Cornerstone knowledge: Kotters 8 step model for change management

Changes are an inevitable part of all life, and especially if we are responsible for the productivity and development of a business. Focusing on the key steps of change in  a working environment you may have much more success that was expected.

To confirm the necessity of management changes here is the review of J. Kotter’s model of change management

John Kotter is an outstanding author of transformational management theory. In 1996 his publishment “Leading Change” became a genuine breakthrough and cornerstone must read in the society of the big companies’ leaders.

In 2002 united with Dan Cohen they gave birth to the a business guide “The Heart of Change”. John Kotter worked on the weak points and problematic zones which could arise before implementing change. The central concept in their scope touched the key element in behavior – including dealing with people’s feelings, which empower and enhance the successful transformations.


I will try to clearly explain the logic of the 8 steps of Kotter’s change management model, answering the question: How do you get from deciding on implementing an initiative in top management, to making the whole organization bottoms up accept, welcome and embrace the change initiative?

This article introduces the 8 steps on the way to positive transformations within organisations. Be inspired by having a look upon the tips in the content for quick insights.


Change Management Leading to Results

Kotter considers the 8 step structure as a model of changing behavior for betterment of existing climate in the company. These steps are complementary and strictly consistent for the following. Logically it can be divided into separate phases:

  1. Preparing for changes
  2. Engaging & enabling the Organization
  3. Implementing & sustaining change


Kotter included the importance of each key moment in the process of change, whether it is the moment for action and decision, engaging participants, sense of urgency, transparency of expected results, and effective channels for communication, good leadership skills or the performance of planning.



This is quite a common situation which occurs in the beginning  of management change process: organisation runs short of initial interest of  coming change and resists doing efforts towards the new transformations.


Create a sense of Urgency

Presentation of the project to the leading managers does not make sense as it is not convincing. Management leaders must see the apparent need to make changes and give responsibilities to the brainy team thus empowering them. Understanding the crisis-based grounds for transformations (e.g. mixture of discontent client, high prices, low incomes, etc.) will bring sense of Urgency.

Wasting time on analysis instead of effective actions results in losing momentum. Crisis is an essential part of changes; consequently, when people cope with a problem, that moves them to bring to the light the need of change. The Heart of Change insists on focusing on flashy topical cases to find the answers for problems,  to wean off all ready established methods and procedures, even though persuasions will be used. True facts and captivating data for both customer and stakeholder make strong emotional connection to allow changes happen. As a matter of fact something new appearing in the horizon strikes a deep chord in the people’s heart. The new things will probably intrigue some people, so their strong interest will decrease all possible doubts for the need for change.


Form a Powerful Coalition

The more desire to introduce changes motivates one, other participants will join this process. The right people are attracted by the appropriate conditions, similar goals and trust. And this step is about getting the right people together.

Outspokenness between team members, emotional honesty and sincerity – everything that characterizes positive goal-oriented behaviour will lead to productive dialogue and solving problems which are traditionally expected in such a situation and mostly avoided. There appears the atmosphere of trust, with no crushable initiatives, critics, and fears to be ignored.


However, the manager may not express desire to look into deep roots of the problem. What will you do then? The simple truth is that you will go on escaping awkward situations and be the untrustworthy man.  Before building up a dream team (experiencing leadership aptitudes, acknowledgement of reliability, performing the right skills) must be a person to explain the ongoing changes. Otherwise, it would seem incompatible with reason. That is how a problem should be solved.


Though, successful changes will surely happen when it is open dialogue between team members. Moreover, confrontation, conflicts and misunderstanding, happening while working out the issue, may contribute to defining the true leader of change. He emerges, feels the urgency, brings others together and directs the team.

Definitely, the threat of hastily arranged team doesn’t disappear. As a top manager passes responsibility for an approved transformation project to a senior manager, there is a high risk to have an inept team. There could be given incorrect tasks to the wrong people, misguided and less productive.

It is taken for granted, that workers perform other job tasks and are not totally engaged with their own ideas into the change project. Surely, workers are well-spoken, can express their ideas. Nonetheless, with low trust none of outspoken ideas will grow into serious actions. It is plain to see the problems but what is about the resolutions? Whenever participants of team work start their discussion, they should know how to be fair-minded and flexible with each other.

The story of Roland de Vries, considered by J. Kotter and D. Cohen in The Heart of Change, encourages dealing with any problem while working in team. Here is the illustration how to give a leading group exact image of direction with the help of tenacity and credibility.


  1. Create a Vision for Change

Changes are somewhat distanced in time, that is the reason why we need to put the questions. Organisations must ask themselves: what kind of transformations they are expecting to be; what are the crucial aspects to get alterations started; what eventual future they want to happen.

Unfortunately, many people have neither concrete image, nor sense of way of changes.

Having tons of plans and finance reports is no use to clarify the future. That’s exactly why future must be visualized through remarkable content. Demonstrative and attractive cases give others a clear point of problems and solutions.

The brighter you create your vision of the future, the more people are getting ready to move, regardless of detailed scopes. Unquestionably, changes are transformational as they emphasize the unknown in the future. Thus, a brand new approach to fix less attention on analytics and budget-based representation is urgently needed. It is necessary to create a vision, which drives  people and focus on the speed in which changes are possible to implement.

Here are the steps to create vision of the future. In the beginning figure out the vision which leads to the final result; then prepare strategic tips for achieving this vision. After that you perform the plans according to your strategy. In the final stage you form the budgets to be confident with the material possibility of your plans.



The 8-step change model discloses the nature that impacts people’s feelings. We have discussed experiencing need of immediate actions which lead people to move forward and collaborate in the guided teamwork for the clarified vision of future. The next step is about communication processes upon the vision and general strategy.

  1. Communicate the Vision

Organisational changes usually bring plenty of information to the surface. The particular inquiry can be lost as people do not see concrete messages what the needs for changes are. By the reason of incorrect emotional request people won’t be able to contemplate an idea and start resisting. Actions speak louder than words, therefore Kotter and Cohen illustrate successful communication for activity:

  • Under-communicating. The reason is to lead the organisational changes by means of attracting people from aside and realise common purposes. Thus, information must correspond to possible queried points and be applicable.
  • Information for improvement. It underlines the probable conflict tone of communication when changes are in the progress, especially dealing with data. Consequently, gentle and intelligent open dialogue is a sufficient part of the change implementation.
  • Sticking to the point. Here is about what J. Kotter calls “Deeds speak volumes”. Distance between actions and words does not contribute to the proper business situation. Moreover, it increases skepticism and disbelief, hence changes are endangered. The conclusion is evident – to act steadily according to your own vision.

Keeping in mind others’ moods, also possible mistrust and overreactions, can play a critical part in carrying out communication. Giving message to people should be precise and simple, so that channels will be effectively used.


  1. Empower Action

Sometimes removing barriers means to find a way to change the mind of a dis-empowered manager. When people get the message about changes to be, their reaction is rather clear – they figure out what to with it. Yet they are back-strapped as their boss can’t make up his mind with the transformations and thinks conservatively.

Certainly, there are some extra ways to deal with this demotivating factor – to ignore his view and stand the ground, struggle his orthodox approach, insist on advanced training courses etc.

On the other hand, here is one more reason of dis-empowerment. It is about organisational life – structure, processes and inner systems. Such thing as bureaucracy impacts on leading the business. It is difficult enough to remove the greatest barrier of changes – the mind. Programmed and experienced feelings of failure, which can appear in attempts to introduce changes, block people doing new tries. Learned beliefs in that they can’t fulfill their plans keep them at a safe distance from changes.

Therefore, the only one chance to get rid of this problem, according to Kotter’s change model, is to show people why change is necessary. If the boss is given a new task or a role, he will state the necessity of changes. He will see how his new position is uncommon, and understand that without changes he won’t succeed. To enhance the effect encouraging stories and different cases from workforce are in hand. The more you show, the more confidence and positive emotions are boosted. However, these stories must be about real success and drive appropriate effect. Otherwise, efforts will be crushed by skepticism and mistrust of organisational management.


  1. Create Quick Wins

Results that are achieved quickly contribute to optimism and motivation. Therefore, it is necessary to display small wins to others so they can feel no fears. Step by step small goals will bring you and your team forward, to the perspective future. While leading people provide little rewards – challenges which result in short-term wins. This would be visible approach to great changes.

Near-term winnings imply few purposes.

  • Assess the credibility of chosen strategies, reflect the ongoing results.
  • Give people way to be recognized, approved and encouraged.
  • Develop confidence in the project of changes, so people from aside can take an active part in it.
  • Lower the level of skepticism and cynicism.

Besides, taking up lots of projects in the same time endangers the success of changes. It may lead to chaotic activity with no effect. Consequently, try to find the easier and cheaper task to complete. As a result you can demonstrate the power and potential of the teamwork, and others will appreciate that.



Given step is a “non-stop” moment, when you feel the wave and keep going forward. All goals and plans are set, team is prepared for hard work, and this is the high time to bring the vision into life.


  1. Build on the Change

The main idea how to sustain the changes consists in the following. You keep moving forward until the ultimate result is not achieved. Every situation or event, which can support team while working the issues, must be used. Having vision as a reality, encouraging workforce with outstanding examples of success will empower people of taking risks and fearless actions.

Don’t let up – means removal of corporate barriers. Even when bureaucracy or political games occur, give the people power to rearrange the matter and create the brand new solutions to the problems. That will be the innovation, the step forward to changing future. Otherwise, nothing is to be replaced, corrected or updated. Without changes in delegation of tasks and sharing responsibilities you won’t free up time and open your mind to the global transformations in organization.

All we know the conditions, when people are tasked to solve some problems. They do it day by day, just an ordinary job. What will it be, if someone charges them on these tasks and let them start the new ones? This way people see the perspectives, not get tired of talks about changes and improve their own career. Here is an evident need of changes. The sense of urgency, which does not lead people to frustration, moves the workforce.

From that point, people see the ongoing changes, relate them to visible image of future, enforce their responsibilities and make to find out the right solutions. When you show more and more to team members, that means two things: changes provoke the new challenges and give no chance to relax; there are lots of promising tasks to fulfill team potential. Thus, fast wins, simple presentations, whatever provides feedback, gives people to feel their values and be related to the highest goal, the most important visionary idea.


  1. Make it Stick

This is the step in Kotter’s 8-step change model as a provocative crucial moment in implementing of the idea.

The notion of changes must be inculcated into organisational culture before all. That is to be naturalized and needed for further development of a company. Change has to be approved in the culture; and the new methods of work follow this culture, but a little bit forgo the transformations.

Make it Stick is closed to:

  • Having fast achievements to state the changes are going on.
  • New behaviours are connected with results and general orientation of a company.
  • Demonstration of successful examples and advanced training of workforce.
  • Rewards and acknowledgement of those who embed the new norms, by means of promotion.
  • Going towards results until all is done, and keeping people motivated.




Kotter and Cohen argue that people need to feel the changes. They understand more, when experience feelings of urgency to transform their behaviours. When they face the challenges or have successful stories of leaders before eyes, they cultivate inner striving for changes. Definitely, the center of changes is the people’s heart; that is why people-driven approach, which the authors recommend, absolutely works.

Three crucial components for the better future are needed: to see, to feel and then change. By incredible storytelling, compelling and providing bright examples of success people are shown the solutions of problems. By creating a visible image of future they can be empowered to do the productive actions. Going through the new feelings of small wins and achievements people display better results and keep up the momentum.



Step Action New Behaviour
1 Create urgency People moves each other with words of support: “Let’s go. Changes are needed!”
2 Form a powerful coalition Formed group is reliable and powerful enough to start the changes.
3 Create a vision for change The team creates the visible image of future and set the steps to achieve the results.
4 Communicate the vision People get more engaged and interested in the happening transformations.
5 Empower action People are empowered and confident to deal with every problem on their way.
6 Create quick wins Common vision and small victories assure success.
7 Build on the change People keep going as tempo of work is increasing.
8 Make it stick Support of new norms and positive feedback on ongoing changes ground the new culture in company.


Postmodernism basics

Postmodernism Wiki:


Important Postmodernistic influencers

Michel Foucault


Richard Rorty


Jacques Derrida


Martin Heidegger


Postmodernism Critique


Jordan Peterson

Stephen Hicks

Stefan Molyneux

Cognitive biases everyone should know

Most of us are of the belief, that we as human beings are objective, logical and rational at all times. The truth is far from this.

Cognitive biases are throughout all decision making distorting our thinking patterns. Before the today’s hyper complex society cognitive biases was actually in most cases an advantage, designed to help us survive in a hunter-gatherer way of lifestyle. Through hundreds of thousands of years our brain has evolved, but today’s brain is very much similar to the brain of the stone age man, despite today’s way of life is vastly different and ever-changing.

To the surprise of most people, many of our cognitive processes are processed in the sub-conscious.

Especially very beneficial for the purpose of doing the right business related decisions, moderns science has mapped far beyond 100 cognitive biases of which this article will focus on a very few of the most important.

I have chosen only a few, since you will, in the case this topic catches your interest and you will look further into this, will find that many defined cognitive biases are overlapping and interdependent.


Confirmation Bias.

Confirmation bias is the discovery that people are searching and listening more to information that confirms their presumptions and beliefs.

An example, this bias is particularly evident in people’s search for information about products and services on the Internet. Here, they specifically select articles and pages that confirm their opinions, desires and expectations for specific topics.

Yet another example may be people’s opinion to other individuals. This stand is most often rooted in their first-impressions, and subsequently, depending on whether it is good or bad first impression, then one will try to confirm their first assumption by observations going forward (see also anchoring bias).

Once your mind has formed an initial opinion it is hard to change. In very short confirmation bias is about seeking evidence and confirmation for the answers you favor.


Anchoring Bias

The fact that we tend to be influenced  and over-reliant by the first piece of information we get. This bias becomes particular obvious when dealing with numbers. If we are negotiating on prices.

Example: a cars dealer are selling a car. The car dealer will show the potential buyer a particular more expensive car, than the one he is trying to sell the customer. Studies show, that the customer in most cases then perceive their favored car cheaper than they else would, since they subconsciously are comparing it to the more expensive one.

Another example is the situation of a salary negotiation. Whoever makes the first offer are creating the foundation of negotiation, on which any counter offer will be anchored by. So no matter on which side of the negotiation table you are , evidence support, that the one making the opening offer are better off.


The Availability Heuristic

The human mind is not pre-programmed for critical thinking and meta-cognition. Often the mind is seeking the easiest explanation. As examples can be mentioned, if you hear a lot about terror attacks, fatal car-jacking and the like, when asked you will guess and estimate the probability for being the victim of such an incident to be much higher than in reality.

If you never knew anyone getting seriously hurt in a card accident, you will underestimate the importance for safety of wearing a seat belt. ‘

In short people overestimates the importance of the data, that is readily available to them.


The Halo Effect

Halo effect is broadly defined as people carrying one specific positive characteristic, often are perceived having even more.

Tall people are perceived more intelligent. Beautiful people presented to testing groups are estimated to be more kind, charming and intelligent, than less beautiful people.

This cognitive bias has a very powerful impact in selection among job applicants among other.

Several true but unpleasant studies on the impact in real world of Halo effect has been made. One of such is the study by Landy and Sigall who had students write essays. The essays were blinded for details on original author but equipped with a photo of either a very attractive actor or a much less attractive actor. The essays with photo of attractive actor, received in average much better grades than then others.


The Optimism Bias

Also known as the overoptimism bias. We generally are more optimistic on our own fate than reality shows. This is about our minds inability to accept the whole spectrum of reality from good to bad. We believe we are more likely to succeed and overestimate the amount of good things that will happen to us.

We underestimate the probability for serious illness, accidents and tragic life events. On the good side optimism bias reduces stress, and makes us perceive our goals harder. From a Darwinist theoretic standpoint, optimism bias can be explained as a basal need for the hunter to be able to keep up motivation for hunting the prey. Giving up half way is not favoring passing on genetics.




Leadership & Performance [Video’s]

Below you will find embedded summaries of some of my favorite authors on leadership and performance management.

Are you hungry for more inspiration, check out this list with The Top 50 leadership and Management experts. 



John Maxwell – The 5 levels of Leadership




Jack Welch – Winning   (part 1)

Jack Welch – Winning (part 2)




Daniel Goleman – The 6 leadership styles




Stephen R. Covey – The 7 habits of highly effective People




Simon Sinek – Start with Why



Patrick Lencioni – The Five Dysfunctions of a Team



John Kotter’s 8 step change management model



Peter Drucker – Managing Oneself



Jim Collins – From Good to Great



Dale Carnegie – How to win friends and influence people


Brian Tracy – Eat that Frog