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Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

The competitive business world, emerging technologies, shifting customer preferences and educated but unskilled employees force businesses to change. Still, many of them aren’t sure how to make it happen. You can always use Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model.

  • So, how do you begin? 
  • What are your responsibilities? 
  • What are your strategies for seeing it through?

There are many theories on how to plan and implement change. One approach is based on John Kotter, a change management and leadership expert. Kotter, a Harvard Business School professor and renowned change expert outlined his eight-step process for change in 1995’s “Leading Change.”

Here we have enlisted Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model to lead change.

Step 1: Create urgency


Everyone in the company must want to see change happen. Create a sense of urgency about the need to change. This can help you get the motivation you need to move things forward.

It’s not enough to show people poor sales statistics or talk about increased competition. You can have an open and honest dialogue about your competitors and the market. The urgency of your change can grow if many people talk about it.

Here’s what you can do

  • Identify possible threats and create scenarios that show what might happen in the future.
  • Look for opportunities that could be or should be exploited.
  • Engage in honest conversations and offer convincing reasons to get people thinking.
  • You can ask for support from customers, industry professionals, and other stakeholders to strengthen your argument.


In Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model, Kotter says that change must be accepted by 75 percent of the company’s management to succeed. This means that you must work hard on Step 1 and invest significant energy and time building urgency prior to moving on to the next step. Do not panic or jump in too quickly, as you may be in for some bumpy rides.

Step 2: Form a Powerful Coalition

Persuade people that change is possible. It takes strong leadership and the support of key employees within your company. It’s not enough to manage change; you must lead it.

Effective change leaders can be found in any organization. They don’t have to follow the company hierarchy. You need to create a group or team of influential people who have power from many sources. These include job title, political influence, and expertise.


Your “change coalition” must work together once it is formed. This will help you build urgency around the need to change.

Here’s what you can do

  • Identify your true leaders and key stakeholders in your organization.
  • These key people should be willing to make an emotional commitment.
  • Build a team within your change alliance.
  • You should assess your team and identify any weak points. Also, ensure you have the right mix of people from different levels and departments within your company.

Step 3: Create a vision for change

There will be many brilliant ideas and solutions when you think about changing. These concepts can be merged to create a strong vision that is easy to grasp and retain.

Clear visions can help everyone see why you ask them to do certain things. If people can see what you are trying to accomplish, the directives they receive tend to make more sense.

Here’s what you can do

  • Identify the core values of the change.
  • Write a summary (one to two sentences) of what you see as the future for your company.
  • To realize your vision, create a strategy.
  • Your change coalition should be able to describe your vision in less than five minutes.
  • Practice your “vision speech” often.

Step 4: Communicate the vision

Your success will depend on what you do with your vision once you create it. You will likely face intense competition from other communications in the company. Therefore, you must communicate your message frequently and strongly and embed it into everything you do.

Do not limit yourself to calling special meetings to share your vision. Instead, speak about it whenever you can. To make decisions and solve problems, you can use the vision every day. It will be easier for everyone to remember and respond if you keep it in their minds.

It is also essential to living up to your word. It’s far more important to do the right thing than say it. Show the behavior you desire from others.

Here’s what you can do

  • Discuss your change vision often.
  • Openly and honestly address people’s concerns and anxieties.
  • Your vision should be applied to all operations, from training to performance evaluations. All aspects of operations should be tied back to your vision.
  • Be an example.

Step 5: Remove Obstacles

This step will help you reach the point where you can start to talk about your vision and get buy-in from everyone in the organization. Your staff will hopefully want to get involved and reap the rewards you have promoted.

Is anyone resisting change? Are there structures or processes that hinder the change?

Establish the framework for change and keep checking for obstacles. Eliminating obstacles can empower those who need to implement your vision and make the transition more effective.

Here’s what you can do

  • Hire or identify change leaders who are responsible for delivering the change.
  • To ensure that your vision is being carried out, you should examine your organization structure, job descriptions, performance, and compensation systems.
  • Recognize people who make change possible and reward them.
  • Recognize those who resist change and help them see the need for it.

You can quickly take action to remove any barriers, human or otherwise.

Step 6: Create short-term wins

Nothing is more motivating than success. Your company should experience victory as a part of the change process. You’ll need to provide quick wins for your employees within a very short time (it could take a month or one year, depending on what type of change you are trying). You might be criticized or influenced by negative people.

You should set more short-term goals, not many long-term goals. Each smaller goal should be possible and achievable, and there should be little chance of failure. These targets may require a lot of effort from your change team, but every “win” can be a motivator for the whole staff.

Here’s what you can do

  • You should look for projects that are sure to succeed and can be implemented without the help of any harsh critics.
  • Do not choose targets too early. Each project should be able to pay for itself.
  • Analyze the pros and cons of each target. Failure to achieve a goal early can harm your overall change initiative.
  • Recognize those who help you reach your goals.

Step 7: Build on the change.

Kotter claims that too many change initiatives fail because they are declared victorious too soon. Real change runs deep. For long-term success, quick wins are just the beginning.

Launching one product with a new system is excellent for testing the changed scenario. Now you are set to launch more products with the new system, which is a sign that it works. You must continue to look for ways to improve your strategy to reach that 10th success.

Every success is an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and improve.

Here’s what you can do

  • Analyze every win and identify what worked well.
  • To build on the momentum that you have created, set goals.
  • Find out more about Kaizen, which is the idea of continuous improvement.
  • Bring in new leaders and change agents to keep your thoughts fresh.

Step 8: Anchor the Corporate Culture Changes

Making any change work must be a core part of your organization. Your corporate culture can often decide what gets done. Therefore, your values must be reflected in your daily work.

Continuously work to ensure that you see the change in every part of your organization. This will give the change a firm place in your culture.

Your company’s leaders must also support this change. This applies to both existing employees and newly hired leaders. 

Here’s what you can do

  • Every chance you have, talk about progress. Retell success stories about the process of change, and share other stories you hear.
  • When training and hiring new staff, inculcate the values and change ideas.
  • Recognize key members of your original coalition for change and ensure that the rest of your staff remembers them.
  • Plan to ensure the legacy of change leaders.

To Summarize,

To successfully change an organization, you must work hard. Implementing Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model is easier if you plan well and have the proper foundation. This will increase your chances of success. Your plans for change will fail if you are too eager and expect too much too quickly.

You can create a sense of urgency and recruit change leaders. These things will make change a part of your organization’s culture. This is when you can indeed declare victory. Now, relax and enjoy the changes you have envisioned.


Marty Hoffman

Marty Hoffman, MBA, PhD Management Consultant for Fortune 500 and Corporate Strategist 📍 San Francisco, CA More »

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