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Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

This detailed article aims to explore Kotter’s 8-step change model. There is no doubt that in an ever-evolving business landscape, organisations must adapt and implement change to stay competitive and become successful. One popular model to guide them through change is Kotter’s 8-step change model which was developed by Harvard Business School professor Dr. John Kotter.


This model is widely regarded as an effective tool for managing change in various industries and settings. It has evolved from 8 Step Leading Change to the 8 Accelerators (Kotter International, 2023). The eight components have been summarised below:


Create urgency

The first step in Kotter’s 8-step change model is to establish a sense of urgency. This stage is critical because people need to acknowledge that change is needed (University of Manchester, 2023). To achieve this, leaders must identify potential threats, opportunities, and compelling reasons for change within the organisation.


One way to create a sense of urgency is through open and honest communication with employees and stakeholders about the current situation and the potential consequences of inaction. By presenting a clear and compelling case for change, leaders can inspire a sense of urgency among employees that will drive them to take actions.


Credit: Kotter International 


Build a guiding coalition

The second step in Kotter’s 8-step change model is to create a guiding coalition. This involves assembling a group of stakeholders within the organisation who have influence, and credibility to drive the change process. The guiding coalition should be diverse and represent various functional areas and levels within the organisation.


Right people with the right skills, experience and attributes must be on board. It is extremely difficult if not impossible, to implement any change if the team does not consist of the right people.


Form a strategic vision

A strategic vision for change is necessary which gives people a degree of hope and bring them to the table of change. Leaders should clarify how the future will be different from the past (Kotter International, 2023).


To develop an effective vision and strategy, leaders should consider the organisation’s mission, values, and strategic objectives, as well as the needs and expectations of the stakeholders.


Enlist a volunteer army

Large-scale changes can only take place when substantial numbers of employees gather under a common goal and walk towards the same direction (Kotter International, 2023). They need to be involved in the change process somehow. In this connection, open communication can be very useful.


Leaders can communicate the change vision through various channels, such as presentations, meetings, newsletters, and social media. By using multiple communication methods, they can ensure that the message reaches a wide audience and is reinforced over time.


Enable action by remove barriers

Any barriers to change need to be removed as early as possible during the change process. Managers can find a range of motivational techniques helpful to deal with barriers to change.


Generate short-term wins

It may be necessary to set easy-to-achieve objectives for the change.  If the objectives are achievable, and realistic, people are likely to give the change a go. Extremely difficult objectives may frustrate some people. 


Generating short-term wins is essential because it helps to maintain enthusiasm and commitment to the change process, while also providing evidence of progress and success. By focusing on achievable and visible results, leaders can create a sense of optimism and confidence in the change process.


Build on the change (Sustain acceleration)

There may be many challenges facing the change process. Therefore, the managers must not give up. They need to encourage people consistently to develop their determination and commitment to the change. Regular updates on the change may be effective in this regard.


Anchor the changes in corporate culture (Institute change)

The final step in Kotter’s 8-step change model is to anchor the new approaches in the organisational culture. This involves ensuring that the change becomes an integral part of the organisation’s identity, values, and practices.


Anchoring the change in the culture helps to ensure that it is sustained and reinforced over time, even as new employees join the organisation or as leadership changes occur.  In essence, a culture of change needs to be developed in the organisation. This may be reflected in organisational activities such as recruitment, training, development, promotion and so on.


Advantages of Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model


  • Kotter’s 8-step change model is a very useful change management tool. It touches on number of aspects of implementing a change. It is therefore good for managers or anybody managing a change to be familiar with the model.


  • This model provides a clear and structured framework for managing change, which can help to ensure that the change process is effectively planned and executed.


  • It emphasises the importance of communication, collaboration, and employee engagement, which can help to build commitment and support for the change process.


  • It highlights the need for continuous improvement and reinforcement, which can help to ensure that the change delivers lasting results and becomes embedded in the organisation’s culture and practices.


Criticisms of Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

Despite its popularity and success, there are some criticisms of Kotter’s 8-step change model as follows:


  • Some critics argue that the model is too linear and prescriptive, which may limit its applicability in more complex or dynamic change situations.


  • Others argue that the model does not adequately address the emotional and psychological aspects of change, which can be critical for overcoming resistance and building commitment to the change process.


Summary of Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

Kotter’s 8-step change model is a widely recognised and respected framework for managing change in organisations. By following the eight steps outlined in this article, leaders can effectively navigate the complexities of the change process and achieve lasting and meaningful results.


While there are some criticisms of the model, its focus on communication, engagement, and continuous improvement offers a solid foundation for organisations seeking to implement successful change initiatives. By applying its principles, leaders can help to ensure that their organisations are well-equipped to adapt and thrive in an ever-changing business environment.


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Last update: 28 April 2023

Reference list:

Kotter International (2023) The 8 steps for leading change, available at: (accessed 26 April 2023)

University of Manchester (2023) Why is Kotter’s 8 step change process in leading change, available at: (accessed 27 April 2023)

Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online and offline with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.