Kotter's 8-Step Change Model

Any attempt at implementing change at an organizational level is a highly difficult task to accomplish, one that’s usually met with a varying degree of resistance. The ever-increasing need to quickly adapt to the changing needs of customers and business partners puts a lot of pressure on management to establish an effective change management strategy.

One of the most widely used change management strategies has been created by Dr. John Kotter, the founder of Kotter International and a recipient of numerous awards in the fields of business, leadership, and change. Commonly referred to as Kotter's 8-Step Change Model, this change management strategy describes eight steps organizations must take to enhance their ability to implement change initiatives successfully.

Kotter has outlined his model in his international bestseller, Leading Change, which is currently listed by TIME magazine as one of the top 25 most influential business management books ever written. These are the 8 steps:

1.   Establish A Sense Of Urgency

The first step is to spark a sense of urgency and convince all stakeholders how important it is for the proposed change to happen. This can be accomplished by openly discussing potential issues that may arise unless the change is implemented, going over its benefits, and by honestly answering all follow-up questions. Most employees are willing to walk an extra mile if they understand the reasons behind a proposed change.  

2.   Form A Guiding Coalition

No substantial change has ever happened in a vacuum. All key players and influencers within and outside the organization must be on board to champion the initiative, develop strategies to achieve the vision and get others on their side. As Martin Webster writes, even “hopelessly difficult teamwork problems can be overcome with courage and confidence in conviction.”

3.   Develop A Vision

While a sense of urgency can be established using facts and reasoning, a clear vision relies heavily on emotional commitment. It’s the same kind of commitment that’s behind large-scale socio-political changes, the work of humanitarian organizations, and world-changing initiatives. A clear vision and strategy for achieving the vision make change feel more concrete and can help employees achieve their goals faster.

4.   Communicate The Change Vision

With a clear vision developed, the next step is to communicate it in a way that resonates with those who are involved in its implementation. The more often you talk about the vision, the fresher it will feel and the more zealous everyone will be. The most efficient way to communicate a vision is through leading by example and demonstrating what is expected.

5.   Empower Employees For Broad-Based Action

Those employees who show the biggest potential to accelerate the rate at which the proposed change can be implemented should be adequately compensated and given the freedom to take guarded risks and think outside the box. Obstacles to change should also be eliminated at this point. On the other hand, employees who resist change must be identified in a timely manner and managed appropriately.

6.   Generate Short-Term Wins

The implementation of long-term change tends to lose some of its momentum as time goes on. One way to regain lost momentum is to create short-term wins and celebrate them as major steps on the road to success. Don’t forget to reward those who help you meet targets adequately.

7.   Consolidate Gains 

Every gain you make, no matter how large or small, holds the key to additional gains. You can discover these keys by analyzing what went right and what didn’t. This way, you can keep on improving and producing more change for as long as you’re able to keep ideas fresh. At this stage, the credibility attained so far can be used to change any existing systems, policies, and structures that do not fit the vision. Employees who can push the vision forward may also be hired, promoted or trained to further empower them.

8.   Anchor The Change

“Ensure that the change becomes an integral part of your organizational culture and is visible in every organizational aspect,” write MSG Experts. The urgency that was created in the first of the eight steps should be retained.


Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model is a useful approach for implementing change successfully and with the least level of resistance possible. The easy-to-follow nature of the model makes it suitable for organizations and businesses of all sizes.

Picture Attribution: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net