Add Unlearning to Kotter's Change Phase Model

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Add Unlearning to Kotter's Change Phase Model
KK Verma, Member
Even when a lot has been discussed about why change process don't succeed and various points have been outlined, but I feel that the power of unlearning has been left out in all these discussion so far. Even Kotter's change theory does not talk about unlearning, which could be an essential step to achieve change.
When we talk about the change phase model, I advise to include unlearning. Unlearning can be achieved through seven factors:
1. Thinking and action - unlearn old and outdated way of thinking, your action will change.
2. Aspirations - there is a need to avoid multitasking and focus on bigger issues to achieve desired change.
3. Relationships - in today's networked world, we need to develop new relationships with people and environment. We need to unlearn the old ones.
4. Religion - we should not allow God to come in between achieving desired change. We must try to understand God in current perspective for change.
5. Hierarchy - change is mostly initiated by younger people in the organisation. It is important that existing hierarchical structures are unlearned to achieve change.
6. Example - we must create a godfather from existing resources. We must use some books, quotations and websites to work as a godfather. Change will come easily.
7. Wisdom domain - it is difficult to take day to day tough decisions on the way towards change. If we fix some wisdom domain which is taken for granted, it is easy to achieve change.
I am sure that a better inclusion and understanding of unlearning will help to achieve change.

Adding Unlearning Into the Change Phase Model
Jaap de Jonge, Editor
Hi KK, I find your comment really interesting. How and where would you position unlearning in Kotter's 8 phases?

Change Phase Model Needs a Change
KK Verma, Member
@Jaap de Jonge (Editor): from my point of view, in the change phase model, we need to replace the current "5. Empower people to clear obstacles" with "5. Help people unlearn outdated things".
Today clearing obstacles is not possible, unless people are educated about unlearning. System processes and products have passed through so much change that it is not possible to amend them, they have to be unlearned.
For example, today we have to unlearn Windows XP to grab the opportunity provided by the Windows 7 operating system. Unlearning the old os is the only alternative to clearly understand the new system and exploit it to the fullest.
If proper unlearning takes place, people can get short term wins and enjoy it.

Unlearning in Kotters Change Phases
Jaap de Jonge, Editor
Thanks KK, interesting... Indeed old habits, customs, things etc. can be a major obstacle for change. And indeed unlearning can be a valuable approach to deal with that.
But in my opinion:
1. There could also be other obstacles preventing change besides habits etc.. Unlearning might not be appropriate to deal with those.
2. There could be other ways to deal with this kind of obstacle (old habits etc.) besides unlearning.
3. I believe unlearning could also play a role in some of the other change phases (in particular 1. Establishing the sense of urgency, 3. Developing a clear vision, and 8. Anchoring the change).

Unlearning Could Be Used in Every Walk of Life
KK Verma, Member
I have lot of regards for change phase model given by Kotters.
These eight steps enumerated by him are handy in achieving change whether in organisation, family or yourself... I have used them extensively in my personal & professional life. They have been very helpful. Starting from establishing a sense of urgency to anchoring the change, I have used them like a God father.
However lately I started feeling that unless unlearning is integrated, achieving change will remain incomplete and there is a possibility that people can go back to the old ways of working.
Mr. de Jonge argues that unlearning could play a role in other phases than the one I mentioned initally, I agree.
Like learning, unlearning is never absolute or complete, it has to occur slowly and steadily, it can be achieved with experiences. Unlearning can be a slow outcome so one has to have patience to apply it in different phases of change. Although unlearning must be applied slowly, it should also be done firmly.
All obstacles can't be overcome by unlearning alone, but as things are changing unlearning becomes an important option.


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