Introducing Kotter’s Steps to Change

Dr John Kotter is considered to be one of most significant thought leaders regarding leadership and change in the world today. He is the Konosuke Matsushita Professor of Leadership, Emeritus at The Harvard Business School. His eight step model of leading change is well respected because it has proven to be effective in secular and Christian organisations. It provides significant insight into the process and issues that emerge when change is required.

As we work through Kotter’s model you will see reflections of the things we discovered earlier in our consideration of Exodus. If you haven’t completed that topic yet then it’s worth doing.

The Eight Step Model

As we have been learning, change is both necessary and difficult to achieve. Many attempts at bringing about change fail. From practical experience Kotter has a deep understanding of the reasons for failure and thus has been able to identify how to address these pitfalls.

Although developed from a secular perspective, Kotter’s eight step model is at the very least sympathetic to Christ-centred servant leadership. As such, Kotter’s process for leading change concerns itself with people. Thus the basic issues are as true in Christian organisations as in the secular business world.  As Christ-centred servant leaders, seeking to live out Christ’s agape motivated servant heart, we will need to apply Godly Kingdom principles to Kotter’s eight steps.

Kotter first described the eight step change model in his book Leading Change (Harvard Business School Press) which is recommended reading. You will find it very business orientated and focusing on major change. The principles can be easily extracted and applied appropriately to change in general. The examples provide good insight into people facing change.

Perhaps more helpful to us is “Our Iceberg is Melting” (Macmillan) co-written by Kotter and Holger Rathgeber. This is quick to read fable illustrating the eight steps. The fable involves a colony of penguins who discover that the iceberg, which has been their home for longer than penguin memory, is melting. They must find a new home before disaster strikes in the looming winter. It illustrates the issues that arise from the need to change and the application of Kotter’s eight steps. Because the purpose of a fable is to illustrate some principle it is perhaps easier for the Christian to start with this book and then fill out the detail from Leading Change.

The eight steps, which we look at in more detail are:

  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Build a guiding team
  3. Develop the vision and strategy
  4. Achieve buy-in
  5. Empower action
  6. Achieve quick wins
  7. Don’t let Up
  8. Make it secure in the Culture

Don’t Miss Out Any Steps

All the steps are vital. Experience shows that when steps are missed out, merged with other steps or left unfinished then the journey of change is seldom completed. This means that the vision and goals are never achieved. So, it is important to complete each step.

Complete the Process

Dependent upon the nature of the change it can take a long a time to complete and ensure that it will not unravel. Big changes can take years to accomplish. That requires considerable commitment, dedication, resilience and energy. The very rigours of the process can sap those qualities, fatigue sets in and everyone feels that being almost finished is near enough. Unless the change is completed and locked-in, experience shows that without exception it will always unravel.

In the middle of the 20th century Kurt Lewin proposed a 3 stage model of change:


Lewin identified the need to mobilise people for change, overcoming our natural inertia and skilful procrastination. Kotter’s steps 1 to 3 map into this stage.


Having got people ready to move this is the stage where change happens. Lewin, like Kotter, recognised that change is not an event but a process that takes time and effort. Kotter’s steps 4 to 6, and possibly 7, map to this stage


Having achieved the adoption, or at least the initial adoption of the change, it is necessary to ensure that it becomes locked-in to “the way things are done around here”. You will recall from Reflections on Leadership, in the first module, that this is a definition of organisational culture.

When Lewin was working on change in the mid-20th century, change was slow and it was possible to refreeze the organisation so that the gains would not be lost. With the modern pace of change there may not be time to refreeze before the next change is needed. None-the-less, the change needs to be locked-in to make sure the gains are not lost. Unless compliance with the change is reinforced, the natural tendency of people is to relax back to “how things were”. This is why it is vitally important to complete all 8 steps of Kotter’s process.

Kotter’s steps 7 and 8 map into this stage.

Follow the Sequence

The sequence of Kotter’s steps is important because they track the way people react and respond to change as it is introduced and progresses. Experience has shown that when the steps are followed in sequence to the end, change can be successful. When steps are skipped more often than not the change programme fails.

It is worthy of note that people adopt change at different rates. Also wide reaching and multi-phase change programmes can be quite complex. Both factors mean that the steps are likely to overlap with one starting before another is finished. None-the-less maintaining the sequence with each constituency involved is important to success.

Step 1: Create a Sense of Urgency

Once the need for change has been identified the first task is to enable others to also see that change is necessary and that action needs to be taken straight away.

The deadly enemy of change is the icy grip of complacency, a myopic short sightedness that cannot, or will not, see the reality/Reality of the situation. A general acknowledgement that the change would be good may seem an excellent achievement. However, if it’s accompanied by the smothering embrace of a complacent attitude that says “Not now, tomorrow, next month next year will be fine.” Or, “It’s important but everything else I do is urgently needed.”  Then it will never happen.

A sense of urgency is necessary to get it happening and a sense of urgency continues to be necessary to sustain the effort to completion. Without it, the process will never start and, if it does start, it will falter and any good work will be undone as the gains made so far unravel.

Change programmes normally need some people to make contributions beyond the call of duty and they also need significant levels of commitment and support from senior people. If it’s not perceived as urgent then neither will happen because normal business will take priority.

Causes of Complacency and how to address them

The causes of complacency include:

No obvious crisis

The lack of an obvious crisis suggest that things are going OK so there is no need to change anything.

The cynical approach is to create a crisis by allowing bad financial results to arise or problems to blow up instead of simply being fixed. There is an issue of integrity here and from the Christian perspective such an approach is highly dubious.

However, setting goals which cannot be achieved by a “business as usual” approach can have a similar effect, especially when they keep in sight the consequences of failure. For instance an aid organisation can focus on the impact of not achieving its aid targets.

Trappings of success

Long established and successful organisations frequently display the visible trappings of success. These tend to generate an “all-is-well-perspective” which breeds “happy talk” which reinforces complacency.

In charitable organisations, ostentatious trappings of success are unlikely but where there are things that generate a false sense of wellbeing they can be removed. This will give a message to executives and managers to look at things differently.

Low performance standards

The standards that are used to measure performance and define success are relatively low and easy to achieve. They give the illusion of success – but only an illusion.

Set challenging, change related goals that cascade through the organisations and cannot be met by “doing what we’ve always done.”

Focus on narrow functional goals

Personal goals and internal measurement systems are set on narrow functional targets not broad organisational performance. Consequently, no one’s work is seen to be directly related to the effectiveness of the whole organisation and only the Chief Exec is responsible for it. So everyone believes that things are OK.

Directly relate personal targets to organisational targets and share accountability.

Lack of external feedback on performance

Lack of comparative data with respect to the performance of other similar organisations or the need/opportunity in the sector in which the organisation operates. Thus, the organisation is unable to compare itself to the performance norms for its sector or best in class organisations. Thus everything seems to be going quite well.

Make everyone aware of the organisation’s performance against its key performance indicators. Especially include information comparing the organisation with others in the sector and best-in-class metrics.

Bad news not taken seriously

When “bad news” from outside is shared the messengers are not welcome because of the fear of hurting feelings, reducing morale or causing arguments. Thus honest discussion is supressed.

Force management meetings to address real issues and bad news honestly. Potentially consultants can be helpful in forcing this.

Human nature

People are people and we don’t like bad news, we like things as they are. We are not looking for more work and find life easier without problems. All of this generates inertia preventing us from getting excited about problems and opportunities.

Encourage more openness and honesty to enable discussion of issues and opportunities. Initiate activities to address some of the easy to fix issues to show what is possible.

“Happy talk”

When the awareness of problems and issues emerges “happy talk” lulls people back into a false sense of security: “We’re doing well with the resources.” “Look at our achievements.”

Simply don’t allow it.

Not Listening to God

Unlike the secular world, in the Kingdom context our goal is to serve God and conduct our efforts in accordance with his will. Christians can have a tendency to conservatism and traditionalism, which can blind us to the need to change even if it is urgent.

In Christian organisations we have one avenue that secular organisations do not.  Prayerful reflection of situations and needs before God and the ability to listen to a God who speaks, enable us to gain insights and understandings not available to the world.


Psalm 127:1        “Unless the Lord build the house the builders labour in vain” and;

James 1:5            “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

We have the ability to engage with God through listening prayer and seek his guidance in mobilising a genuine sense of urgency.


In this section the “Take a Moment” exercises follow on with the intent of helping you think through the eight steps in a way that is relevant to your situation.

Take a Moment

  • Take time to review your organisation against each of the issues listed
  • What observations can you make about your organisations?
  • Is there anything that needs to be addressed?


Take a Moment

  • Take time to review the situation of your organisation or team from the broader perspective of the sectors in which you are active.
    • Who are your external “best-in-class” models? How does your organisation compare?
    • Consider the full spectrum of needs in your sector or situation. How does the performance of your organisation stack up against them?
    • What do you learn about your organisation?
    • What do you learn about how your organisation measures its own performance?


Step 2: Build a Guiding Team

Complexity, speed and decision making

Consider for a moment the factors that affect decision making processes in todays’ environment and which force change to occur. They include:

  • External change
  • Global influences
  • World events
  • Legislation and regulation
  • Organisation size and complexity
  • Technology
  • Social norms


The rate of change in each of these, and other, factors is accelerating and generating continuous waves of change; much like the waves of a stormy sea breaking on the shore.

When the pace of these factors was slow it was possible for a single person to make all the significant decisions in an organisation and drive the programmes which brought about change. For the last 3 or 4 decades we have seen an ever increasing rate of change. The pace and complexity is now such that, unless the organisation is small, it is not possible for one person to single-handedly bring about necessary organisational change.

As we have seen throughout the modules of Growing the Servant Heart that, even if it is possible for someone to monarch-like make all the decisions, this is not the best way to proceed. The Christ-centred servant leader will engage others in solving problems and planning the future. Such an approach benefits from collective wisdom and gains from increased levels of ownership.

Today, whichever way we look at things, change is best led by a team. In any organisation the gains made through participation are vital. In medium and larger organisations only a team can handle the volume, complexity and pace, and have the resilience to stay the course. No longer can one man succeed.

Assembling the Guiding Team

Quite simply, the role of the guiding team is to lead the process of bringing about the required change. Its purpose is to fulfil the vision, to bring about that preferred future. Asuccesful guiding team needs certain attributes:

Management and Leadership

The team must fulfil both leadership and management roles.

The leaders in the team must guide the journey from start to finish empowering others to be able to fulfil their roles. They make mid-course corrections as necessary to overcome any obstacles and respond to new information and insight.  Many change programmes take years to complete and in that time the forces of external change do not let up, therefore it is certain that mid-course corrections will be necessary.

The managers in the team keep the process under control. They make and monitor effective plans. Managers cannot lead a change process because they do not operate in the realm of vision. They are trained to maintain the process not change the process.

One of the ways that Kotter expresses the relationship between leaders and managers is as follows:

Leadership Produces Vision A feasible, appealing statement of the preferred future.
which leads to
Strategy The manner in which the vision can be achieved.
which leads to
Management Produces Plans The specifics of how strategies will be implemented.
which leads to
Budgets The projected financial requirements and benefits.
Kotter (Leading Change)

Positional Power

Enough senior people and key players must be in the team in order to ensure that those who are not inclined to change cannot block progress.

Expertise and Diversity

In order to make good, informed decisions the team needs to include a sufficient diversity of people in terms of the factors involved e.g. disciplines, experience, expertise, nationality etc.


The team requires enough people who have credibility within the organisation so that others will take note of the team’s guidance.


As already discussed leadership is essential to achieve change. Therefore the team must include enough proven leaders to lead the journey.

It may be necessary to bring in leaders from outside the organisation, promote people from within and encourage reluctant to leaders to fulfil their potential.

Building the Guiding Team

In the Leading through Others module we looked at the necessary characteristics of a leader and the leadership requirements of a team. You may wish to review these now.


In this section the “Take a Moment” exercises follow on with the intent of helping you think through the eight steps in a way that is relevant to your situation. This exercise develops from the previous “Take a Moment

Take a Moment

  • Choose one of the issues you identified in the previous exercise that requires improvement of change in your team or organisation?
  • If you were to assemble a guiding team to bring about that change what specific qualities would need to be in evidence amongst the team members?
  • Who would you choose for the guiding team and why?

Step 3: Develop the Vision and Strategy

The earlier part of this lesson considered the nature of a vision and the process of its development and propagation.


In this section the “Take a Moment” exercises follow on with the intent of helping you think through the eight steps in a way that is relevant to your situation. This exercise develops from the previous “Take a Moment

Take a Moment

  • What is your vision for the issue you previously identified? (Use your vision crib sheet to guide you.)
  • What steps would you take to refine that vision so that it met the criteria we previously discussed?

Step 4: Achieve Buy-In

Earlier in this lesson we considered the issue of sharing the vision so that others will catch it and buy-in. Additionally Kotter highlights the following when seeking to bring about change.

Frequent repetition – once is not enough

It is hard to grasp the implications of a vision that leads to significant change, even if it needs no more than 5 minutes to share.  This is because change raises all sorts of questions at the personal level for each affected individual. They may react with concern or fear and hear only a negative message or they may be excited and not grasp the risks and the down sides.

People also forget. As memories become fuzzy the recollection of the vision itself changes, often into something sufficiently different to no longer be accurate.

Change programmes often take years to achieve and so time fades memories.

All of these reasons mean that the vision must be shared repeatedly and frequently. Once is not enough, half a dozen times is not enough nor twenty, nor one hundred. The vision needs to be continually repeated and reinforced throughout the duration of the change programme.

Many ways is better

We have seen in earlier modules that everyone has different preference when it comes to taking on new information. This is no less true for a vision. Similarly everyone has their own personal questions and concerns which need to be addressed before they can whole-heartedly sign up to the vision.

Also no single communication method is suitable for sharing the vision and the all of the consequent strategies, plans, implications and achievements. Nor will a single method reach everyone who is affected. Choose the communication method that is suited to each specific need.

Not every communication needs to be formal. There are many informal opportunities to talk about the vision. One suggestion made by Kotter is that each leader or manager commits to talk to four people each day about the vision and what it means in the context of their activities. This may only need a sentence or two achieve. Asking a question such as “How does the vision affect what you need to do …?” could be very effective.  Such behaviour shows the vision is real, practical and to be applied; others will follow the lead.

These factors mean that a wide range of imaginative communication mechanisms need to be used to convey the vision and all that follows.

Walk the Talk

As we have discussed in Reflections on Leadership the loudest communication channel is behaviour.  People do what their leaders do regardless of what they say. Therefore, the leader’s behaviour must change to match the declared vision and its strategies.

One way of achieving this is to deliberately include a consideration of the vision when solving problems and making decisions.

Where organisations have staff performance systems these need to be updated to be consistent with the vision and its goals, thus the vision will become embedded in performance reviews and associated guidance and coaching.

Sometimes operational inconsistencies arise where it is not feasible or financially sensible to align some things with the vision. This can be embarrassing and therefore may be swept under the carpet. This leads to behaviour that is perceived by others in the organisation as hypocritical and so undermines the objectives of the change programme. When such situations arise integrity demands that they are acknowledged and the reasons for the situation be shared with the team and the organisation. E.g. explain what has happened, that it is not line with the vision and strategy but for this reason it is not feasible to address it at this time.

Listen lots

In Communication: A Core Competency for Servant Leaders we noted that effective listening was a key factor in enabling others to understand. Listening allows us to gain insight into the level of understanding that has been achieved by others. It also allows us to identify the blockages to understanding. Listening also enables us to understand the issues and concerns that block others’ buy-in to a vision and strategy. Then they can be addressed.

Effective listening makes others partners in the enterprise and demonstrates that they are important and valued. All things which foster their voluntary buy-in.


In this section the “Take a Moment” exercises follow on with the intent of helping you think through the eight steps in a way that is relevant to your situation. This exercise develops from the previous “Take a Moment

 Take a Moment

  • As a Christ-centred servant leader, considering the vision that you outlined in the previous exercise, the guiding team that you would notionally assemble and the others who would be affected by the implied changes, how would you communicate the vision?
    • How would you express the vision in 5 minutes (remember the use of visual images, metaphors, analogies and examples)?
    • What would your communication strategy be?
    • What roles would the members of your notional guiding team take?

Step 5: Empower Action

Most change requires everyone who is on the journey to behave in ways that are different. In an organisation it’s not just the guiding team who are on the journey but everyone who has a role in successfully reaching the destination. This broader base of people must be empowered to do the new things that are necessary to make the vision a reality.

Factors which impeded empowerment

There are various factors to consider:

The old way of working

In some cases of change the old way of working prevents the vision from being achieved. The organisation and its processes are structured in a way that prevents the necessary new way of working. Eventually, even the most enthusiastic advocate of the change will give it up because it’s just too hard if not impossible.  The remedy? Organisational and process change. In such cases unless that happens the vision will be strangled at birth.

The old skills and behaviours

Change puts people into new situations and asks them to do new or different things. However. Unless they are equipped, old and inappropriate skills and behaviours will be applied remain. Jesus’ comment about not putting new wine on old wine skins comes to mind. They split.

If change means that people need to behave differently and do new things they need to be appropriately and adequately trained and coached. If they don’t know what is expected of them and they have not been shown how to do it then significant levels of conflict will emerge. The required change simply cannot and will not happen.

The training must be appropriate because it must address the transition from old to new. It must be adequate in that enough training must be provided at the right times. Training alone is insufficient, ongoing coaching is necessary to help people work out how to apply the training to the daily situations that they face.

The old systems and procedures

The new way of doing things will most likely NOT fit with the old ways and therefore the various old systems and procedures will strangle the change. They need to be changed to support the new way of doing things. This means that:

Personal objectives and performance measurements need to reflect the vision not the old way.

Remuneration and rewards must reflect the need for successful change not the old way of working

Similarly promotion decisions and the hiring/firing process must reflect the new way and the process of transition.

Obstructive Supervisors

Obstructive supervisors have the ability to shut down all attempts to go with the vision on the part of their people. In larger organisations it’s likely that some of the supervisors will fall into this category. A prayerful approach is necessary as is living out the Christ-centred servant character towards them.  Honest dialogue is needed and often, because in many ways it is perceived to be confrontational it is avoided. However, the goal of the servant leaders is that others are enabled to achieve their full potential and obstructive supervisors are not living that out, nor are they achieving their own full potential.


In this section the “Take a Moment” exercises follow on with the intent of helping you think through the eight steps in a way that is relevant to your situation. This exercise develops from the previous “Take a Moment

Take a Moment

  • For your team or organisation think through what systems, methods and processes would need to change.
    • What are they?
    • What changes are needed?
    • How would an individual’s personal objectives reflect the new vision and the need to change?


Step 6: Achieve Quick Wins

Big change programmes tend to work on long timescales. The longer the timescales the more external changes there are to knock the programme off course and make it seem less relevant. Also the longer the programme the more difficult it is to keep the journeys end, and its benefits in view. Fatigue sets in and people lose sight of the goals.

The benefits of quick wins

Therefore it is good practice to build in some short term wins on the way. They help keep people focused and encourage them to keep on the road. Because they:

  • Demonstrate the effort is worth it, the change programme is showing results and the vision is realistic.
  • Encourage the hearts of the leaders of the change and those who are working hard to bring it off. This in turn will revitalise them for the next stage.
  • Provide feedback on the goals and the effectiveness of the changes allowing the vision and strategies to be fine-tuned.
  • Make it difficult for vocal critics, and people resisting change, to block progress and it may even bring them round.
  • Demonstrates progress which enables senior leaders and managers to have confidence in the process.
  • Proves effectiveness of the programme by showing that it is on course and being successful, which builds up momentum for the next stage. It also enables those who are less favourably disposed to the change process to come on board and join the journey.

Making short term wins happen

Simply put, short term wins need to be planned into the change programme. Their value is too great for them to be left as a nice to have because they will become vain hopes. Planning them also enables them to provide feedback on the change process. If they are not planned it becomes hard to convincingly argue that they prove the validity of the vision and the process.

Having decided what the short term wins will be, making them happen becomes the remit of the managers included in the guiding team.

The number of short term wins needed is dependent upon the size and duration of the programme. The longer it is, the more the number of wins that should be planned, bearing in mind they need to make a real contribution to the end goal.  In longer programme, seeing a first win in 6 to 18 months is a good target.


In this section the “Take a Moment” exercises follow on with the intent of helping you think through the eight steps in a way that is relevant to your situation. This exercise develops from the previous “Take a Moment

Take a Moment

  • Given the vision that you have developed in this exercise:
    • What would be a good, progressive set of short term wins
    • Identify their goals.
    • What would they demonstrate?
    • How would you use them to encourage others?


Step 7: Don’t Let Up

The down side of quick wins

Once the programme is running and quick wins begin, it is easy think that the hardest part of the job is done and complacency can creep back in. Complacency results in less focus and effort and soon the programme stalls.  It also provides opportunity for those who resist change to renew their efforts; they are now pushing something that is moving in their preferred direction.  Beware of losing urgency by forgetting the vision and the challenges it is designed to address as the wins are celebrated. Repeat the message and maintain the pace.

The impact of organisational interdependence

Change programmes bump into real life. The issues that arise may seem insurmountable, like one of those number puzzles where the tiles are slid around the square in the hope of getting them in the right sequence.  It becomes clear that issues are interdependent. So, just like moving one tile into place destroys the sequence of the rest, changing one area may affect several others.

Sometimes the desired change can only happen if a number of other changes are made at the same time, but each of those also affects even more parts of the organisation.  Such problems can seem to bring the whole programme to a halt.  The secret is to eliminate unnecessary interdependencies and so create more degrees of freedom. It’s a bit like cracking open the number puzzle and reassembling it with the numbers in the right order. Bring good problem analysis and creative thinking to bear – see the next lesson.

Maintain the pace

At this stage it becomes important to keep up the pace, continue to reiterate the vision and celebrate the successes, work towards the next win and look at problems from a different perspective.  In large change programmes bring the changes to more parts of the organisation. It is important to maintain the pace of change to consolidate the gains and avoid the organisation drifting back into old ways.

How can the increasing volume of work needed be sustained?  This is where approaches proven by the quick wins can be rolled out and entrusted to the project management skills of others in the organisation.

Maintain the urgency

Senior people need to “keep their foot on the gas pedal” and maintain the necessary levels of urgency in the organisation and keep everyone’s common and shared purpose clearly visible.


In this section the “Take a Moment” exercises follow on with the intent of helping you think through the eight steps in a way that is relevant to your situation. This exercise develops from the previous “Take a Moment

Take a Moment

  • Reflect upon the change programme that is emerging in this exercise.
  • Identify areas outside the scope of the change that may share some interdependencies forcing them to change too.
    • What are they?
    • How might you decouple their interdependence?

Step 8: Make it Secure in the Culture

You will recall that in Reflections on Leadership in The Jesus Model module we defined organisational culture as “How things are done around here”. We looked the nature of the culture with its visible and invisible elements and also at six leadership behaviours that embedded culture.

We observed that to bring about lasting change the invisible elements of culture need to change, but this is difficult to achieve because they are invisible. This means few people are aware of them and know what they are. However, new team members may well be able to identify them. This is considered in the book Culture Craft by Rick Sessoms and Colin Buckland.

A change programme may bring about visible change, but unless it results in changed culture it will not last. Once the formal change programme has been completed and the urgency is seemingly no longer necessary, the invisible elements of the culture will inexorably draw things back to how they were.  This has been seen time and time again.

Sometimes it is necessary to replace the old culture entirely. Other times, where the old culture is not incompatible with the vision, new elements will be grafted into the existing culture.

So the last stage of change is to anchor the changes in the culture. This can be done by considering the six leadership practices we just referred to:

What the leader measures.

The leader needs to identify the measurable things that will highlight the way the changed organisation needs to work and make those measures visible.  They need to explain why these are important and report on them regularly, taking action to keep them in the sweet spot. These messages need to cascade through the organisation.

How the leader responds to critical incidents

When critical incidents arise, crisis and the like, the leadership needs to respond in keeping with the desired cultural values. This will be visible and reinforces these values. If it is not possible for some reason then the leader needs to come clean. They need to explain to the whole organisation that they are aware of the new values and why, on this occasion they regrettably cannot comply with them just now for such and such a reason. Provided of course, that the reasons are legitimate.

Such an approach shows that values are still in place the action will reinforce them.

What the leader models and teaches

Simply put, the leaders must visibly model the new way and not fall back into old habits. In this way they will personally show integrity and reinforce the message to everyone. Remember that those we lead do what we do not what we say. It is therefore, incumbent on leaders to teach others what it means to live in the new order and to demonstrate that with how they behave. They have to “walk the talk” of the new way.

The behaviours the leader rewards

Recognition, celebration and reward show what is truly valued. If the leaders continue to recognise, reward and celebrate the old behaviour it tells everyone that the old ways are how to behave. This undermines the new ways that emerged from the change programme; changes that have been hard won.

So recognition programmes and personal performance metrics and rewards must reinforce the new culture. This recognition is needed to embed the new ways brought about by the change into the culture.

How the leader allocates scarce resources

Simply put, the norm becomes to give resource priority to the change programme and maintaining its results. Sometimes this may not be possible, in which case the leader needs to come clean and explain why to everyone not just other leaders.  This is because how resources are expended declares visibly what is important.  Resources expended in a way that reinforces the old ways undermine the change and encourages its demise.

Who the leader hires, fires, promotes and retires

What is the message if the people who are hired and promoted exemplify the old way and those who are fired and retired are proponents of the new away? The old way is best, let’s go back to the old way.

Personnel movements must reinforce the new way of doing things otherwise the changes will unravel and the vision will be undermined.

What the leader communicates

Additionally, the leaders must carefully consider what and how they communicate regarding the change in culture. Frequent communication is essential to initiate and encourage the adoption of the new or revised culture. If the leadership remains silent at this stage they will allow the old culture to resume its dominance and the vision will be lost.


In this section the “Take a Moment” exercises follow on with the intent of helping you think through the eight steps in a way that is relevant to your situation. This exercise develops from the previous “Take a Moment

Take a Moment

  • Consider the culture of your organisation (you may want to refer to notes you made earlier in the programme)
    • What elements of this current culture work against the vision for change you have devised for this exercise?
    • What differences in culture would be needed to maintain the vision?
    • What might you do to maintain that cultural change?