Accelerate: Podcast Interview with John Kotter

“The 21st Century will force us all to evolve toward a fundamentally new form of organization.”

“Leadership is about setting a direction. It’s about creating a vision, empowering, and inspiring people to want to achieve the vision and enabling them to do so with energy and speed through an effective strategy. In its most basic sense, leadership is about mobilizing a group of people to jump into a better future.” John Kotter. XLR8


We’ve all heard the old song, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If you believe that, and run a business or want to advance your career, this interview will radically alter that philosophy. I met our special guest today at the SHRM National Conference in New Orleans in 2009. His keynote address at SHRM National was titled The Importance of Urgency — and that interview with Harvard Business School Professor and best-selling author, John P. Kotter remains on TotalPicture, because like most of his previous books, the interview is as relevant and timely today as when we recorded in 2009.

Dr. Kotter’s previous books include Leading Change and A Sense of Urgency. He is widely regarded as the world’s foremost authority on leadership and change. In recent years, Kotter and his firm, Kotter International, have helped numerous organizations, both public and private, build dual operating systems to drive growth and accelerate strategy.

I’m truly excited to have him back on the Leadership Channel of TotalPicture Radio to discuss his latest book, Accelerate, published by Harvard Business School Press. The book cover looks like a giant Twitter hashtag — with large block letters XLR8. You’ll find this interview in the Leadership Channel of TotalPicture Radio, and you can find numerous resources, videos, and information on the web at Joining in this discussion is CEO strategist David Dalka. John and David, thanks for joining me today.


  • John, Accelerate is based on the concept of building dual operating systems within companies. Give us some background to this approach.
  • What is the largest challenge in organizational structures today?
  • You assert that management and leadership are two different concepts, please elaborate…
  • Follow: Is it and not or as your matrix suggests?
  • Follow: Is management redefined often enough?
  • When you first came to HBS, strategy was not yet a mainstream discipline, are we still in a young & changing part of the strategy lifecycle?
  • History has examples of companies picking the wrong strategy consulting firm. Do companies select business strategy and change management firms properly? How
  • should they pick the right firms?
  • You state that the limits of hierarchy are systemic and often the challenge wrongly get blamed on people, please elaborate on this…
  • You have a chart that states Acceleration gets “stifled by a limited number of change leaders”, why are organizations not utilizing enough of these individuals?
  • You stated “We know of no way to deal with tens of millions of people regularly being thrown out of work and onto the job market” when discussing potential future forms of organizations. Don’t we have to solve that issue to create universal acceptance of change?

About John Kotter

Regarded by many as the authority on leadership and change, Dr. John P. Kotter is a New York Times best-selling author, award-winning business and management thought leader, business entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, and Harvard Professor. His ideas and books, as well as his company, Kotter International, have helped mobilize people around the world to better lead organizations and their own lives, in an era of increasingly rapid change.

Professor Kotter’s MIT and Harvard education laid the foundation for his life-long passion for educating, motivating and helping people. He became a member of the Harvard Business School faculty in 1972. By 1980, at the age of 33, Kotter was given tenure and a full Professorship—the youngest person ever to have received that award at the Business School. Over the past thirty years, his articles in The Harvard Business Review (HBR) have sold more reprints than any of the hundreds of distinguished authors who have written for that publication during that time period. Most recently, his HBR article “Accelerate!” won the 2012 McKinsey Award for the world’s most practical and groundbreaking thinking in the business/management arena. Today, he continues to deliver seminars in Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Programs, which are sometimes regarded as life-changing by his students.

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