Change Basics: A dirty view on Kotters Change Phases

“Often, creating value requires significant change!” this is how John Kotter concluded 1990 in his  book “A force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management”. Besides stating this, he also discovered two important things. First, eight reasons why Change fails and second an eight change phases model that is responding to these reasons.

Until today Kotter is probably one of the most influential Change Management theorists and many consultancies blindly follow his rules. I will deal with the fact, that Kotter basically only extended Lewins and other social psychologists ideas and also that the eight phases can not be applied to any form of Change and only very limited to Change in processes of disintegration, as we experience currently in many social and organizational contexts.

Nonetheless I would like you to present Kotters eight reasons why many change processes fail. A change process fails because you…

  • allow too much complexity
  • fail to build a substantial coalition
  • do not understand the need for a clear vision
  • fail to clearly communicate the vision
  • permit roadblocks against the vision
  • are not planning and getting short-term wins
  • declare victory too soon
  • do not anchor changes in corporate culture

Analogous to this Kotter created the following eight change phases model in order to respond the eight potential reasons of failure. If you want to succeed in a change process you have to…

  • establish a sense of urgency
  • create a coalition
  • develop a clear vision
  • share the vision
  • empower people to clear obstacles
  • secure short-term wins
  • consolidate and keep moving
  • anchor the change

According to Kotter, it is crucial to follow the eight phases of change in the above exact sequence. And this is also why the model can not be applied to any Change (only one infirmity of the model). Modern change is to fast and you do not have time to do all of this step by step. This is a role model for potential change processes at the most…


Picture: Own figure



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