Main Change Management Approaches to be Aware of

When asked about change management approaches, the first thing that most likely comes to your mind are change management models, such as the Lewin or Kotter models, etc. Well, those are part of your change management approach, but that’s only part of it. Well, sort of. You see, this is a different concept from the model, but at the same time, it’s not. It’s complicated and a bit ambiguous.

So, rather than try to define it and examine it as such, what I’m going to do is just sidestep this confusing ambiguity by pointing out three approaches, and suggesting what models best reflect it. I think this is a more homeopathic way to look at this, and to help you understand the nature of approach versus model, and how they work together.

If this doesn’t work, then I’m remiss for a better way to handle this particular topic, alas. It would seem that most of my colleagues are in the same boat, and chalk it up to “some things just can’t be explained readily”, at which point, they just shrug.

#1 – Human-Centric Approach

A human-centric approach doesn’t differentiate from others as a result of other approaches not presenting the human element as important. Rather, this is simply a case of the human element in technique, priority and order of operations as the first approach.

This means that your first order of business for each step or phase is going to be selling people on changes, and dealing with their reactions to change in the long haul. The Lewin model, which is the oldest model out there, is probably going to be your best base model to work with.

The Lewin model is very basic, and works on a three-phase cycle of unfreezing resistance, applying changes, and then refreezing people to adhere to the new changes made.

You will want to make some modifications to flesh out the Lewin model, though, as it is too basic for modernity.

#2 – Procedure-Centric Approach

This approach means that while the human element is important, decisions aren’t made based on its prioritization as much as logistics, analytics and technical goals. Human elements are approached second, as damage control. This can sound a bit uncomfortable or totalitarian, but there are often situations (especially where it’s time-sensitive), where this is kind of a necessity.

The Kotter model works well for this, due to its procedural nature and its given inherent balance of priorities.

#3 – Unfixed Approach

This is an approach you’re rarely going to see, where applying change has no fixed goals or strategies exactly. This is most seen in situations of damage control in response to issues, while trying to operate nominally during change.

In this kind of approach, goals are constantly shifting, and progress is harder to track. The Kotter model or the Lewin model either one theoretically works in this situation, but not without some modification. It is best to use the human element handling of Lewin in tandem with the procedural nature of Kotter (while omitting the rigidity of Kotter’s “never skip a step”) to handle this situation.

So, now perhaps you see, through demonstration, what distinguishes change management approaches from change management models, but in the same sense, see how they are not mutually exclusive nor can they truly stand apart. I hope I’ve established some disambiguation.

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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