An eight-stage change process
Big Business
An eight-stage change process

An eight-stage change process
A tool to help you consider the steps needed in a change project for your business

The big idea

John Kotter (born 1947) is a leading consultant and writer on leadership and organisational change. His books Leading Change (1995) and The Heart of Change (2002), introduced an eight-stage model for managing change. In developing his approach, Kotter studied over 100 companies going through change processes. He found that there were a number of common errors that contributed to change programmes failing:

  • Allowing too much complacency
  • Failing to engage a core coalition of support
  • Underestimating the need for a clear vision of the end result
  • Under-communicating the vision
  • Permitting obstacles to block the new vision
  • Failing to create short-term wins
  • Declaring victory too soon
  • Neglecting to anchor the changes in the organisation


The tool is based on a key principle relating to people's response and approach to change. People see, feel and then change as opposed toanalyse,think and thenchange. Kotter argues that to manage change effectively there is a need to change behaviours. This is less likely to happen if the focus is solely on facts, analysis and thinking. It must also take account of feelings and emotions as illustrated below (adapted from Kotter 2002: 11):

Almost always the core method is:

Rarely the core method is:

1. Help people see:

help others visualise the issues, problems, progress or solutions

As a result

2. Seeing something new hits the emotions:

visualisations hit people at a visceral level and evoke emotions


As a result

3. Emotionally charged ideas change behaviour or reinforce changed behaviour

  1. Give people analysis:

information is gathered and analysed. Reports are written and presentations given about problems, issues and solutions

As a result

2. Data and analysis influence how we think:

information and analysis change people’s thinking. Ideas not consistent with the needed change are dropped or modified

As a result

3. New thoughts change behaviour or reinforce changed behaviour

It is important to recognise that the two approaches are inter-related. Sometimes analysis moves people to see-feel-change. Sometimes change launched through feelings leads to stronger analysis and clearer thinking.

The Tool

The tool takes you through the eight stages of change. It is something you can review on your own but need to implement as a group. It is most suited to micro-businesses/SMEs and larger organisations. It is suitable for businesses in any sector. Reading through the tool and thinking about its implications may require one to two hours.