John P Kotter's 'eight steps to successful change'

American John P Kotter (b 1947) is a Harvard Business School professor and leading thinker and author on organizational change management. Kotter's highly regarded books 'Leading Change' (1995) and the follow-up 'The Heart Of Change' (2002) describe a helpful model for understanding and managing change. Each stage acknowledges a key principle identified by Kotter relating to people's response and approach to change, in which people see, feel and then change.


Kotter's eight step change model can be summarised as:



  • Increase urgency - inspire people to move, make objectives real and relevant.
  • Build the guiding team - get the right people in place with the right emotional commitment, and the right mix of skills and levels.
  • Get the vision right - get the team to establish a simple vision and strategy, focus on emotional and creative aspects necessary to drive service and efficiency.
  • Communicate for buy-in - Involve as many people as possible, communicate the essentials, simply, and to appeal and respond to people's needs. De-clutter communications - make technology work for you rather than against.
  • Empower action - Remove obstacles, enable constructive feedback and lots of support from leaders - reward and recognise progress and achievements.
  • Create short-term wins - Set aims that are easy to achieve - in bite-size chunks. Manageable numbers of initiatives. Finish current stages before starting new ones.
  • Don't let up - Foster and encourage determination and persistence - ongoing change - encourage ongoing progress reporting - highlight achieved and future milestones.
  • Make change stick - Reinforce the value of successful change via recruitment, promotion, new change leaders. Weave change into culture.

Kotter's eight step model is explained more fully on his website www.kotterinternational.com.


Related to Kotter's ideas, and particularly helpful in understanding the pressures of change on people, and people's reactions to change, see a detailed interpretation of the personal change process in John Fisher's model of the process of personal change.

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