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


We are now well into our change initiative: we have a guiding coalition to help lead the change, we have a clear vision and strategy, we have communicated the change initiative extensively and we have at the very least the beginnings of a detailed implementation plan. 

Step 5 is about action and getting things done that will bring us to realise the change vision. In order to implement changes that will last, it's important that people across the University are empowered to take action and make changes in their own areas. The guiding coalition has an essential role to play in continuing to communicate direction, smoothing the way and removing obstacles. Read through Robert Tanner’s views on empowering broad based action.

Encourage ownership and participation

This is the opportunity to really encourage people to take ownership for the proposed change. By owning the change, people will be less inclined to create barriers to change. They will begin to participate in the process and come up with innovative solutions to achieve the desired outcomes. At this stage it is important to build a culture that encourages and rewards knowledge sharing and provides people with opportunities to impact processes and the meeting of UQ’s goals.

In successful change efforts, it is important that people's successes in understanding and acting on the change vision are rewarded through recognition. However, for people to feel motivated to embrace the change vision, the rewards need to be in sync with the direction of the needed change. This means encouraging and rewarding team work and the contribution of ideas.

It may be necessary for the coalition to ‘let go’ somewhat during this stage. As the momentum shifts towards employees feeling empowered to take action, the coalition’s role can sometimes be just to ensure the actions are in alignment with the change vision.

Overcoming obstacles

During this step you may encounter many obstacles to work through and overcome. Some of these may be system or policy constraints. It is here that having support areas involved in your Guiding Coalition really pays off. HR, Finance, ITS, etc. can assist you to remove obstacles based in systems, procedures and policies. If you’ve involved these areas early, and they are on board with the change already, it’s much easier to work collaboratively together to overcome these obstacles.

People's responses and concerns

This is a good time to remind ourselves that people process and deal with change in different ways and at a different pace. Review Peoples’ Reactions to Change and consider where your people are and how best to continue to support them through the change process.

About resistance

In this step, we may encounter resistance as some people realise that we have moved from ‘talk’ to ‘action’ and they try to undermine, block or resist the change. A key to overcoming resistance is understanding the reasons for resistance. People resist change for many reasons, each of which will require a different approach. Once you can identify the reason for the resistance, you will be better equipped to work with the person productively. Some common reasons for resistance include:

  • Fear of the change and what it will mean for them
  • Lack of acknowledgement of what will be lost in change (even positive changes inevitably involve some loss)
  • Uncertainty about what will be gained from the change, what the benefits are, or the reasons
  • Disagreement about the need for change or the suitability of the selected change
  • Not knowing how to change or what to do, or not having the skills or resources to change
  • Not feeling consulted or communicated with, or valued
  • There is greater reward for continuing with the old way
  • Mistrust or ill will due to previous experience.
Rosabeth Moss Kanter provides more detail about why people may resist change, and how change leaders can work with them. However, it must be acknowledged that it isn’t possible to win the hearts and minds of every person. Some people will resist change for their own reasons, or for the sake of resisting. Listen to John Kotter’s view on dealing with these resisters. Note that what Kotter is proposing is only in response to the one or two hard cases. Remember that you have previously involved people in building the case for change, obtained their input and taken a broad based consultative approach to developing the vision and strategy, so the vast majority of people should now be on board.

What now?

Action is now evident in the organisation so now it's time to create short-term wins (Step 6).


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.