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John Kotter Leading Change
How Leaders Successfully Transform Business



Change quotes: John Kotter. Leaders who successfully transform businesses
do eight things right and they do them in the right order!


Change Management Models - John P Kotter 8 Steps of Leading Change
From the Change Management Article: Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail by John P Kotter



John Kotter, the retired Harvard Business School professor published in 1995, the article 'Why Transformation Efforts Fail'. The change management article outlines eight critical success factors from establishing a sense of extraordinary urgency, to creating short-term wins, to changing the culture ("the way we do things around here").

Kotter say's "Leaders who successfully transform businesses do eight things right (and they do them in the right order)." Years later, the change management model developed and this work on leading change still remains very relevant.

Kotter opens the article with his explanation of how he watched over 100 companies try to make fundamental changes to help cope with a new, more challenging market environment. Including small and large organizations from Ford and British Airways to Landmark Communications. Some were successful some failed and from his observations John P Kotter determined that in the change process itself is a series of phases and a change management process that requires a considerable amount of time.

Further Kotter identified eight stages of change a company must successfully complete to achieve lasting sustainable change and business improvements, and eight reasons why transformation efforts fail.

In addition to the eight stages necessary for obtaining and maintaining successful organizational change, Kotter also identifies corresponding possible pitfalls for each stage that can derail the change project all-together.

Following are the eight critical success factors of the John P Kotter change management model for leading change, and the eight major errors identified in the change management article that can halt a change project, or even destroy any positive change management plans and changes made thus far.


John Kotter - 8 Critical Steps to Success


John P Kotter





No business can survive over the longer term if it cannot continually reinvent self.
But this is most difficult to do as it requires working across all layers of the firm.
Essential and difficult, it is the ultimate test of leadership.


Eight Steps to Transforming Your Organization



1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency

During this first step it is essential to acquire the cooperation of many individuals and to ensure they are motivated to participate. Kotter writes in the article that well over 50% of the companies he watched failed in this first phase.

  • Begin by examining the firm's competitive realities, market trends, and the effects on financial performance.

  • Communicate this information dramatically in respect of the potential crises.

  • Convince at least 75% of a company's management that the current situation is totally unacceptable, and pursuing change is less risky than maintaining the status quo. Build motivation, involvement and support.


  • John Kotter Risk 1. Kotter refers to this risk of this first phase as: Not Establishing a Great Enough Sense of Urgency


  • When the urgency rate is not high enough to prevent very serious internal problems later on in the process.

  • Underestimating the complexities and potential struggles required to shift management and staff from their comfort zones.

  • Tendencies to become overwhelmed by the risk involved in retreating to the status quo.







  • 2. Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition

  • Form a powerful coalition is terms of titles, information and expertise, reputations, and relationships.

  • Operate outside of the normal hierarchy by definition, outside of formal boundaries, expectations, and protocol.

  • Emphasis team work and whilst recognizing the power of a strong line management leadership within the coalition.


  • John Kotter Risk 2. Not Creating a Powerful Enough Guiding Coalition


  • Maintaining the existing hierarchy where if that were working well, there would be no need for a major transformation.

  • Coalition members having no history of teamwork at the top and therefore undervalue the coalitions importance.

  • Not lead by a strong line manager.



  • 3. Creating a Vision

  • A vision beyond the numbers that clearly defines where the organization is going.
  • Clear and precise project plans that take the organization in the direction it needs to move to achieve the vision.

  • John Kotter Risk 3: Lacking a Vision


  • Plans, directives, and programs with no vision, but confused staff.
  • List of confusing and incompatible projects and activities that can take the organization in the wrong direction or nowhere at all.

  • Quote John P Kotter: If you can't communicate the vision to someone in five minutes or less
    and get a reaction that signifies both understanding and interest,
    you are not done!



    4. Communicating the Vision

  • Brighten up the companies existing communications methods. Try new and different methods for sharing the vision.
  • Use every vehicle possible to communicate the strategies for achieving it.
  • Empahise and teach new behaviors by the example of the guiding coalition.

  • John Kotter Error 4: Under communicating the Vision by a Factor of Ten


  • A vision is developed, but only a single form of communication is used.
  • Management not walking the talk. Deeds speak louder than words.
  • Not enough communication to remind of the desired behaviors.


  • 5. Empowering Others to Act on the Vision

  • Action is essential in getting rid of obstacles to change and in time, the big ones must be confronted and removed.
  • Empower people to maintain the credibility of the change effort as a whole, to try new approaches, to develop new ideas, and to provide leadership.
  • Change Systems and structures that seriously undermine the vision.
  • Encourage risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions.

  • John Kotter Error 5: Not Removing Obstacles to the New Vision


  • Failing to remove powerful individuals who resist the change effort and who resist individual employees who want to help make it happen.
  • Organizational structures such as human resource systems that remain intact even when there are clearly inconsistent compensation or performance-appraisal structures.


  • 6. Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins

  • Develop clear performance improvements goals and measurement systems and reward the people involved when they are achieved.
  • Maintain commitments to achieve short term goals to help maintain a high urgency level and force deep thinking that can clarify visions.

  • John Kotter Error 6: Not Systematically Planning for, and Creating, Short-Term Wins


  • Without short-term wins, too many people give up or actively join the ranks of those people who have been resisting change.
  • Absence of defined and measured short term goals - urgency levels can drop.
  • Leaving results to chance.


  • 7. Consolidating Improvements and Producing Still More Change

  • Use increased credibility from early wins to change 'the old way we do things around here' systems, structures, and policies that are undermining the vision and have not been confronted before.
  • Understand that renewal efforts take not just months but often years.
  • Promote, hire, develop employees and use change agents who can implement the vision.

  • John Kotter Error 7: Declaring Victory Too Soon


  • Declaring victory before the changes and business improvements have sunk deeply into a company's culture.
  • Having premature victory celebrations that kill ongoing momentum.
  • Allowing the powerful resistors associated with tradition take over.

  • Quote John P Kotter: After a few years of hard work,
    managers may be tempted to declare victory with the first clear performance improvement.
    While celebrating a win is fine, declaring the war won can be catastrophic.



    8. Institutionalizing New Approaches

  • Communicate frequently how the new approaches, behaviors, and attitudes have improved performance.
  • Create leadership development and succession plans consistent with the new approach.

  • John Kotter Error 8: Not Anchoring Changes in the Corporation's Culture


  • New behaviors not rooted in social norms and shared values; they are subject to degradation as soon as the pressure for change is removed.
  • Not ensuring that the next generation of top management understand the transformation that has taken place and personify themselves, the new approach
  • Poor succession decisions because boards of directors are not an integral part of the renewal effort.

  • John Kotter Error 8: In the final analysis,
    change sticks when it becomes "the way we do things around here,"
    when it seeps into the bloodstream of the corporate body.
    Until new behaviors are rooted in social norms and shared values,
    they are subject to degradation as soon as the pressure for change is removed.



    Citation Kotter, J. P. (1995). Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. Harvard Business Review OnPoint (March-April), 1-10.

    John Kotter Leading Change Links
    View John Kotter's professional profile on LinkedIn John P Kotter




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    p.s. Did you see Kotter's 7th point about using change agents who can implement the vision. For piece of mind and an absolutely free discussion and review of the challenges facing your business contact me today. More than happy to, I will reply to you as soon as possible.








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