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Kotter Analysis

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John Kotter introduced his 8-step change process in his 1995 book, “Leading Change”. According to Kotter – the eight steps to transforming your organization are as follows

1 Create urgency

Kotter suggests that for change to be successful, 75% of a company’s management needs to support the change. Therefore, it is essential to develop a sense of urgency around the need for change. This involves extensive internal dialogue regarding the market and competitor environments. This can involve a full SWOT analysis, scenario planning and full deployment of all the strategic planning tools.

2 Form a guiding coalition

Managing change is not enough; change has to be led. Building the momentum for change requires a strong leadership and visible support from key people within the organisation. The coalition will involve a wide representation of the formal and informal power-base within the organisation. By working as a team, the coalition helps to create more momentum and build the sense of urgency in relation to the need for change.

3 Develop a vision and strategy

A drive for change without a clear focus wil rapidly fail unless you develop a clear vision of the future that is accompanied with a clear description about how things will be different in the future.

4 Communicate the vision

Kotter emphasises the need to communicate at least 10 times the amount you expect to have to communicate. The vision and accompanying strategies and new behaviours need to be communicated in a variety of different ways. This goes beyong the “special announcement” meetings and involves frequent and informal face-to-face contact with people. Email is not the appropriate communication vehicle — except in support of prior face-to-face contact.

5 Empwer action and removal of obstacles

This is the stage where your change initiative moves beyond the planning and the talking, and into pratical action. This step also includes getting rid of obstacles to change such as unhelpful structures or systems.

6 Plan for and create short-term wins

Kotter advises that an early taste of vistory in the change process gives people a clear sight of what the realised vision will be like. This is important as a counter to critics and negative influences who may otherwise impede the progress of your initiative. It is also important to recognise and reward all those people who make these early gains possible.

7 Consolidate improvements and produce more change

Kotter argues that many change initiatives fail because voctory is declared too early. An early win is not enough. This is the time to increase the activity, and changes all systems and structures and processes that don’t fit with the change initiative, and bring “new blood” into the coalition.

8 Another change in the future

Kotter says that for any change to be sustained, it needs to become embedded inthe new way, which is culture. This is the step to ensure that everyone understands that the new behaviours lead to corporate success.

The model addresses some of the power issues in making change happen, highlights the importance of a “felt need” for change in the organisation, and emphasises the need to communicate the vision and keep communication levels extremely high throughout the process.


— It sets out a clear leadership roadmap

— It is energy based and addresses the emotional imperative of momentum

— It outlines key steps to build and sustain that momentum.


— It is action based and tactical and does not go far enough in pointing out the specifics of how to achieve clarity of vision and an executable strategy to get from vision to realisation of the benefits of the change initiative.

— It is all about organisational change and does not recognise or address the personal transition that accompanies that change.

== According Cameron Change Consultancy Ltd, they prefer to model the change process as a continuous cycle rather than as a linear progression, and in their concultancy work, they emphasise the importance of management attention through all phases of the process. (Cameron and Green, 2012)

Limitations (Appelbaum et al, 2012)

Following are a few examples where the model might not be applicable without modifications.

A rigid approach

Kotter argues that the eight steps should be followed in sequence and that extended overlapping of the steps will compromise success, implying that steps are requisite of one another. Therefore, not implementing the first step will make it difficult or impossible to implement the subsequent steps. Burnes (1996) argues that such a prescriptive approach does not correlate well with studies that suggest that organizations prefer to use approaches to change that stems from their culture and thus cannot easily be amended or replaced.

Some steps are not relevant in some contexts

Some transformations do not require nor are able to go through certain steps. A simple example is the replacement of major software used to process operation, or the change of equipment on a manufacturing line. In these cases the changes are often irreversible, and so Steps 7 and 8 might not be has relevant. Other examples could include changes with need for a great deal of secrecy, were Steps 1 and 4 will be significantly undermined.

Dealing with difficulties during change management

Companies implementing changes face many difficulties. Planning changes according to Kotter’s framework should limit those obstacles, but the model is not detailed enough to provide help in all scenarios. For example, resistance to change and commitment to change are major aspects of change management and complementary components outside Kotter’s model, such Stephen Jaros’s (2010) predictors to determine commitment to change, might be needed to address these.

Difficulties of studying change management projects

Studying major change management projects is inherently difficult, due to their sheer complexity. This is probably why we found only a few case studies that tried to formally document a change process using Kotter’s model. Major obstacles to those

studies included:

. –The difficulties of implementing all of the eight steps (Sidorko, 2008; Penrod and Harbor, 1998).

. –The need for a long follow-up of the change project, to cover all the steps. Changes usually require many years to take form, making the study time consuming. Validation of Steps 7 and 8 are therefore more complicated to evaluate (Penrod and Harbor, 1998; Betters-reed et al., 2008).

. –Difficulties encountered in evaluating the level of implementation of the steps, and the challenge of corroborating implementation level with implementation success level (Sidorko, 2008; Penrod and Harbor, 1998; Dianis et al., 1997).

Criticism of OD

Kotter’s 8-step model is one of the most well known model in the organisation development (OD) approach to organisational change. OD is a unique organisational improvemnent strategy which has evolved into an integrated framework of theories and practices capable of solving or helping to solve most of the important problems confronting the human side of organisations. (French and Bell, 1995) OD is about people and organisations and people in organisations and how they function. It is about planned change, that is getting individuals, teams, and organisations to function better.

However, there are several criticisms about OD.

— Perhaps the most popular criticism of OD is its extensive growth into what is now a multi-billion dollar industry. There are worries that the field, represented by a multitude of practitioners with varying experience from across multiple disciplines, has not managed to keep pace structurally and scientifically. There are also worries that once the scientific field has become a religious movement, it is losing legitimacy in the scientific world.

Lewin’s 3-step model

One of the most well known change model is Lewin’s (1958) 3-step model, developed by Kurt Lewin, which still forms the basis of many change management theories, models and strategies for managing change.

Lewin’s approach suggests that change involves a move from one static state via a state of activity to another static state. He modelled this via a 3-stage process of managing change: unfreezing, changing and re-freezing.

Lewin recognised that people like the safety, comfort and feeling of control within their environment, and they also derive a strong sense of identity from that environment. Lewen regards this as a “frozen” state and suggested that significant effort may be required to “unfreeze” people in order to get them change. This usually requires some form of intervention such as a restructuring, or the creation of some form of crisis– or the perception of a crisis.

The first step involves unfreezing the current state of affairs. This means defining the current state, clarifying the driving and resisting forces and picturing a desired end state. The second is about moving to a new state through participation and involvement. The third focuses on refreezing and stabilising the new state of affairs by setting policy, rewarding success and establishing new standards.

A key theme of Lewin’s model is the idea that change, especially at the psychological level, is a journey rather than a simple step. This journey may not be simple and may involve several stages of misunderstanding before people get to the other side.

The 3-step model provides a general framework for understanding the process of organisational change. However, the model is relatively broad and have been further developed in an attempt to enhance the practicable value of this approach.

While Lewin’s model works well with some organisations in some situations, Kotter’s model appears to be more applicable to a wider range of organisations.

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