety culture, but workers have not yet realized the need to change their safety culture. The company needs to change its procedures and ways of carrying out its activities and redefine its commitment to the safety culture. To effect this change, the company needs to approach it using Kotter’s change model.  The next section describes how the company can change its culture using Kotter’s model.

The Kotter’s Change Model

John Kotter, a change guru and a professor at the Harvard University, came up with a change model each company can use to ensure that any change process succeeds. It is easy to conceive an idea for change, but carrying it to accomplishment is not easy because a number of people within the organization will resist it. However, Kotter realized that any change could succeed to become part of the organization the organization’s embedded culture if it is steered in the right way. In his model, Kotter devised eight steps each organization must consider in the process of change. For the Norfolk Southern Corporation, the focus to have it adopt a culture of safety can succeed if the company implements it, considering Kotter’s eight steps. These steps are analyzed in this section.

Creating a Sense of Urgency

The first step the organization needs to do is to explain to the workforce why they need to change. The organization needs to create a sense of urgency to spark the initial motivation for change. In this case, the company ought to identify the likely threat and develop a scenario to point to what is liable to happen in the future if change is not realized. Thereafter, the company ought to investigate the opportunities to exploit and initiate honest discussions about the change to keep people thinking. The company may request for support from customers or other affected parties (Eddy, 2003).

In the case study organization, Norfolk Southern Corporation, the change needed is in terms of safety culture. With the help of supervisors from various sections, the company can document a record of injuries and their resultant effects on the victims, victims’ family, customers, operational costs, and the image of the company. The company can ask employees about their feelings if they at one point lost their body parts in the course of their duty. After keeping them thinking, the company should further explain to them the need to change to avoid such scenarios. In this case, a sense of urgency will be created because everyone will want to partake in the activity to avoid further harm.

Forming a Powerful Coalition

After creating the need to change among the employees, the management needs to form a coalition that will lead the change process. According to Kotter (1996), change can only be realized if the organization has a strong group leading it. Such group should have influence and look for support from various section of the company to convince everyone of the need to adopt the intended change. Change leaders can be found within all sections of the organizations and they do not need to be in high positions. To form a powerful coalition, the company needs to discover true leaders and ask for emotional commitment from them. The team formed should focus on bonding with each other and ensure all weaknesses have been rectified.

In Norfolk Southern Corporation, a change coalition created should entail engineers, conductors, employees from various departments, and supervisors. The group should meet during the breaks and device away forward for creating change in safety culture within the organization. The group formed should be a leader in the change process and should be tasked with all responsibilities to ensure the change is realized.

Creating a Vision for Change

After institution the change process group, the group should come up with a vision for change process. According to Kotter (1996), many great ideas float round when change is being discussed, and thus such ideas should be linked to form a vision. A clear vision is essential because it guides everyone in the company and in the change coalition group; realize what they are being asked to do. The directives given to people can only make sense if people see sense in what they are trying to do. In this case, the organization should make out the value central to the change it needs to achieve. Thereafter, the company should come up with a synopsis to capture the future of the company and find out the strategy to execute the vision. The organization should further ensure that the coalition formed to lead the change describes the vision in less than five minutes. The vision should be practiced all the time to ensure that it makes sense to everyone (Eddy, 2003).

The Norfolk Southern Corporation should create a vision that can change the mentality and safety attitude among the people. The vision for this case should be to create an injury free environment at the company to cut costs and increase efficiency.

Communicating the Vision

The way the vision is treated after being created determines its success. This means communication is an essential aspect of change management and the organization must take it serious. In most cases, the organization has other important communication and thus the change vision must be communicated frequently to shield it from being masked by other communications. This means the organization should not just call for a meeting to communicate the change, but also rather make use of the available opportunities to communicate the vision. When communicating the vision, the change coalition should walk the talk, whereby they should lead the process of change by demonstrating how the change should be implemented.  This means the company should talk regularly about its vision of changing the safety culture, and address the anxieties of the people, as well as their anxieties. In addition, the company should apply the vision created to its operations and demonstrate how the process is supposed to be enacted.

Norfolk Southern Corporation has a good opportunity to communicate its change vision because it has a session called “job briefing.” During job briefing time, the conditions of work, including the tracks, weather, and other important details are discussed. The briefings take place during the start of every shift, and this implies three times a day. The communication ought to take place during each shift for a considerable period until everyone is conscious of the function he or she is supposed to do.

Removing Obstacles

When all the steps have been followed strictly, a number of obstacles may be felt on the way. Obstacles may be informed of organizational structures or people who may resist the change process. This means structures must be put in place to check for any resistance and remove them if necessary. When barriers are removed, people will be empowered to execute the vision communicated and this will make the organization to move forward. To remove obstacles, the organization needs to identify leaders of change tasked with the responsibilities of leading the change. Thereafter, the organization should look at its organizational structure, performance compensation,  as well as job group to ensure they rhyme with the vision. Thereafter, the organization should make out the people who are resisting the change and work hard to convince them to accept the change. Lastly, action should be taken to quickly remove any human or other form of barriers.

One likely barrier Norfolk Southern Corporation is likely to face in its quest to ensuring safety includes a culture of shortcut and negligence, whereby most employees use shortcut to execute their tasks. To overcome such barrier, the organization should make the process personal. In this case, the organization should capture the hearts of the workers rather than just their minds. In this case, the organization can get them thinking about their esteemed ones, and how they can feel if one of them is involved in a fatal accident. This will keep them thinking. However, if there is no one who can personalize the issue and adopt change, such a person should be weeded out because he has not compassion for humanity.

Creating a Short-term Win

Success is a motivating factor in any quest to achieve a given target. As a result, an organization should give its workers a taste of victory in its endeavors to ensure that they are motivated to work hard. Victory can be created through short-term targets or quick wins, and this will motivate workers to focus on the ultimate goal. The short-term wins should be communicated with a small margin of error, whereby the organization should not be focused on being 100% perfect, but near that level. To ensure short-term wins, the organization should look for sure projects that can generate results without any form of criticism from critics. Thereafter, the organization should choose targets that are less expensive and analyze their pros and cons before undertaking them. The targets should be selected wisely because early failure can affect the morale of the organization. Those who assist in meeting the target should be rewarded (Gupta, 2011).

In Norfolk Southern Corporation, short-term win may include a three months injury free target. The victory should be communicated and those who contributed to the success rewarded. The company should quantify the gain achieved during this injury free period in terms of money saved because of fewer days missed at work and productive workers.

Building on the Change

According to Kotter (1996), real change is deeper than the first short-term wins and thus the organization must build on the wins generated. Quick wins denotes the genesis of what is supposed to be done to achieve long-term win. This means the focus should be on improving on the issues noted. This means that, after every win, the organization should take stock of its activities and identify what went wrong or right, as well as what needs to be improved.  Thereafter, the organization should come up with new goals to stockpile on the already realized momentum. Change ideas should be kept fresh, whereby new ideas should be injected into the vision (Gupta, 2011).

For the Norfolk Southern Corporation, focus should on making the organization safer for all workers. The company can adopt some of internationally recognized tools, such as cleaner production concepts or the Keizen continuous production process to ensure an injury free environment. In addition, the company should focus on improving the entire organizational setup and safety training to augment on the safety culture already realized.

Anchoring the Change on the Corporate Culture

A change realized should be part of the culture of the organization for it to be effective. The organization’s corporate culture is a determinant of what ought to be done by everyone, and thus, it determines what ought to be done on a day-to-day basis. This means the organization must ensure that change realized is visible in all departments of the organizations. To ensure the change is anchored to organization, the top management should support it fully and the new staff, as well existing ones should support it fully. Loss of support from the leadership will result in the loss of the already realized change (Farris, Demb, Janke, Kelley, & Scott, 2009).

For Norfolk Southern Corporation, efforts should be made to ensure the safety culture realized becomes a corporate culture. In this case, change agents created should talk about the progress realized. Stories about success in the organization and other organizations should be told to motivate the workforce. In addition, change ideals should be created while hiring and training of staff. The organization should further recognize the staff who championed for the realized change, and this should be done in public. Both the new and existing staff should recognize the effort done by the change agents at the first place. Also, the plan should be put in place, such that it is fitting to replace the change agents already in place.

Norfolk Southern Corporation should continue to perform the safety briefing during each shift, and define some safety targets. The new employees should sign the safety consent form to ensure that they will advance the culture of safety.


Change is part of the route for innovation and improved productivity in any organization. This paper has indicated that changing an organization is a demanding task that requires persistence and determination. The success of change depends on the foundation made in the beginning, and this implies that one has to build a very strong foundation. The foundation is realized from the Kotter’s change model. If one has a number of plans that he or she wants to achieve, patience should be the key to their success. From the analysis, it has been realized that Norfolk Southern Corporation needs to initiate a culture of change that will see it achieve safety in all its operations. By taking into consideration Kotters change model, the company should follow all the steps indicated in the model.


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