Most people who work in organisational development and change will have been touched by the work of Dr John Kotter. As the author of 19 books, notably the international bestseller, Leading Change (1996), the founder of a business consultancy that applies his research, he is an international recognised authority on the subject.

At coup, we facilitate understanding, development and change through our use of dramatic and storytelling practice. Kotter’s work, particularly the Eight Steps to Transform the Organisation often provides the master plan that informs the process.

Our value-add to you, is describing how this work can supported by targeted, tactical and strategic interventions, development events and processes.

In summary, these are the Eight Steps to transform your organisation (Kotter Winning at Change, Leader to Leader Fall 1998, pp27-33; p29)

leading change kotter

1.  Create a sense of urgency

  • Examine the market and competitive realities.
  • Identify and discuss crises, potential crises, or major opportunities.

2.  Form a powerful guiding coalition.

  • Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort.
  • Encourage the group to work together as a team.

3.  Create a vision.

  • Create a vision to help direct the change effort.
  • Develop strategies for achieving that vision.

4.  Communicate the vision.

  • Use every vehicle possible to constantly communicate the new vision and strategies.
  • Teach new behaviours through the example of the guiding coalition.

5.  Empower others to act on the vision.

  • Get rid of obstacles to change.
  • Change systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision.
  • Encourage risk taking and non-traditional ideas, activities, and actions.

6.  Plan for and create short-term wins.

  • Planning for visible performance improvements.
  • Implement those improvements.
  • Recognize and reward employees involved in the improvements.

7.  Consolidating improvements and produce still more change.

  • Use increased credibility to change systems, structures, and policies that don’t fit the vision.
  • Hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision.
  • Reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents.

8.  Institutionalise new approaches.

  • Articulate the connections between the new behaviours and organizational success.
  • Develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.


This quote about models is attributed to statistician George Box;

All models are wrong, but some are useful.

There’s an interesting expansion on the story behind this statement and its antecedents here, but in the truth of it for us, is that while there are many sound models that inform organisational change and development, success will never be found in the model itself; just like a good script does not guarantee are great night in the theatre, a sound game plan will not win a premiership.

What makes organisational development methodologies succeed is in the way they are implemented.

Kotter’s Eight Steps are incredibly useful; they are evidence-based and they make sense on an intuitive level. They have been tested and proven in countless situations. But the challenge of successful implementation remains. Anyone who has worked in OD knows this.   There is disciplined work that must be done at the personal, interpersonal and organisational level.

At the personal leadership level, there is a need for:-

  • Composure
  • Cognition (Critical thinking).

At the interpersonal level, we need to achieve effective performance with:-

  • Communication and storytelling
  • Collaboration.

At the organisational level, there is a need for:-

  • Alignment
  • Cohesion
  • Purpose
  • Performance
  • Celebration.

Our work supports the activity, the revelations and reconciliations that bring a constructive organisational change process to life.

This article is about Establishing a Sense of Urgency; about connecting to reality and connecting others through storytelling and metaphor, balancing advocacy and enquiry; creating the kind of drama as a means of enrolling people at the start of the movement.

We know we stand on the shoulders of giants, and we also know that in many cases, the difference between success and failure is in the final execution of the strategy; its in the performance.

If this is new to you, allow us to introduce you to some of the main ideas and practices that enable organisational transformation.

If you’re an old hand, allow us to refresh your knowledge and provide a different lens on how to design and deliver programs that apply Kotter’s wisdom and experience.

You can purchase the latest publication of Leading Change from Amazon.

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