Leading or sponsoring a significant change project?

Experiencing resistance or passive aggression?

Want to increase your probability of success?

Here, red10 ‘s Will Sudworth shares his take on what is still the gold-standard in change leadership models: Professor Kotter’s 8-steps.

What’s at the “heart of change”?

In his classic text The Heart of Change, Professor John Kotter shares 8-steps that increase your chance of success when leading or sponsoring significant change.
Spoiler: the single most important message of Kotter’s research is that:

people change because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings

  • FEEL

Want to explore each step?

Would you like a concise, quick way to explore each of Kotter’s 8-steps?

Simply click on the step on the left-hand side and browse through the summary.

Let’s go! We need to change things!

What stops change?

    1. Pride/arrogance
    2. Self-protection
    3. Stubborn anger
    4. Pessimism

Powerful change-guiding group formed, working well together

Pick the right leading team

      1. Leader who oozes urgency and pulls in the first team members
      2. Who has outside knowledge
      3. and leadership skills
      4. With insider authority, connections, credibility and process know-how

Invest in the team

      • Trust
      • Make meetings work
      • Diversity
      • Include those who need to change
      • Confront, not avoid

Paint the picture with 1+ fact


      • literally see possible futures
      • Visions so clear they can be captured in one line or one page
      • Visions that are emotionally moving


      • Bold
      • Question of timing
      • Not charting, budgeting
      • 45+ logical reasons

Get as many people as possible taking action.

Vision into reality

      • Clarity is key
      • Before communicating – how are people feeling?
      • Use new tech
      • Match words and deeds
      1. Address anxieties
      2. Accept anger
      3. Evoke faith in vision
      4. Simple and heartfelt messages

More people feel able to do and act.

Leaders remove barriers

      • Find experienced people who can say: “We’ve seen this, we can do it too.”
      • Re-tool disempowering managers
      • Don’t give in to fear and pessimism.
      • Don’t try to remove all barriers at once

Momentum builds – fewer resist

Wins are victories that:

      1. Nourish faith in change
      2. Emotionally reward the hard workers
      3. Keep the critics at bay
      4. Build momentum

Focus on a few. Don’t scatter

Criterial for Wins

      1. Visibility
      2. Deeply meaningful
      3. Clarity permeates emotional defences
      4. Speed achieved cheaply/easily
      5. Speak to powerful partners you need
      6. Don’t stretch the truth

Wave after wave until vision fulfilled

      • Keep urgency up and false pride down
      • Aggressively eliminate unnecessary, exhausting and demoralizing work
      • Not frustrated
      • Not beating people up
      • Add courage and perseverance

ADD power to get the job done:  time, resources, access

DON’T kill yourselves. Jettison work, delegate up, down and across

USE new situations opportunistically to launch the next wave

SHOW them, show them, show them

New winning behaviour holds despite…tradition, turnover, etc.

      1. Change isn’t done until it has roots
      2. Introduce new employees to the culture early on
      3. Create compelling visions, enabling new staff to follow fast
      4. Promote role models – build strong foundation
      5. Tell vivid stories, over and over

Curious? Want to explore further?

Read Kotter’s classic original The Heart of Change

Read Kotter’s first adult fable, explaining the 8-steps in a child-like yet powerful story Our Iceberg is Melting

Read Kotter’s second adult meerkats-based fable, That’s not the way we do it here.

How about asking your red10 team coach to include this approach in your next retreat?