Important Theories of Change Management

So, you’re ready to get into change management. It’s not an easy field to work in, let alone to master. But, given that times change and with them technologies and philosophies must also change, you as a change manager can help people by making this process less painful and more time saving. You have a calling, but, how is your grasp of the theories of change management?

See, there are several theories of change management which are widely adopted by professionals at large, and each have their merits and their problems. While you’re surely going to build something more or less custom to your needs, the needs of the organization, and something that fits your philosophy … you have to base it on something scientific, right?

Well, let’s look at the three most widely employed theories or models, and see which one jives the best with how you think. I’ll be pointing out which is my favorite, but you may like a different one than I do, and that’s just fine.

#1 – Kurt Lewin’s Three Phase Model

Lewin, a German-American psychologist, pioneered social psychology and the fundamentals of change management quite some time ago, and in doing so, he developed the Lewin model.

Lewin’s model is a concept of repeating cycles of three phases. The first is the thaw phase, where you try to overcome resistance to change. Then, you implement the changes through training and education, and finally, you refreeze them, which means that you finalize the changes and make them policy.

This model is old, and it kind of burns a lot of time fighting resistance as a fixed cycle step, and it’s actually mostly deprecated in modern times. However, it’s the grandfather of most other theories, and as a result, it deserves its place on this list.

#2 – McKinsey’s 7-S Model

This one’s got less of an order and more of a faceted holistic structure where you can organize the aspects you need to address in any order that works for your approach. Each of the facets begins with an S, including shared value, strategy, structure, systems, style, staff and skills.

This model is very open ended and really presents itself as a template outright.

This one’s not that widely liked because it’s ambiguous and confusing, but it does serve as a good basis to build something more structured on, actually. I’ve seen a restructured version of the McKinsey model work pretty well.

#3 – Kotter’s Eight Step Model

I prefer this one, and most others do as well. John Kotter’s model is an eight step process that goes as follows:

Establish and drive up urgency for needing change, build a team dedicated to change, create vision and goals for change, communicate change needs, empower staff to implement changes themselves, create short term goals, maintain persistence, and finally, refreezing a la Lewin, by making changes permanent.

This is the easiest one to pick up, to understand and to implement. Most people like the Kotter model, and I, as I said, am one of them

So, when you’re going to work with affecting organizational changes, be sure you understand the theories of change management, and have a philosophy that you can actually ascribe to well.

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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