Eight Steps for Successful Change Management

Topic(s): business strategy, change management
Publication: Harvard Business Review (2012)
Article: Accelerate!
Authors: J.P. Kotter
Reviewed by: Susan Rosengarten

Organizations are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with the rapid pace of consumer, industry and worldwide change. Technological advancements as well as cross-cultural integrations have allowed for tremendous economic opportunities. At the same time though, the stakes are much higher, and the threats more real. Today’s leaders feel progressively more pressure to carefully consider how their investments in new ventures and R&D through changing markets will impact stakeholders’ perceptions and affect their bottom line.


While the conventional operating systems of the past, composed of traditional hierarchies and managerial processes, have been sufficient to run day-to-day activities, they are not enough to enable organizations to develop and implement strategic initiatives and react to unexpected impediments to organizational goals.


John Kotter, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School and a pioneer in the field of change leadership suggests a new approach to dealing with this ever-pressing problem; create a dual operating system. Maintain current organizational hierarchy systems to sustain daily operations, and in addition, create a concurrent “network-like structure” to carry out strategy. This new network or “volunteer army,” composed of employees at all level of the organization serves as a “guiding coalition” to swiftly address inadequacies and manage change.


Kotter outlines eight “accelerators” that are imperative for the strategy network to operate effectively:

1) Create a sense of urgency around a single big opportunity.
2) Build and maintain a guiding coalition.
3) Formulate a strategic vision and develop change initiatives designed to capitalize on the big opportunity.
4) Communicate the vision and the strategy to create buy-in and attract a growing volunteer army.
5) Accelerate movement toward the vision and the opportunity by ensuring that the network removes barriers.
6) Celebrate visible, significant short-term wins.
7) Never let up. Keep learning from experience. Don’t declare victory too soon.
8) Institutionalize strategic changes in the culture.


Kotter, J. P. (2012). Accelerate! Harvard Business Review, 90(11), 43-58.