Abstract The stability equations presented in this paper—formulated using the Ljapunov criterion—are characterized by the fact that any fundamental motion state of imperfect shells can be put into them in order to examine its kinetic stability. Using the established stability equations, specific analyses of the individual effects on the kinetic buckling loads can be performed. In view of the significance of the applied disturbance concept, it is intended to incorporate imperfections into the theory for perfect structures in a form as general as possible and to use them as disturbance-induced quantities of the perfect initial geometry. In order to be able to distinctly analyse the effects of quite different individual influences on the kinetic buckling loads, the respective portions are as well separated to prepare the numerical implementation. In doing so, a compact equation of work is obtained which—using the tensor calculus—permits a clear and very effective numerical implementation. The use of stability equations valid for shells of any geometry and suitable for a large variety of imperfections is demonstrated for a circular cylindrical shell with a bulge-type imperfection as an example.