John Kotter's 8-Step Change Management Model

By Thomas Bennett Financial expert at Priceva
Published on September 1, 2023
Organizational transformations often encounter resistance within companies, and the idea of change can be daunting for many employees. However, changes are essential for the steady development of a business. To ease the process of adaptation and increase the likelihood of success, the 8-step change model developed by John Kotter comes to the rescue.

Why is Kotter's 8-Step Change Model Necessary?

According to a study by Harvard Business Review, over 60% of all organizational change initiatives fail. Many companies grapple with challenges associated with transformation and swift implementation.
John Kotter, a professor of Organizational Science and Change Management at Harvard University, confirmed this statistic in his own observations, finding that only 30% of organizational changes are successful. This explains why many organizations, despite their efforts, fail to implement changes and achieve the desired results.
Substantial change is only possible if a majority of the employees endorse it. It's crucial to secure this support during the early stages of the change process.

To enhance the efficiency of change management and assist employees in adapting more swiftly and effectively to new processes, Kotter developed a model for managing organizational change, dividing the process into eight stages.

This model is widely known as Kotter's 8-Step Change Model.

What is Kotter's Strategy?

Kotter's 8-step change model aims to enhance an individual's capacity to adapt and improve their chances of success:

● The first three steps pertain to establishing a suitable climate for change;

● Steps 4 to 6 involve engaging and providing opportunities for every organization member to participate in the changes;

● Steps 7 and 8 focus on implementing and consolidating the changes.
So, these are the 8 steps for successful organizational change management:
● Establish a sense of urgency for change;

● Form a coalition of reformers and a support group;

● Develop a strategic vision and initiatives;

● Communicate the new vision to everyone;

● Enable the realization of the new vision;

● Generate and showcase short-term wins;

● Consolidate the changes;

● Integrate the changes into corporate culture.
Let's delve into each stage of change management and understand how to use them effectively.

1. Establish a sense of urgency for change

The first step in Kotter's leading change model is to create a sense of urgency.

If you aim for a win-win situation, instilling a "sense of urgency" is a powerful way to propel forward. In this context, the sense of urgency equates to the "need for change".

The idea is to pull everyone out of their comfort zone and make your employees understand this need. Your company's employees should feel that the impending transformation is necessary and beneficial for both them and the organization as a whole.

The primary objective at this stage is to motivate and foster interest among employees to support these changes. For transformation to occur, you need at least 75% of your employees to endorse the initiative.

Here are some actions needed to ensure a smooth process:

1. Before proposing changes, discuss the current issue with your team and try to get their perspective.

2. Communicate the problem and the need to resolve it to the entire team.

3. Make sure all employees understand that there's an issue within the organization that you're trying to address.

4. Instill a sense of urgency; everyone should understand that things cannot continue as they are.

5. Be persuasive and provide credible statistical data that increases the value of the statement about the need for change.

By executing these actions, you can engage your employees in the initiative. Additionally, here are some things you can do:

● Seek support from stakeholders, market leaders, and your clients to endorse your statement;

● Provide compelling arguments to garner attention;

● Strengthen your reputation by demonstrating examples of what happens when such a problem is ignored and what teams gain when the issue is addressed.

Once you're certain that all employees have comprehended the current situation's urgency and the need for immediate resolution, proceed to step 2.

2. Form a coalition of reformers and a support group

The second step of Kotter's model involves forming a team that fully understands the need for change. It is very difficult for one person to manage the entire process. Therefore, you need a coalition of effective people.

This coalition will help manage the process and attract other employees to "participation", which will facilitate the transformation process.

Three points that need to be completed to form a coalition:
● Identify people who show interest in this process.

● Choose a leader with a wide range of skills and experience. With the help of the leader, form a coalition that will encourage other employees who do not want transformation.

● The coalition should consist of employees performing various functions and holding various positions in the organization, so that all employees can trust the group.

The process cannot be managed by one person - therefore, form a change team by completing the steps above.

Checklist of tasks at this stage:
• Identify real leaders.

• Distribute roles and responsibilities for change leaders.

• Analyze risks and problems associated with change.

• Develop key performance indicators.

Your goal at this stage is to select several effective leaders, combine their efforts, and encourage the activity of the members of the formed team.

3. Develop a strategic vision and initiatives

The purpose of this step in Kotter's 8-step model is to create a clear and achievable vision that will help people understand why you are asking them to change.

If the initiative seems complex and difficult to understand, it is necessary to create a clear, simple, and at the same time understandable explanation for all levels of employees.

Steps to create a clear vision:
● Start thinking about how to do this, collect bright ideas and solutions;

● Choose from them those that are most useful, exciting, and attractive;

● Connect all these concepts to a common vision in such a way that each employee of your organization can easily understand and remember them;

● Then clarify how the future will be different from the past.

By following these steps, you can create a clear vision and also make sure that you are open to receiving feedback and requests at each stage.

Tips that can help in creating a vision:
• Think outside the box.

• Set a common goal within the organization.

• Take into account each feedback.

• Actively respond to doubts and questions.

• Look from the employee's perspective.

When employees understand what you are trying to achieve, your directives will have maximum effect.

4. Communicate the new vision to everyone

Once you have a clearly defined vision, the practical part begins. At this stage of implementing Kotter's 8-step model of change, you need to communicate your vision to the entire team. For efficiency, you should repeat your vision at every convenient opportunity.

Only by effectively communicating your vision and initiatives can you get your employees to accept and support the change initiative. Change leaders should use every opportunity to discuss the vision with employees and encourage collaboration and support.

You will only see large-scale changes when most of your employees rally around your vision / common goal.

Here are a few points you should remember to attract the attention of most people when transmitting your vision:

• What you do matters much more than what you say.

• Recruit supporters to support this vision.

• Communicate positively and consistently.

• Spread the vision and attract the attention of employees at all levels.

• Understand the problems of employees and minimize employee resistance.

The purpose of this stage is to capture the hearts and minds of your employees and inspire them to support the transformations.

5. Create conditions for the realization of the new vision

Moving on to the 5th step of Kotter's 8-step model, where you need to expand the possibilities for actions, primarily by removing obstacles. When conducting changes on a scale of the entire organization, you may often encounter obstacles.

The leader and the guiding coalition must eliminate any such obstacles that block the organization's path to success.

Steps to make this happen:
● Before moving on to eliminating obstacles, from the perspective of employees, record them all.

● To have a clear understanding of each obstacle, divide them into individual, material, traditional, or legislative obstacles.

● Know the barriers that hinder the process of organizational transformations and eliminate them as soon as possible.

● Expand the capabilities of employees by providing the necessary training and mentoring.

● Use a digital platform for effective learning using interactive step-by-step checklists and instructions.

Here are some tips you can use to make this process smooth.
• Openly communicate with employees to identify barriers.

• Determine the strongest obstacles that most significantly hinder changes, and eliminate them.

• Involve industry leaders in implementing changes.

• Encourage employees who are actively working on implementing transformations.

Eliminating hierarchies and barriers in the transformation process provides the necessary freedom to work in different departments and get a real effect.

6. Create and demonstrate short-term wins

At the 6th step of Kotter's 8-step model, it is worth showing the first results of the transformation. Let your employees taste success as soon as possible. This will motivate them and give momentum to your vision.

Ask your change team to pay more attention to short-term rather than long-term goals. When a goal is closer and more achievable, the chance of failure is minimal, and by achieving a few short-term goals, you will ultimately be able to achieve long-term success.

Let's understand the difference between short-term and long-term goals.
Here are some tips for achieving short-term wins:

● Set achievable short-term goals.

● Consider all aspects of the pros and cons of a short-term goal (failure of an early goal demotivates employees, instilling doubt in success).

● Encourage volunteers to be persistent in achieving intermediate goals.

● Constantly talk about the stages passed and reward for success.

Short-term wins are the best motivation for achieving success in transformation, and also a great way to counter any criticism of your vision.

7. Consolidate changes

Kotter's 7th step is aimed at maintaining the momentum of your vision.

Two big mistakes that many organizations make:
● Stop after achieving a short-term victory.
● Overheat the situation with a desire for immediate progress.

Such mistakes can hinder the achievement of the goal.

Change is a slow and continuous process. To constantly enjoy the benefits, introduce changes into the values, goals, and culture of your organization. Kotter asserts that after initial success, you cannot slow down in order to maintain the initial momentum. Therefore, it is important to maintain changes for a long period after implementation.

Tips for sustaining change:
• Continue to set goals and often monitor progress. Achieving many short-term wins works towards your long-term vision.

• Make sure that your change leaders and guiding coalition persistently work as a team aimed at achieving organizational changes.

• Building trust improves organizational structure.

• Analyze what went wrong and what worked soon after each success or failure.

• Continue to seek improvements.

• Engage stakeholders or interested parties in the industry to discuss the need for transformation.

The purpose of this stage is to sustain the transformation by anchoring changes in corporate culture. You must continuously make improvements (Kaizen) that provide momentum for change.

8. Incorporate Changes into Corporate Culture

To achieve long-term effects, you must anchor and genuinely incorporate changes into your organization's corporate culture.

Change leaders and teams are responsible for implementing cultural transformations among all team members and changing their behavior.

A single local change won't give anything. You must take the initiative to conduct constant transformations across the entire organization.

Key initiatives of this step:
● Formalization of behavior rules;
● Establishing a correlation between results and rewards;
● Creating conditions for the development of new qualities of employees.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Kotter's 8-Step Change Model


John Kotter's change model is simple and can be applied step by step. It provides a clear description of what should happen at each stage of the change process.

The first two steps in John Kotter's 8-step change model are the strongest part of the entire model. Many company managers dive headfirst into the change program without thinking about how their employees will react to it. This can lead to unrest and mistrust.

In addition, John Kotter's method offers a reliable structure, serving as a checklist, with aspects for managers to consider.


Like other models, John Kotter's change model is not perfect. For example, some theorists note that change is more of an organic process rather than a linear process with several stages. In addition, Kotter's model does not take into account financial, political, and other forces that may affect change initiatives.

Criticism based on these drawbacks is fair, but these shortcomings can be almost completely eliminated by using another method, such as Kurt Lewin's force field analysis.

John Kotter's Recommendations

After completing all the steps of the 8-step change model, John Kotter recommends using the new vision as a starting point when selecting and hiring new staff. This also applies to training existing staff.

The new vision and changes should be given a solid place in the organization. Employees who have actively contributed to the changes should receive public recognition.

Their support is invaluable, and therefore may be needed again when it is necessary to implement another change.

Concluding Thoughts

Employees don't always perceive changes as something positive. Collective resistance to upcoming changes is the most common barrier slowing down the transformation process.

Kotter's 8-step model is a structured, people-oriented approach that helps companies overcome employee resistance.

By following this step-by-step plan, organizations can avoid failures and increase their chances of successfully implementing changes and achieving the desired result.

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