Leading Change by John P. KotterNotable passages from
Leading Change by John P. Kotter

Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1996

The Eight-Stage Process of Creating Major Change

  1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency
    • Examining the market and competitive realities
    • Identifying and discussing crises, potential crises, or major opportunities
  2. Creating the Guiding Coalition
    • Putting together a group with enough power to lead the change
    • Getting the group to work together like a team
  3. Developing a Vision and Strategy
    • Creating a vision to help direct the change effort
    • Developing strategies for achieving that vision
  4. Communicating the Change Vision
    • Using every vehicle possible to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies
    • Having the guiding coalition role model the behavior expected of employees
  5. Empowering Broad-Based Action
    • Getting rid of obstacles
    • Changing systems or structures that undermine the change vision
    • Encouraging risk taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions
  6. Generating Short-Term Wins
    • Planning for visible improvements in performance, or "wins"
    • Creating those wins
    • Visibly recognizing and rewarding people who made the wins possible
  7. Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change
    • Using increased credibility to change all systems, structures, and policies that don't fit together and don't fit the transformation vision
    • Hiring, promoting, and developing people who can implement the change vision
    • Reinvigorating the process with new projects, themes, and change agents
  8. Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture
    • Creating better performance through customer- and productivity-oriented behavior, more and better leadership, and more effective management
    • Articulating the connections between new behaviors and organizational success
    • Developing means to ensure leadership development and succession

p. 21


Management versus Leadership


  • Planning and budgeting: establishing detailed steps and timetables for achieving needed results, then allocating the resources necessary to make it happen
  • Organizing and staffing: establishing some structure for accomplishing plan requirements, staffing that structure with individuals, delegating responsibility and authority for carrying out the plan, providing policies and procedures to help guide people, and creating methods or systems to monitor implementation
  • Controlling and problem solving: monitoring results, identifying deviations from plan, then planning and organizing to solve these problems
  • Produces: a degree of predictability and order and has the potential to consistently produce the short-term results expected by various stakeholders (e.g., for customers, always being on time; for stockholders, being on budget)


  • Establishing direction: developing a vision for the future—often the distant future—and strategies for producing the changes needed to achieve that vision
  • Aligning people: communicating direction in words and deeds to all those whose cooperation may be needed so as to influence the creation of teams and coalitions that understand the vision and strategies and that accept their validity
  • Motivating and inspiring: energizing people to overcome major political, bureaucratic, and resource barriers to change by satisfying basic, but unfulfilled, human needs
  • Produces change, often to a dramatic degree, and has the potential to produce extremely useful change (e.g., new products that customers want, new approaches to labor relations that help make a firm more competitive)

p. 26


Putting Together the Guiding Coalition

Four key characteristics seem to be essential to effective guiding coalitions:

  1. Position power: Are enough key players on board, especial the main line managers, so that those left out cannot easily block progress?
  2. Expertise:  Are the various points of view—in terms of discipline, work experience, nationality, etc.—relevant to the task at hand adequately represented so that informed, intelligent decisions will be made?
  3. Credibility: Does the group have enough people with good reputations in the firm so that its pronouncements will be taken seriously by other employees?
  4. Leadership: Does the group include enough proven leaders to be able to drive the change process?

p. 57


The Relationship of Vision, Strategies, Plans, and Budgets

Leadership Creates:

  • Vision - A sensible and appealing picture of the future
  • Strategies - A logic for how the vision can be achieved

Management Creates:

  • Plans - Specific steps and timetables to implement the strategies
  • Budgets - Plans converted into financial projections and goals

p. 71


Characteristics of an Effective Vision

  • Imaginable: Conveys a picture of what the future will look like
  • Desirable: Appeals to the long-term interests of employees, customers, stockholders, and others who have a stake in the enterprise
  • Feasible: Comprises realistic, attainable goals
  • Focused: Is clear enough to provide guidance in decision making
  • Flexible: Is general enough to allow individual initiatives and alternative responses in light of changing conditions
  • Communicable: Is easy to communicate; can be successfully explained within five minutes

p. 72


The most effective transformational visions I've seen in the past few years all seem to share the following characteristics:

  1. They are ambitions enough to force people out of comfortable routines. Becoming 5 percent better is not the goal; becoming the best at something is often the goal.
  2. They aim in a general way at providing better and better products or services at lower and lower costs, thus appealing greatly to customers and stockholders.
  3. They take advantage of fundamental trends, especially globalization and new technology.
  4. The make no attempt to exploit anyone and thus have a certain moral power.

p. 79


Key Elements in the Effective Communication of Vision

  • Simplicity: All jargon and technobabble must be eliminated.
  • Metaphor, analogy, and example A verbal picture is worth a thousand words.
  • Multiple forums: Big meetings and small, memos and newspapers, formal and informal interaction—all are effective for spreading the word.
  • Repetition: Ideas sink in deeply only after they have been heard many times.
  • Leadership by example: Behavior from important people that is inconsistent with the vision overwhelms other forms of communication.
  • Explanation of seeming inconsistencies: Unaddressed inconsistencies undermine the credibility of all communication.
  • Give-and-take: Two-way communication is always more powerful than one-way communication.

p. 90


A good short-term win has at least these three characteristics:

  1. It's visible; large numbers of people can see for themselves whether the result is real or just hype.
  2. It's unambiguous; there can be little argument over the call.
  3. It's clearly related to the change effort.

p. 121


The Role of Short-Term Wins

  • Provide evidence that sacrifices are worth it: Wins greatly help justify the short-term costs involved.
  • Reward change agents with a pat on the back: After a lot of hard work, positive feedback builds morale and motivation.
  • Help fine-tune vision and strategies: Short-term wins give the guiding coalition concrete data on the visibility of their ideas.
  • Undermine cynics and self-serving resisters: Clear improvements in performance make it difficult for people to block needed change.
  • Keep bosses on board: Provides those higher in the hierarchy with evidence that the transformation is on track.
  • Build momentum: Turns neutrals into supporters, reluctant supporters into active helpers, etc.

p. 123


What Stage 7 Looks Like in a Successful, Major Change Effort

  • More change, not less: The guiding coalition uses the credibility afforded by short-term wins to tackle additional and bigger change projects.
  • More help: Additional people are brought in, promoted, and developed to help with all the changes.
  • Leadership from senior management: Senior people focus on maintaining clarity of shared purpose for the overall effort and keeping urgency levels up.
  • Project management and leadership from below: Lower ranks in the hierarchy both provide leadership for specific projects and manage those projects.
  • Reduction of unnecessary interdependencies: Too make change easier in both the short and long term, managers identify unnecessary interdependencies and eliminate them.

p. 143


Anchoring Change in a Culture

  • Comes last, not first: Most alterations in norms and shared values come a the end of the transformation process.
  • Depends on results: New approaches usually sink into a culture only after it's very clear that they work and are superior to old methods.
  • Requires a lot of talk: Without verbal instruction and support, people are often reluctant to admit the validity of new practices.
  • May involve turnover: Sometimes the only way to change a culture is to change key people.
  • Makes decisions on succession crucial: If promotion processes are not changed to be compatible with the new practices, the old culture will reassert itself.

p. 157


The organization of the future

  • A persistent sense of urgency
  • Teamwork at the top
  • People who can create and communicate vision
  • Broad-based empowerment
  • Delegated management for excellent short-term performance
  • No unnecessary interdependence
  • An adaptive corportate culture

p. 161