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Corporate culture: 8 steps to successful change

Measuring success according to the Kotter model (1995)

Changes are important and necessary to move forward in professional situations. It is not always easy for most people to accept and implement change [1]. This process usually only succeeds when emotions are involved. Therefore, change processes should not address logic, but primarily the heart and feelings. Changing yourself or something always means accepting challenges – whether for individuals or a complete company. If the hoped-for change fails to materialise, the motivation to dare to approach again drops [1].

But what are the reasons why so many fail to make a difference? Isn’t the desire for change urgent and emotional enough? Is it the lack of painful experiences that often lead to change? Or does it already fail due to a lack of initiation or implementation?

John Kotter provides us with a model for this, with the help of which it should be possible in only 8 steps to successfully drive and pursue the process of change in order to get closer to the goals step by step [2,3]. This model is depicted in Figure 1, based on Kotter.

Fig. 1. 8 steps to successful change following Kotter (1995).

Step 1:
In order to initiate a change process, all participants, such as management, executives, employees, should be made aware of the urgency of a change. This is achieved by demonstrating and visualizing the urgency.

Step 2:
Once the urgency of change has been anchored in all minds, a management team should be established to accompany the process continuously. Consisting of managers and employees from all positions and departments, diversity and continuity, as well as honest and direct communication, can contribute to the formation of strategic visions and initiatives.

Step 3:
The development and pursuit of a vision always requires the risk of entering unknown territory and leaving one’s comfort zone. A good vision motivates employees when it is foreseeable that a change will lead to further changes.

Step 4:
With the above-mentioned experience of failure, the pessimism and anxiety of those involved often mean that there is no further attempt at change. In order to relieve them of this fear, the direction in which the company is moving and its vision should be communicated clearly and unambiguously.

Step 5:
Sometimes not all participants pull in the same direction – some demonstratively stand in the way of the innovations. However, in order not to bring the process of change to a standstill, it is necessary to remove barriers (e.g. saboteurs or inefficient processes) on the one hand, and to reward innovations and changed, beneficial behaviour on the other.

Step 6:
Even small victories lead to long-term goals. If successes – no matter how small – are communicated to those involved, they act as motivators to advance progress.

Step 7:
For the vision of a day to become reality, it is indispensable to introduce change after change. As in the previous step, it is up to the leaders to motivate, support and prevent the team from progressing too fast, thus preventing states of exhaustion.

Step 8:
All participants must understand that the new behaviours contribute to the success of the company and can replace old habits after successful establishment.

Changing successfully together.

Each step is passed over into the next: Only if all steps are adhered to and stringently pursued can changes be brought about that benefit the entire company.


[1] Kotter, J. P., & Cohen, D. S. (2008). The heart of change. Real life stories of how people change their organizations. Harvard Business Review, 60-64. 

[2] Kotter, J. P. (1995). Leading change: Why transformation efforts fail. Harvard Business Review, 59-67.

[3] Kotter, J. P. (o. J.). Kotter. 8-step process for leading change. Retrieved via [14.02.2019]

Stephanie Wörz

Als Fachkraft für betriebliches Gesundheitsmanagement und als Master-Psychologin mit dem Schwerpunkt der Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie bin ich im Bereich Business Development tätig. Ich stehe meinen Kollegen bei der Entwicklung von CompanyMood mit psychologischem Fachwissen zur Seite.

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