Introduction to Leading Change

  • Change Leadership is the ability to influence and inspire action in others, and respond with vision and agility during periods of growth, disruption or uncertainty to bring about the needed change. Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta
  • Change leadership is the ability to influence and enthuse others through personal advocacy, vision, and drive, and to access resources to build a solid platform for change (Higgs and Rowland, 2000). Leadership is often viewed as key to successful change (American Management Association, 1994).
  • Change leadership is much more associated with putting an engine on the whole change process, and making it go faster, smarter, more efficiently. It’s more associated, therefore, with large scale changes. Change management tends to be more associated—at least, when it works well—with smaller changes.
  • spread of information via the internet are creating more threats as well as more opportunities for the organizational leaders. The threats include more domestic and international competition, while the opportunities mean bigger markets, fewer barriers and more international markets. These threats and opportunities will then lead to large scale change in organizations including reengineering, horizontal organizing teams, networks, new technologies and products, global outsourcing, mergers and joint ventures, consortia, strategic change, cultural change, and learning organization.
  • Change is necessary if organizations are to survive and thrive in constantly changing internal and external environment. The external world has become complex and competitive and every organization has to reconceptualize almost every aspect of how they do business to meet changing needs of customers.  The external world is constantly changing, and organizations must keep up with the political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal (Pestel) developments that may have implications for the particular business. Even national armies are finding that they have to undergo massive changes in order to fight a new kind of war and replace all-out assault and use of force to the use of counter-insurgency intelligence.

Various models have been developed to explain how organization change happens.  


  • McKinsey 7-S Change Management Model

This model consists of 7 crucial categories that organizations should be aware of when implementing change.

While most other models represent some kind of a process or workflow, McKinsey’s model simply reminds us of all the business aspects that should be defined before the change strategy is implemented.

For more information on the McKinsey 7-S Change Management Model:


  • ADKAR Change Management Model

The Prosci ADKAR® Model is a goal-oriented change management model that guides individual and organizational change. Created by Prosci founder Jeff Hiatt, ADKAR is an acronym that represents the five tangible and concrete outcomes that people need to achieve for lasting change: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement.

For more information on the ADKAR model:


  • Kübler-Ross Five Stage Change Management Model. 

This model helps employers understand better their employees and empathize with them. This model consists of five stages through which employees may be going during organizational changes.

For more information on the Kübler-Ross Five Stage Change Management Model:,out%20in%20the%20year%201969.


  • Lewin’s Change Management Model

Kurt Lewin developed a change model involving three steps: unfreezing, changing and refreezing. The model represents a very simple and practical model for understanding the change process. For Lewin, the process of change entails creating the perception that a change is needed, then moving toward the new, desired level of behavior and finally, solidifying that new behavior as the norm. The model is still widely used and serves as the basis for many modern change models.

For more information on Lewin’s Change Management Model:’s%20review.-,Kurt%20Lewin%20developed%20a%20change%20model%20involving%20three%20steps%3A%20unfreezing,new%20behavior%20as%20the%20norm.


  • Kotter’s Eight Steps for Leading Change

John Kotter, leadership and change management professor at Harvard Business School, introduced his ground-breaking 8-Step Change Model in his 1995 book, “Leading Change”.

In a landmark study entitled, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail”, Prof Kotter opines, “The most general lesson to be learned from the more successful cases is that the change process goes through a series of phases that, in total, usually require a considerable length of time. Skipping steps creates only the illusion of speed and never produces a satisfying result. A second very general lesson is that critical mistakes in any of the phases can have a devastating impact, slowing momentum and negating hard-won gains. Perhaps because we have relatively little experience in renewing organizations, even very capable people often make at least one big error”. In the Harvard Business Review article of May-June 1995, Prof Kotter identifies eight errors why transformation efforts fail (

Built on the work of Kurt Lewin, Kotter’s 8-Step model sets out the eight key steps of the changes process, arguing that neglecting any of the steps can be enough for the whole initiative to fail. The eight steps can be divided into three stages, like those of the Kurt Lewin, namely:

A: Creating the climate for change

  1. Create urgency
  2. Form a powerful coalition
  3. Create a vision for Change

B: Engaging & Establishing the Organization

  1. Communicate the vision
  2. Empower action
  3. Create quick wins

C: Implementing & Sustaining Change

  1. Building on the change
  2. Make it stick.

For more information on Kotter’s Eight Steps for Leading Change:

  • Implementing a new student evaluation of teaching system using the Kotter change model


Kotter’s (1996. Leading Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press) model is one of the most frequently cited guides for implementing planned organizational change. While this model is widely used across many industries and contexts, including higher education, there are few research studies and cases that provide in-depth information on the applicability and potential of this model to inform successful change initiatives. In this paper, we describe how we used Kotter’s model as a guide when embarking on a multi-year effort to change our university’s system for student evaluation of teaching. This change involved a shift in both instrument and technology and involved dozens of stakeholders in a complex and changing environment. Our case provides an example of how Kotter’s model can be helpful in implementing change on a variety of initiatives within institutions of higher education. Limitations and implications for both research and practice are discussed.


Kotter’s eight stage process for creating a major change is one of the most widely recognised models for change management, and yet there are few case studies in the academic literature that enquire into how this process has been used in practice. This paper describes a change manager’s action research enquiring into the use of this Process to manage a major organisational change. The change was initiated in response to the organisation’s ageing workforce, introducing a knowledge management program focusing on the interpersonal aspects of knowledge retention. Although Kotter’s process emphasises a top-led model for change, the change team found it was necessary to engage at many levels of the organisation to implement the organisational change. The process is typically depicted as a linear sequence of steps. However, this image of the change process was found to not represent the complexity of the required action. Managing the change required the change team to facilitate multiple concurrent instances of Kotter’s process throughout the organisation, to re-create change that was locally relevant to participants in the change process.


While university change initiatives have become more common in the face of changing learner needs and higher education funding, many fail to produce desired effects, even when guided by organizational change models. The purpose of this study was to document a successful change process in an engineering department at a Hispanic-serving institution in the southwestern United States. The change effort focused on enhancing faculty capacity to support diverse student success. The change process was planned using Kotter’s eight-step change model (1996) and was therefore a prescribed, linear, sequential change process. Qualitative analysis of audio-recorded faculty interviews and meetings, artifacts, field notes, and participant observation highlights how Kotter’s change model was implemented iteratively and emergently. Early steps were revisited and strategies were treated as improvable. This approach enhanced faculty buy-in and project success. Characterization of each step provides insight into ways to apply Kotter’s change model in higher education settings.



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