UCV-COW-BA: Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

“By changing nothing, nothing changes.” -Tony Robbins

Change is part of everyday life – its inevitable, its constant, and its not always easy to deal with. While we all have our own way of dealing with change in our personal lives (some of us may shy away), organizational change cannot be avoided. Recognizing the challenge of adapting to change, organizations implement various theories and programs for change management. Any change, personal or organizational, should be well thought out to avoid disaster.

In using the health care system as an example, Max D. Ray and Burnis D. Breland discusses that, in an organization, leaders are required to be change agents. They to on to say that, “To be effective,… leaders will need to be guided by a well-thought-through practice model that is based on the broad goals [of the department].” (Ray and Breland, 2011).

UCV-COW-BA (pronounced, you-see-vee-cow-ba). Have I gone crazy? No. Please repeat after me, three times. UCV-COW-BA. UCV-COW-BA. UCV-COW-BA. Now, before calling me crazy again, let me explain this.

UCV-COW-BA is an acronym to help you remember the 8 stages in Kotter’s 8-step change model. John Kotter (click for information and blogs posts), who is a professor at Harvard Business School, developed these 8 steps to lead change.

Step 1: Create Urgency

This one is pretty straight forward – we know that if we want something to change, we have to convince somebody (probably the boss) that something is actually wrong. Kotter points out that “ 75 percent of a company’s management needs to “buy into” the change.”

Step 2: Form a Powerful Coalition

The power of many! The more people you can convince that change is needed, the stronger case you can make to implement change.

Step 3: Create a Vision for Change

Determine what the overall goal is for change. Figure out what will be better and how it will be better because of the change. 

Step 4: Communicate the Vision

Tell people!

Step 5: Remove Obstacles

Identify individuals who may resist the change. Bring them on your side. Realize that you won’t convince everybody, but you have to convince the ones who have decision making power.

Step 6: Create short-term Wins

It’s all about baby steps. Every step forward is one to celebrate and bring forth the success of the change. The more success everybody sees, the more motivated they are to carry on.

Step 7: Build on the Change

Don’t stop there – keep going! The change helped create short-term wins; now analyze them and win more!

Step 8: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture

In order for the change to be successful, it should become vasible in most part of the company.

(Steps and paraphrased description from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_82.htm)

For a real life example of Kotter’s 8-step model in practice, one only needs to look back a few years to 2006. In her article, Leading Bold Change, Ann Schulte discusses her experience when MasterCard went public. Employees were instructed through the “Leading Bold Change” training program – which was based off of Kotter’s 8-step model.  During the workshop, participants developed action plans to apply the model.  (source)

Have a read over the Leading Bold Change PDF to see how MasterCard actually implemented these 8 steps to manage their big change.

There you have it. UCV-COW-BA. You can easily master change with these steps. Learn it. Live it. Love it.






Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model. (n.d.). Mind Tools. Retrieved July 20, 2012, from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_82.htm

Ray, M. D., & Breland, B. D. (2011). Methods of fostering change in the practice model at the pharmacy department level. American Journal Of Health-System Pharmacy,68(12), 1138-1145.

Schulte, A. (2010). Leading Bold Change. Leadership Excellence, 27(4), 4.

3 Responses to UCV-COW-BA: Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

  1. LILIAGLORIA says:

    Hey Amaan,
    UCV-COW-BA!! Thanks for sharing a creative way to learn Kotter’s 8-step process! I like how you creatively put together an acronym to help us all remember this process. I definitely agree with you when you mention that leaders are required to be the change agents. Leaders have influence and will be able to implement change within an organization. Here’s a short video of John Kotter explaining the heart of the change. He talks about “winning over hearts and minds of people” and that the first change that needs to happen is changing one’s behaviour then making the change process work:

    awesome blog, the acronym helps for sure!


  2. rheannafaedo says:

    I enjoyed reading your post this week on UCV-COW-BA: Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model. I have written a paper before on Change Management following Kotter’s 8-Step process introducing a Balanced Scorecard into an Organization, and I found it particularly interesting when you discussed the UCV-COW-BA acronym for Kotter’s 8-Step process.

    Through research I found that Kotter’s 8-Step process has been used successfully for leading change in many organizations. In order to be successful in change, key change agents are crucial of any change effort, but are extremely important when establishing the Balanced Scorecard into an organization (Niven, 2002). The Balanced Scorecard is an example of introducing a major change initiative into an organization and major change needs an individual or team of individual’s that can lead the implementation, improvement and sustained development of the Balanced Scorecard system; otherwise the implementation of the Scorecard may go off course and be ruined (Niven, 2002).

    This is one of the reason Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model is a great choice when managing change into an organization that is implementing a major change initiative like a Balanced Scorecard because in order to be successful in change it is important to develop a powerful guiding coalition. The guiding coalition will be the team of individuals that can lead the implementation, improvement and sustained development of the major change initiative like the Balanced Scorecard throughout the organization. It is important to note that in order for Kotter’s 8-Step approach to be successful, all steps need to be followed in chronological order and the steps must not be missed. Therefore all 8-Steps are required to be followed in order to be successful.


    Niven, P. R. (2005). Balanced scorecard diagnostics: maintaining maximum performance. [Books24x7 version] Available from http://common.books24x7.com/toc.aspx?bookid=12263.

    Niven, P. R. (2002). Balanced scorecard step-by-step: maximizing performance and maintaining results. [Books24x7 version] Available from http://common.books24x7.com/toc.aspx?bookid=3757.

  3. UCV-COW-BA. UCV-COW-BA….I now have that stuck in my head.
    I really liked the acronym, I’ve actually met someone who mentioned the progress in their work organization once the change model had been implemented; so I guess it really does work.
    I came across an article that gives examples of what can be done in each step of the Kotter’s 8 Step Change model, that will increase organizational success. The following suggestions were made by MindTools:

    -Identify potential threats, and develop scenarios showing what could happen in the future.
    -Request support from customers, outside stakeholders and industry people to strengthen your argument.

    -Identify the true leaders in your organization.
    -Check your team for weak areas, and ensure that you have a good mix of people from different departments and different levels within your company.

    -Determine the values that are central to the change.
    -Develop a short summary (one or two sentences) that captures what you “see” as the future of your organization.

    -Talk often about your change vision.
    -Openly and honestly address peoples’ concerns and anxieties.
    -Apply your vision to all aspects of operations – from training to performance reviews. Tie everything back to the vision.
    -Lead by example.

    -Identify, or hire, change leaders whose main roles are to deliver the change.
    -Recognize and reward people for making change happen.

    -Don’t choose early targets that are expensive. You want to be able to justify the investment in each project.
    -Reward the people who help you meet the targets

    -After every win, analyze what went right and what needs improving.
    -Keep ideas fresh by bringing in new change agents and leaders for your change coalition.

    -Talk about progress every chance you get. Tell success stories about the change process, and repeat other stories that you hear.
    -Include the change ideals and values when hiring and training new staff.

    More examples can be read in the article attached.

    have a great day Amaan,

    Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model – Change Management Training from MindTools.com. (n.d.). Mind Tools – Management Training, Leadership Training and Career Training. Retrieved July 30, 2012, from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_82.htm

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