Step 1

Create a sense of urgency

Step 2

Form a powerful coalition

Step 3

Create the vision & strategy

Step 4

Communicate the vision & strategy

Step 5

Empower broad-based action

Step 6

Generate short-term wins

Step 7

Never let up

Step 8

Incorporate changes into the culture


Having developed the vision and strategy in Step 3, the next key step is communication. Of course, you have been communicating continuously already with as broad a range of people as possible leading up to this point, so people are expecting now to hear more detail.

Watch John Kotter talk through his views on how to communicate a vision for change.

Identify and understand stakeholders

Simply put, a stakeholder is an individual or a group of individuals who are directly or indirectly impacted by the change you are implementing. With the help of your team you should list all stakeholders and explore your understanding of their response to the change. With this initial understanding you can develop appropriate messages or forums for this group to be engaged. Remember to include your own people as stakeholders in the change.
A stakeholder analysis and communications plan can be a useful tool to ensure that your communication is appropriate for different stakeholder groups.

Key questions

  • Who are the people who need to know about your change?
  • What are the key points you need each group of people to know/understand?
  • How are you going to ensure they understand it? How will you know that they have understood?
  • What are the likely concerns for each group?
  • How will you respond to them, to ensure you build a critical mass of people who support your change?
  • What systems, behaviours and beliefs are hindering or supporting your change and what are you doing to reduce that hindrance and reinforce the support?
  • How are you supporting individuals and groups through the change?
  • Are the processes used in the change fair and transparent?

Communication principles

Kotter and Cohen (2005) provide the following broad principles for effective communication of the vision for change. These communication principles can be applied by any member of the organisation communicating about change.




Develop a compelling story

  • Provide a context for the change
  • Focus on the why, why now, what and how
  • Develop high-level message that captures the gist of the vision

Keep it simple, keep it honest

  • Use short statements
  • Avoid jargon that may exclude some
  • Make sure you address concerns in an open and honest manner
  • Be as transparent as possible about the reasons for decisions

Use metaphor and analogues

  • Use images to depict the future state of the organisation
  • Use an analogy to explain the different phases in the process of change 

Repeat, repeat, repeat

  • Use every opportunity to link day-today business activities and decision with the vision
  • Continue to reinforce the message throughout the entire change process
  • Ensure that your messages are consistently communicated regardless of medium, audience or time

Use many different forums to spread the message

  • Make it a habit to refer to elements of the vision in every communication, formal and informal
  • Have all levels of the organisation seek ways to repeat and reinforce the key messages

Make it multidirectional

  • The vision will live through the interactions with people. Encourage as many people as possible to talk about the vision
  • Give people real opportunities for input and feedback

Build linkages to initiatives

  • Explain how all the change initiatives contribute to the achievement of the vision
  • Make clear links to things that are already happening in the organisation

Align leadership actions to communications

  • Ensure the leadership actions and decisions are consistent with the new directions
  • Explicitly address all inconsistencies
  • Shape and reinforce existing congruent behaviours
  • Have the guiding teams model the expected behaviours

Integrate communication initiatives

  • Build a common set of key messages that can be integrated into all communications
  • Practice these key messages, keep them brief and salient

Building your implementation plan

As you communicate with people about the vision and strategy you will gain invaluable information about the change, opportunities and potential pitfalls. As your vision gets more buy-in, you can use this input to bring the strategy to life and develop a detailed project plan (Note: Training in project planing is available through the University's Staff Development Program.)

Now what?

It's now time to move from communication and planning to Step 5: Empower broad-based action.


Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Boston, Mass., Harvard Business School Press. 
Kotter, J. P. & Cohen, D. S. (2002). The heart of change : real-life stories of how people change their organizations. Boston, Mass., Harvard Business School Press.