Businesses hoping to survive over the long term will have to remake themselves into better competitors at least once along the way. These efforts have gone under many banners: total quality management, reengineering, rightsizing, restructuring, cultural change, and turnarounds, to name a few. In almost every case, the goal has been to cope with a new, more challenging market by changing the way business is conducted. A few of these endeavors have been very successful. A few have been utter failures. Most fall somewhere in between, with a distinct tilt toward the lower end of the scale. John Kotter is renowned for his work on leading organizational change. In 1995, when this article was first published, he had just completed a 10-year study of more than 100 companies that attempted such a transformation. Here he shares the results of his observations, outlining the eight largest errors that can doom these efforts and explaining the general lessons that encourage success.
From the January 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review.