Accelerators of Change

Harvard Professor John Kotter developed a Change Management model in the early 1990s to address the high failure rate of change initiatives.

In his seminal article “Why Change Initiatives Fail,” published in the Harvard Business Review in 1991, Kotter identified eight critical reasons why change processes often do not succeed. This article became one of the most widely read pieces on change management.

Kotter expanded on these ideas in his influential book „Leading Change“ (1992), where he outlined strategies to avoid these pitfalls and drive successful transformations. He identified two primary barriers to success: resistance to change among employees and the tendency to revert to old habits.

By addressing these core issues, Kotter’s 8-Step Model provides a robust framework for leading change and achieving sustained organizational success.

Kotter's 8-step process for Leading Change

  • 1. Create a Sense of Urgency

    Highlight the urgency of the change to all affected parties. As long as there is a sense of „We have time…“ no one will prioritize the change. The core message must be: “We need to act NOW!”
  • 2. Form a Guding Coalition

    From the beginning, form a diverse team of responsible leaders. This leadership team should represent key stakeholder groups, allowing various needs and interests to be addressed and decisions to be communicated effectively across different areas.
  • 3. Create a Vision and Strategy

    Clearly define the change objectives. The vision should be motivating and offer clear benefits. Develop a strong vision that addresses current risks and realizes future opportunities. Outline the path to this goal with strategic milestones.
  • 4. Communicate the Vision / Recruit Volunteers

    Communicate the vision to the team to gain initial supporters. Balance clarity: “This change is important, and we need your help” with flexibility: “How can you best contribute to this change?”
  • 5. Remove Obstacles

    Change means forging new paths, which are often unclear and can present unexpected obstacles. In this phase, ensure that change supporters can perform their tasks by removing barriers.
  • 6. Generate Quick Wins

    As initial steps are taken, the long journey ahead can become evident. It’s crucial to highlight and celebrate early successes (quick wins) to confirm: “We are on the right track” and to diminish the doubts of skeptics.
  • 7. Never Let Up

    Midway through the change process, endurance becomes critical. Initial excitement wanes, making perseverance, hard work, and resilience essential. Continue motivating, clearly outline the next steps, and maintain momentum.
  • 8. Anchor the Change in Corporate Culture

    Even after a change project is completed, it can still fail. There is a risk of reverting to old habits, switching back to old systems, or simply forgetting the new rules. Ensure that the change is actively used as a foundation for daily work until it becomes second nature. Stay vigilant to sustain the new culture and practices.

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