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


Creating a sense of urgency is about helping people see the need for change, either to take advantage of an opportunity or to deal with an issue that is holding us back. Without urgency we risk becoming complacent and losing our leading status and reputation as a University.
Watch John Kotter talk through some of the issues related to urgency.
It’s important that we understand that at this step in the process we have not yet determined specifically what or how we need to change – we are just establishing that change is urgent and necessary to take advantage of an opportunity or to deal with an issue that is holding us back. In Step 3: Create a vision and strategy, we firm up on specifically what we will change and how we will go about it.  

Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately

One of the first things to consider in any change process is to ensure everyone in your school/faculty/institute/unit understands the need for the change and the importance of acting immediately.  By developing a sense of urgency around the need for change, you will be able to spark the initial motivation to get things moving. This is about opening up an honest and convincing dialogue about the opportunities and issues that are relevant to us. Developing an understanding of the nature of and reasons for change in the early stages can provide a sound base for action.

Assess your current situation

  • How is my school/faculty/institute/unit currently performing?
  • What are our strengths and how can we capitalise on them?
  • Are there any weaknesses in the overall performance of our area?
  • Where can we improve?
  • What are the external or internal factors that are impacting on the future?
  • What is the likely impact on people of the current future outlook?

Key questions to shape your thinking

  • Why is the status quo no longer acceptable?
  • What are the possible downsides of not changing?
  • What are the possible benefits of changing?
  • How will change affect individuals?

A SWOT analysis can be a useful tool to assist us to assess the current situation. You can run this exercise yourself or contact the Organisational Development Unit for assistance.

We all understand that change can bring out an emotional response from our people. It is important therefore to make sure that right from the beginning of the change process we understand the need to engage people emotionally with change, in a positive way. The table below differentiates those aspects of the change that speak to logic and those aspects that appeal to emotions. By engaging both of these, you will be relating to people's response and approach to change so that they are able to see, feel and then embrace the need for change.


Engage the head

Engage the heart

Facts and consequences

·         Gather information on course demand, research trends, best practice from other leading Universities

·         Benchmark performance

·         Obtain powerful testimonials

·         Note relevant trends in tertiary education

Speak to people's emotions

·      Make it real – use demonstrations, stories or visits to ensure people see the problem, solution and progress in a compelling way

·      Paint an inspiring picture of what the future could look like

·      Note the outcomes (particularly rewards and benefits) at a personal level

·      Engage people’s sense of identity – change is about who and what we want to be in the future









Watch John Kotter talk about how to win over both hearts and minds.

Now what?

Once we’ve created the urgency for change, we need to build a team to help guide us forward on our change journey: Step 2: Form a powerful coalition.


Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Boston, Mass., Harvard Business School Press.         

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