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Kasper Zülow

Appelbaum, S. H., Habashy, S., Malo, J. L., & Shafiq, H. (2012). Back to the future: revisiting Kotter’s 1996 change model. Journal of Management Development, 31(8), 764-782.


In 1996, John P. Kotter published his seminal book “Leading Change,” in which he presented an eight-step model for organizational change. Over the years, this model has been widely adopted and used by practitioners and scholars alike. However, despite its popularity, there has been limited empirical research to support its effectiveness. In this paper, Appelbaum et al. seek to address this gap by revisiting Kotter’s model and testing its validity in today’s context.


The authors begin by providing an overview of Kotter’s eight-step model, which includes the following stages: (1) Establishing a sense of urgency, (2) Creating a guiding coalition, (3) Developing a vision and strategy, (4) Communicating the change vision, (5) Empowering others to act on the vision, (6) Creating short-term wins, (7) Consolidating gains and producing more change, and (8) Anchoring new approaches in the organization’s culture.

The authors then proceed to critique Kotter’s model and identify several limitations. First, they argue that Kotter’s model is overly linear and prescriptive, and does not account for the complex and dynamic nature of organizational change. Second, they suggest that the model does not adequately address the role of power and politics in change efforts, and may be insufficient in situations where there is significant resistance or opposition to change. Third, they note that the model places a heavy emphasis on leadership and may not fully capture the role of followers and other stakeholders in the change process.

To address these limitations, the authors propose a revised model of organizational change that incorporates several additional factors. These include the importance of organizational culture, the need for ongoing learning and adaptation, and the role of communication and dialogue in managing change. The authors also highlight the importance of considering the broader context in which change is occurring, including economic, social, and political factors that may impact the success of change initiatives.

To test the validity of Kotter’s model and the proposed revisions, the authors conducted a survey of 208 managers and employees across a variety of organizations in Canada. The survey included questions about the respondents’ perceptions of their organization’s change efforts, as well as their attitudes towards Kotter’s model and the proposed revisions.

The results of the survey suggest that Kotter’s model remains a popular and widely used framework for managing change, with a majority of respondents indicating that they had heard of or used the model in their work. However, the authors also found some evidence to support their critiques of the model, with respondents noting that the model was too rigid and did not account for the complexities of real-world change efforts.

The proposed revisions to Kotter’s model were generally well received by respondents, with many indicating that they found the additional factors to be relevant and useful. However, the authors caution that the revised model is still in the early stages of development and requires further refinement and testing before it can be considered a fully validated framework for managing change.


In conclusion, Appelbaum et al. provide a valuable critique of Kotter’s eight-step model for organizational change and propose a revised model that incorporates several additional factors. While the authors acknowledge the continued popularity and usefulness of Kotter’s model, they also highlight its limitations and suggest that a more flexible and adaptive approach may be required in today’s complex and rapidly changing organizational environments. The proposed revisions to Kotter’s model offer a promising starting point for future research and practice in the field of change management.

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Kasper Riis Zülow