Change Management Methodologies: Kotter's Method vs Prosci's

Updated on September 26, 2016

Changing the direction of an organization is not something that is easy to complete. In fact, one study suggest that more than 70% of organizational changes fail. There are many reasons for this. Fortunately, the issue of change management has been studied at great length; industry experts have come up with many methods that outline the process to transform an organization. Two of the most common methods in use today are John Kotter's 8-step method and Prosci's 3-phase method. Both methods have proven track records. In this article I will discuss an overview of each method and provide a brief comparison of the two.

John Kotter's 8 Steps to Change

Introduced in the 1995 book Leading Change, the author and Harvard business professor John Kotter's 8-step process for change is a world-renowned methodology for transforming modern organizations. In a fast-paced world, keeping organizations relevant and efficient requires constant transformation and adjustment. Kotter's 8-step process is a great method for implementing and managing change in a way that can sustainably transform organizations. The components to Kotter's change management model are described in detail below:

Step 1: Establishing a Sense of Urgency

Leadership must first create a sense of urgency within the organization in order to get the wheels of change in motion. This step includes examining opportunities for growth and improvement while also looking for potential threats to the company and future adverse market conditions. Leadership often initiates this step with a staff summit, team meeting or even companywide communications. The goals is to appeal to all employees to get them motivated to help steer the organization into a greater future.

Step 2: Forming a Powerful Guiding Coalition

Once the employees have bought into the change, a coalition of effective and influential people needs to be form to help guide and coordinate the change. This coalition helps to create additional buy-in and further motive employees. The individuals that make up the coalition should be from all areas and ranks of the company. Large scale organizational transformations can only be successful when a significant portion of the employees move towards the change. Change is more likely to occur successfully when employees choose to make the change as opposed to being told they have to change

Step 3: Creating a Vision

A strategic vision is a singular, clear goal of where the company wants to get to. The vision helps to ensure that all participates are working towards the common goal and that everyone understands the reason for the change. The strategy should be written in an easily understandable manner so that all employees can understand it.

Step 4: Communicating the Vision

Getting the message communicated to all employees is vital if the change is to be successful. All avenues and methods for communication should be explored and used to the maximum practicable extent. The information transmitted to employees should answer questions that may anticipate their doubts about the change. Furthermore, emphasis should be placed on the goals and establishing the new way of doing business as the new norm.

Step 5: Empowering Others to Act on the Vision

Empowering employees is another key step that is vital to the change process. Empowerment allows employees to make decisions, develop new ideas, and alter existing processes to fit the new vision for the company. Empowerment also leads employees to take action sooner and more efficiently on efforts that will support the change.

Step 6: Planning for and Creating Short-Term Wins

Short term goals help to act like stepping-stones that lead to the final overall goal for the organization. When each short term goal is reached employees can celebrate a "win" which helps to improve motivation and increase the momentum of the change. The guiding coalition can help set short term coals, develop interim change indicators and communicate change successes in the organization.

Step 7: Consolidating Improvements and Producing Still More Change

As more and more short term goals are met additional buy-in is credit. Look for opportunities for additional improvement areas while also developing employees into agents of change that can perpetuate the pathway to the goal. A reorganization of employees or a change in organizational structure may be implemented to further codify the company's changes.

Step 8: Institutionalizing New Approaches

Once the change has been made it's important to reinforce the changes to help make them stick. This is accomplished by frequent communication with employees about how the change is working as well as by aligning operational and strategic plans with the new approach. New policies and procedures should be implemented to perpetuate the change within and throughout the organization.

Prosci's Change Management Methodology

Prosci was born in 1994 when an independent research company began to study organizational change. In 2002 it was updated after a final benchmarking study was completed and reviewed. Today, it is one the most commonly used methods for implementing change; it's relatively easy to use and puts people first. Prosci's method is a three phase process for change (preparing, managing, and reinforcing) that utilizes what they call the ADKAR model. ADKAR is an acronym which stands for: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, & Reinforcement. The purpose of this model is that it allows managers and leaders to focus on the most important factors that will drive change. Noting that organizations only change when the individual employees do, this model makes it easy for employees to embrace the change.

Prosci’s 3-phase approach pretty much mirrors Kotter’s 8 step method. Here are the phases:

Prosci Phase 1: Preparing

This phase includes identify the needs and parameters of the change, who should be involved, etc. In Kotter’s method this is steps 1 through 3. Kotter says you need establish a sense of urgency, form a coalition to help guide the change, and then create a vision of the future. All three of these steps could fall into the planning and preparing phase. The 4th step, communicate the vision, could either be placed in this phase or the next depending on the type or organization and the type of change being implemented.

Prosci Phase 2: Managing

This is the part of Prosci that focuses on making the plan and making sure that it works. This is when the training plan, communication plan, and other guidelines are drafted. In Kotter’s method this is like Steps 4 through 6. Kotter suggests first communicating the vision, then empowering others to act followed by creating short term wins and then ending with consolidating improvements. This is where the change happens and the ship begins to sail in a new direction.

Prosci Phase 3: Reinforcing.

The reinforcement phase is where you ensure that the change sticks. Many methods and tools can be used to accomplish this. In Kotter’s method, this phase is essentially steps 7 and 8 which says that the new approaches (the change) needs to be institutionalized so that the change becomes permanent. This is accomplish through communication, reporting as well as new policies and procedures.

Comparison of Methods

One similarity that we see between Prosci's and Kotter's methods is that they both focus on the people (the employees) rather than the organization as a whole or system. Both change methodologies recognize the importance that people play in making a change happen. Prosci starts at the individual level and works outward until as many people have bought into it as possible. This method can sometimes miss important individuals such as those on the executive time. Kotter’s method is similar in that whoever first identifies a reason for change needs to form a group of people (the coalition) to get things moving. The build-up of buy-in creates momentum that helps to feed the change. The more buy-in the organization has, the more momentum that is gained to help feed the change.

Overall, Kotter’s 8-step approach to implementing change seems to be a more detailed approach. With the details, comes small victories to be celebrated. Small victories keep the participants engaged while also building the momentum to ensure that a successful change happens.


Kotter, J. P. 8 Steps to Accelerate Change in 2015. Kotter International. Accessed 15 June 2016. <

Kotter, John P. Leading Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 1996. Google Book Search. Web. Accessed 15 June 2016.

Prosci, Inc. ADKAR Change Management Model. Accessed 16 June 2016. <>

Richards, Bill. Change Management Models: John Kotter's 8 Steps to Lead Change. Employee Motivation Skills. Accessed 15 June 2016. <>

Scheid, Jean. How to Implement Prosci's Change Management Methodology. Bright Hub Project Management. 23 May 2013. Accessed 15 June 2016 <>

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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