Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model

8 step change model Kotter - ToolsHero

This article explains Kotter’s 8 step change model, developed by John Kotter in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful organisational management tool.

What is Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model?

Research carried out by the American change and leadership guru John Kotter has proved that major change efforts unfortunately do not always have the desired outcome. He found out that there is only a 30% chance of organisational change success. This is why organizations implement changes unsuccessfully and fail to achieve the intended result.

John Kotter introduced the “Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model” to improve an organization’s ability to change and to increase its chances of success. By following this step plan organizations can avoid failure and become adept at implementing change. As a result, organizations no longer need to adjust the changes and they will increase their chances of success.

Change success factors

Employees do not always experience change as something positive. However, they are important when it comes to the implementation of change. Following the Kotters eight stage model plan will help organizations to succeed at implementing change. The first three steps of Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model are about creating the right climate for change, steps 4 up to 6 and link the change to the organization. Steps 7 and 8 are aimed at the implementation and consolidation of the change:

kotter's 8 step change model - ToolsHero

1. Create a sense of urgency

This first step of Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model is the most important step according to John Kotter. By making employees aware of the need and urgency for change, support will be created. This requires and open, honest and convincing dialogue. This convinces employees of the importance of taking action. This could be accomplished by talking with them about potential threats or by discussing possible solutions.

2. Create a guiding coalition

It is a good idea to establish a project team that can occupy itself with the changes the organization wants to implement. This group manages all efforts and encourages the employees to cooperate and take a constructive approach. Preferably, this coalition is made up from employees working in different jobs and positions so that all employees can rely on the group and identify themselves with the team members. Because of the open character, the groups can also function as a sounding board, which enables an open communication.

3. Create a vision for change

Formulating a clear vision can help everyone understand what the organization is trying to achieve within the agreed time frame. It makes changes more concrete and creates support to implement them. The ideas of employees can be incorporated in the vision, so that they will accept the vision faster. Linking the adopted vision to strategies will help employees to achieve their goals.

4. Communicate the vision

The most important objective of step 4 of Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model is to create support and acceptance among the employees. This can only be achieved by talking about the new vision with the employees at every chance you get and by taking their opinions, concerns and anxieties seriously. The new vision must be fully adopted across the entire organization.

5. Remove obstacles

Before change is accepted at all levels, it is crucial to change or, if necessary, remove obstacles that could undermine the vision. By entering into dialogue with all employees, it will become clear who are resisting the change. To encourage acceptance of the vision by the employees, it helps when their ideas are incorporated and implemented in the change process.

6. Create short-term wins

Nothing motivates more than success. Create short-term goals so that the employees have a clear idea of what is going on. When the goals have been met, the employees will be motivated to fine tune and expand the change. By acknowledging and rewarding employees who are closely involved in the change process, it will be clear across the board that the company is changing course.

7. Consolidate improvements

According to John Kotter many change trajectories fail because victory is declared too early. However, change is a slow-going process and it must be driven into the overall corporate culture. Quick wins are only the beginning of long-term change. An organization therefore needs to keep looking for improvements. Only after multiple successes have been achieved, it can be established that the change is paying off.

8. Anchor the changes

The last step of Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model. A change will only become part of the corporate culture when it has become a part of the core of the organization. Change does not come about by itself. Values and standards must agree with the new vision and the employees’ behaviour must provide a seamless match. Employees must continue to support the change. Regular evaluation and discussions about progress help consolidate the change.

Recommendations by John Kotter

When all steps of Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model have been followed, John Kotter recommends taking the new vision as a starting point when recruiting and hiring new staff. This also applies to the training of (current) staff. The new vision and the changes must be given a solid place in the organization. Employees who have actively contributed to the change must receive public recognition. Their support is enormous and therefore they will be asked again for their support and help when another change needs to be brought about.

It’s Your Turn

What do you think? Is the Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model applicable in today’s modern companies? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for applying the Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Kotter, J. P. (2012, 1996). Leading change. Harvard Business Press.
  2. Kotter, J. P. (1995). Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. Harvard Business Review OnPoint (March-April), 1-10.
  3. Kotter, J. P. and Cohen, D. S. (2002). The Heart of Change: Real-life Stories of how People Change Their Organizations. Harvard Business Press.

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  1. It’s good to see how Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model resonates in McKinsey’s research and article on what constitutes success in Digital Transformation – and how significant people management is!

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