Kotter’s 8-Step Process for Leading Change

Over decades, Dr. Kotter observed the behavior and results of hundreds of organizations and thousands of leaders at all levels when they were trying to transform or execute their strategies. He identified and extracted the success factors and combined them into a methodology, the 8-Step Process. He then founded a firm of experts, Kotter International, to implement the approach across a diverse range of organizations.

We found that companies that became particularly adept at continuous change have three characteristics in common. They:

  • Closely followed the process
  • Allowed the process to flex itself to their specific contexts
  • Measured their efforts in terms of results

These organizations mastered a capability that greatly enhanced their likelihood of success in the present and the future. It also helped them survive: organizations that do not or cannot evolve in the permanent context of rapid change will not last.

Kotter International’s Advisory Services and Center for Leaders are designed to help our clients implement this process and develop the mindsets and skill sets necessary to lead your change.

Those familiar with the 8-Step Process defined in Leading Change (1996) will note that we have refined some of the original steps in the model below. This is because we continue to learn about the process’ effectiveness during implementation. If we gather enough supporting data, we will make minor adjustments to the model accordingly.

  • 1

  • 2

  • 3

  • 4

  • 5

  • 6

  • 7

  • 8

Step 1 Create a Sense of Urgency

Craft and use a significant opportunity as a means for exciting people to sign up to change their organization.

  • 1

  • 2

  • 3

  • 4

  • 5

  • 6

  • 7

  • 8

Step 2Build a Guiding Coalition

Assemble a group with the power and energy to lead and support a collaborative change effort.

  • 1

  • 2

  • 3

  • 4

  • 5

  • 6

  • 7

  • 8

Step 3 Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives

Shape a vision to help steer the change effort and develop strategic initiatives to achieve that vision.

  • 1

  • 2

  • 3

  • 4

  • 5

  • 6

  • 7

  • 8

Step 4 Enlist a Volunteer Army

Raise a large force of people who are ready, willing and urgent to drive change.

  • 1

  • 2

  • 3

  • 4

  • 5

  • 6

  • 7

  • 8

Step 5 Enable Action by Removing Barriers

Remove obstacles to change, change systems or structures that pose threats to the achievement of the vision.

  • 1

  • 2

  • 3

  • 4

  • 5

  • 6

  • 7

  • 8

Step 6 Generate Short-Term Wins

Consistently produce, track, evaluate and celebrate volumes of small and large accomplishments – and correlate them to results.

  • 1

  • 2

  • 3

  • 4

  • 5

  • 6

  • 7

  • 8

Step 7 Sustain Acceleration

Use increasing credibility to change systems, structures and policies that don’t align with the vision; hire, promote and develop employees who can implement the vision; reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes and volunteers.

  • 1

  • 2

  • 3

  • 4

  • 5

  • 6

  • 7

  • 8

Step 8 Institute Change

Articulate the connections between the new behaviors and organizational success, and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.