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4 Change Principles

Though referenced throughout many of his books, Dr. Kotter formally named the 4 Change Principles for this first time in his HBR article, Accelerate. These principles; Select Few + Diverse Many, ‘Have To’ + ‘Want To’, Head + Heart, and Leadership + Management are crucial elements to successful transformation.

Select Few + Diverse Many

It all starts here – many people driving important change, and from everywhere…not just the usual few suspects.

You need more eyes to see, more brains to think, and more hands and feet to act. More people need to be able to make change happen – not just carry out someone else’s directives. This must be done in a way that does not create chaos, create destructive conflict, duplicate efforts, or waste money. Done right, this uncovers leaders at all levels of the organization – ones you never knew you had.

‘Have To’ + ‘Want To’

Create an environment where people are given a choice and feel they truly have permission to step forward and act:
a “get-to” mindset, not a “have-to” one.

People who feel they have the opportunity of being involved in an important activity have shown that they will volunteer to do so in addition to their normal responsibilities. You don’t have to hire new people; your existing people provide the energy – if you invite them. After all, it is your people who know where the pain points are and how to get things done.

Head + Heart

Action must be driven by the head and the heart.

Data and reason underpin many good ideas. But most people won’t be inspired to help you if you appeal to logic alone. You must also appeal to how people feel – speak to the genuine and fundamental human desire to contribute to some bigger cause, to take an organization or community into a better future. Answer the questions burning in people’s minds: “What’s in it for me?” and “In service of what?” If you can provide a vehicle that gives greater meaning and purpose to an effort, extraordinary results are possible.

Management + Leadership

Much more leadership, not just more management. Both are crucial, but the latter alone will not guarantee success in a turbulent world. 

In order to capitalize on windows of opportunity that might open and close quickly, the name of the game is leadership, and not just from one executive. It’s about vision, opportunity, inspired action, innovation and celebration – in addition to the essential managerial processes like project management, budget reviews and accountability to a plan. If you add up the value of management with the value of leadership, 1 + 1 = 3.


Every organization faces the challenge of accelerating change.

We turn that challenge into an opportunity.

Kotter helps organizations mobilize their people to achieve unimaginable results at unprecedented speed. Our pragmatic approaches to accelerating your strategy yield quantitative and qualitative results quickly in areas ranging from cost efficiencies, innovation, growth, culture, to digital transformation – opportunities that inherently demand change, despite what can seem like impenetrable barriers.