In 2022, change is the new normal. From politics to economics, all this disruption directly impacts the world of business, and there are two ways for business leaders to deal with this change; constantly adapt or stagnate and risk failure.
Within this climate, change management becomes helpful in business by supporting staff to prepare for change. But finding the best change management models can be tricky. How can you get the best overview on change management models, how do you find out which is the best for your company, and why is any of this critical to success?
Looking in detail at change models is a great start. Business leaders can choose by knowing the specifics of each change management model and how to implement them most effectively. First, let’s look at change management models within a business context.
What Are Change Management Models?
Change management is about creating a positive environment for the best employee experience to allow change. Change management models are different ways of coordinating or guiding this change management using a set formula based on several factors.
Why Are Change Management Models Important?
“When I hear the question today, “Why is change so hard?” I would almost turn it on its head and say, “Well, it shouldn’t be easy.” Because at some level, if you think of organizations, these are systems with people in them,” says Kirk Rieckhoff, senior Gartner partner.
The change management process is complex. It involves changes to entire business cultures, often made up of thousands of staff in several different departments, each with separate sub-cultures.
Without change management models, it would be tough to coordinate a specific strategic vision for the necessary organizational change process. And research clearly shows the need for the guidance and structure provided by change management models.
“The typical organization today has undertaken five major firmwide changes in the past three years — and nearly 75% expect to multiply the types of major change initiatives they will undertake in the next three years. Yet half of the change initiatives fail, and only 34% are a clear success,” according to Gartner.
Business leaders can use a change management model, which hones in on the relevant problem areas needing the most attention to reduce the time for completing this transition. A change management model focuses all available resources on these problem areas, reducing time and financial waste and increasing the chance of changes sticking.
Change Management Models As Essential Planning Tools
The most significant advantage of change management models is that they are excellent planning tools. Any change program must begin with all the factors taken into consideration. The main factors are:-
- Employee training
- Staff resources (roles, experience)
Change strategies must include these factors within a robust plan, complete with contingencies. Successful change initiatives occur when leaders have such elements and change management plans plot clear goals for all staff to see.
The Five Best Change Management Models, Theories, and Frameworks For 2022
Several change management models, theories, and frameworks are currently available. This number of options makes choosing the right one for your business and situation overwhelming.
One way of looking at each change management theory is to separate them into two types; soft, based on psychology and human behaviors, and hard, based on method, systems, and completing tasks. Knowing the details of each and the type can help you decide which is best or if a combination of more than one model is needed.
1. The McKinsey 7S model
Created by consultants at renowned business company McKinsey in the late 1970s, The McKinsey 7S model focuses on coordination rather than organizational structure. A map of interrelated factors assesses a company’s ability to implement change.
The model contains seven elements:
The change management strategy is essential for coordinating staff toward successful change management.
What does your strategic vision communicate to team members? Will it motivate them? What incentive is there for staff to make the dream a reality?
Part of the strategy must take staff interests to heart regarding their motivation to carry out the strategy and what obstacles they may face and present to achieving change.
How does size affect your company structure? Is there a sizeable administrative department that oversees many specialized departments? Is one small team of multi-skilled individuals forming the core of an SME?
Values held by individuals reflect the culture of a company. Individuals are promoting what values form the company’s culture, and what managers can do to measure these values and promote the most helpful values for success?
Necessary change leadership leads others to accept and carry out the change process.
Rewards lead to outward displays of staff values. Staff who represent excellent values receive paid holidays or other gifts. Seeing such staff members valued incentivizes other team members to emulate these values.
Another way to ensure shared values is through team charity projects. Such events reinforce values of altruism, thinking of others, and broader social engagement topics. Charity events can also increase professional bonding and strengthen relationships at the event planning and implementation stages.
Conversely, change initiatives fail when employees do not hold shared values as part of managing organizational change.
Roles are assessed and allocated as per the need for change.
What functions are needed? Who is coordinating the change management strategy? Do you already have staff members in these roles?
If not, would certain team members be suitable for promotion to these roles?
Does new talent need to be recruited to bring experience and new skills to existing staff? Can these new staff carry out adequate training to explain the new processes required for the change model?
When executives answer these questions, the correct staff are acquired to present the right skills for change.
More prominent aspects of a company, such as the systems, play a large part in change management models.
What systems are in place, and how do these need to be transformed to hit change goals?
How would the change strategy impact systems like lead generation, payroll, and logistics? How can potential obstacles be resolved?
Staff is the most significant obstacle and a powerful catalyst in change management models. This point is because organizational change is the most challenging type to achieve. Staff make or break a change management strategy via employee resistance, change ability, change desire, and shared values. Tapping into staff attitudes is essential to ensuring a successful implementation phase.
Would a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) responsibility matrix help ensure each team member takes their level of responsibility for implementing change?
Communication, relationships with managers, and knowing staff well are essential to working with the team to achieve change.
There are many ways to ensure open communication between team members and their managers, CEOs, and CIOs. Some of the most accessible and useful are:
Head of Change Feedback for each department, announced clearly to each team member, availability made accessible online at all times.
Online and physical methods of contacting various change coordinators to discuss various topics related to change. An open culture toward discussing the change strategy structure systems is also fundamental to achieving change.
Style is a little harder to analyze but refers to the type of work completed in your company.
What is the style of work for your company? Is it formal or informal? Is it generalized or specialized? How does the style of work affect change management strategy?
The McKinsey 7S model is a detailed, comprehensive, and easy-to-follow model. It encompasses both soft and hard aspects, so it should cover most aspects of change management for most types of business.
This model works best within a longer-term change management strategy. But it also contains many elements which encompass the scope for short-term wins. Therefore, the McKinsey 7S model can be helpful as a change management strategy for almost any period.
2. Bridges Transition Model
Developed by William Bridges more than thirty years ago, the Bridges transition model focuses on the human experience of processing and acting on change. This model is softer, more philosophical, and more human-oriented than some of the other models and is formed of three basic principles:-
Although it sounds somewhat philosophical, every ending is also a beginning. This point forms the first phase of the Bridges transition model. This phase represents the human act of accepting and managing loss. Within this stage, staff lose some things to a change management strategy and keep others.
It’s essential for those coordinating a change strategy to remember that it can be uncomfortable, even painful, for staff to leave behind the old way of doing things. Managers strengthen professional relationships and increase communication by outwardly acknowledging this.
Once the loss is accepted comes the next phase: the neutral zone. This zone is when the strategy has ensured the old culture is out, but the new culture is not in force.
This stage is the most critical stage of the transition period when staff is changing their deeply embedded beliefs and routines for completing tasks and what values they hold.
Significant concepts such as identity and sense of reality are confronted in this stage and re-aligned. New processes are created in each team member’s mind as the status quo is left behind or re-imagined.
New ways of understanding things, new values, and new attitudes all contribute to forming a new sense of the status quo. When change is well managed, staff members feel liberated and empowered as they begin to understand and act on their new role within a new system.
For some companies, the bridges transition model will help understand the employee experience of processing change. However, this model does not embody the changes needed to complete tasks allowing systems and structures to change. This model should be combined with a hard model to ensure success.
3. Kotter’s Change Management Theory
John Kotter, a Harvard business school professor, produced Kotter’s theory which focuses on soft themes like team member psychology and their experience of change. Kotter’s change model theory splits into eight stages.
- Motivate the team by creating an environment filled with a sense of urgency
- Build a guiding coalition, including all the right staff to plan, coordinate and carry out change
- Establish a clear vision and each accompanying change initiative
- Enlist a workforce of volunteers driven toward the same goal
- Identify any challenges or obstacles.
- Break goals into bite-size chunks and communicate successes little and often
- Maintain momentum, push harder after every successful implementation
- Ensure changes don’t dissolve over time by maintaining the new culture
Using these methods, a sense of urgency can lead to all staff implementing and maintaining the changes. The reason is that the team learns to deal with change in such a way that they come to symbolize over time and carry out these changes in a meaningful way.
Kotter’s change management theory aims for the completion of tasks, so it can be considered a hard model. There are some light elements of working with staff to achieve change, but these are only from the company’s perspective and make no effort to understand staff experience of the change process.
This model is intensive and could lead to high rates of staff burnout. Therefore, Kotter’s change management theory model is best for significant, drastic change within a change management strategy, where massive change needs to occur quickly.
Short-period change management strategies carried over a few months to offset the adverse effects on the business of Covid-19 are an example of this. Kotter’s change management framework is ideal for such situations.
4. Kübler-Ross Change Management Framework
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is the creator of the Kübler-Ross change management framework. This framework should be recognizable to many people as the change model used to explain the five stages of grief.
The grief processes are very similar to the psychological processes of change. This similarity makes the Kübler-Ross model helpful in working with team members’ experience of change and supporting them throughout their reaction to organizational change.
Shock and Denial
Upon the initial shock of disrupting the status quo, people often reject new information as a defensive response. At this point, morale is high.
Anger – Anger is a typical response when their organization begins implementing a change, which can lead to a dip in morale.
Bargaining – The natural reaction to an unwanted change is to plead for a compromise. Morale becomes very low.
Depression – Hopelessness can follow a period of extreme change, and depressive symptoms can result. Morale hits the lowest point.
Acceptance – On realization that the change is inevitable and people are powerless to prevent it, acceptance occurs. Morale rises
Change management strategies should encompass the Kübler-Ross change management model, as it is helpful for understanding team members’ experiences of change. When considered part of any change management process, the Kübler-Ross change curve, represented by a reverse bell curve, can help managers relate to the experiences of staff in reacting to change.
The limitation of this model is that it focuses solely on human experience and not on processes. For this reason, it is a soft model, and some businesses will need to use it alongside a hard model, especially in longer-term change strategies.
5. Lewin’s Change Management Model
Kurt Lewin, who produced this model in the 1950s. Lewin’s Change Management Model aims to achieve change through three stages:
Preparation stage. Look at how things operate to see what is needed for the desired results when changes occur. Communication is essential in this phase, as team members must be aware of what changes need to happen to prepare them for the subsequent steps.
Implementation stage. Implement required skills of staff needed for change to take place. Changes begin, and communication is again of very high significance as change is a complex process to handle for team members. Support must be available via communication channels at this critical phase.
Develop a strategy to ensure change sticks. Analyze the effect of the new changes and measure how close you are to achieving goals set at the unfreeze phase. This phase is part of an ongoing process to achieve success.
Like Kotter’s theory, Lewin’s change management model focuses on processes and methods and largely ignores the human experience of change. This point makes it a hard change management model. The hard status of this model means it is potentially more specialized but also limited in scope.
This theory works well alongside a soft model for longer-term change management strategies, but for short-term wins, this model can be perfect for achieving change quickly. Leaders must bear in mind that without a soft model monitoring employee experience to some level, adverse effects on employee retention and performance may occur due to burnout.
Other Change Management Models
If the most popular change management models described above do not fit your enterprise’s needs, there are other change management models to research and utilize if appropriate. Let’s look at the ADKAR change management model first.
Jeff Hiatt, founder of Prosci, formulated the ADKAR model based on five stages to achieve successful change. This model is a combination of hard and soft models.
Awareness – Make sure all team members know how significant change is for the company.
Desire – Create the motivation and incentive for everyone to want the change.
Knowledge – Give everyone the knowledge they need to carry out their part in creating change.
Ability – Provide adequate training required for all staff to make changes
Reinforcement – Ensure continuous improvement via ongoing training and support
Satir Change Model
Pioneered by therapist Virginia Satir, The Satir change model uses a soft lens to view change. Satir initially intended the model for studying how families go through the change process. It can be categorized into the following steps:
- Late Status Quo– The status of staff before change happens
- Resistance– The usual reaction when people first encounter a new change
- Chaos– Chaos and frustration caused by hesitation can result as the change begins.
- Integration– Most people start to accept the change as productivity resumes at pre-change levels.
- New Status Quo– Staff absorb the change and start demonstrating new business processes
Nudge theory is an exception to this list, as it is not a step-by-step model and does not involve any phases. Nudge theory is a top-down approach to implementing change via a certain mindset.
The idea is that staff are nudged in a direction to behave in a certain way to figure out their incentive or reason for wanting the change. This model is purely psychological, as it empathizes with a staff member’s experience.
When staff members establish what they will get from the changes, the need for change is fed back to them within a recommendation instead of a request or command. Staff then give feedback to their manager on their thoughts on how they feel about the ideas for change.
The nudge theory process can be complex for less experienced staff to implement, so it should be conducted under supervision to avoid confusion and frustration. However, the nudge theory can be helpful in particular companies with much experienced and specialized staff with specific roles to ensure they remain empowered and can voice their concerns and doubts directly before, during, and after the change.
Choosing The Right Change Management Model For Your Enterprise Needs
With the decision to go with one or more change management models, there is always room for experimentation and research. What may work for one company may not work for another. It is essential to thoroughly research what has worked for companies in the past and have a well-founded understanding of how your enterprise functions and what changes it needs.
Separating the change management models into ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ categories can help decide which model is suitable for any situation. For example, Lewin’s change management model can be placed into the ‘hard’ category as it is split into three simple phases and focuses on what needs to happen for change to succeed.
Conversely, the Kübler-Ross change management framework fits more into the soft category as it fits less into a step-by-step model due to its more open-ended focus on human psychology. For these reasons, the Kübler-Ross model is useful alongside other models in a longer-term change management process and the Lewin’s model in a shorter period.
To ensure success, combining two or more change management models is best. This combination methodically increases the chance of fulfilling change goals while engaging with the essential softer aspects of change: staff experience and psychology. This more holistic approach leads to better communication, staff relationships, accountability, and fulfillment of an initial vision for change.
How To Prepare For Change In The Digital Age
“People only begin to be open to accepting, embracing, and making a change when their mindset starts to shift from “this change is going to be difficult, costly, and weird” to “this change could be easy, rewarding, and normal.”
Erika Andersen, founder of Proteus International coaching firm
Change is something that our ancestors and even still living relatives were never used to. Thousands of years ago, change was seen as a threat to survival, as changes to social structures, weather, or relationships because these were all severe survival threats.
Many people several decades ago and still today do not move from where they were born, living in the same place and often doing the same job as their parents, reducing the frequency of change. Today, things are very different.
Change management models are essential to get by in modern life. Today, drastic change is commonplace in the social, political, and financial world that is constantly changing, month to month, even moment to moment. So how can we prepare for all this change in the digital age?
Organizational change often begins with the CEO of an enterprise and for this reason, let’s look at actions a CEO can follow. These steps ensure that employees demonstrate change through the practice of robust, effective, and compassionate leadership.
Agility is critical in today’s unpredictable market. China’s growth in all industries, Covid-19, and instability caused by the Russia-Ukraine war all contribute to a dynamic and complex business environment.
These factors mean that a CEO often has to prioritize and reprioritize many times to ensure the focus is correct for any given time. Leadership that regularly reprioritizes tasks can elicit negative attitudes from staff in the short term.
Still, long-term, this is essential to dealing with change quickly and effectively, earning staff respect over time. And this is a strength of such an approach.
2. Nurture Trust
Trust is the basis of good communication and is, therefore, the most valuable weapon against obstacles to change. Many businesses do not judge the trust in their products and services accurately.
“According to a recent study by the PwC, 87% of executives think that customers highly trust their companies when the actual number is just 30%.”
This gap highlights the need to assess, build and maintain trust between executives and their teams and customers as a basis for protecting against the negative impact of disruption caused by change.
3. Streamline Portfolios
In rapidly changing, pro-disruption times, it is often helpful to look at the portfolio and consider which companies are needed and appropriate, and which are not. This approach is an agile response to the unpredictability of change, and can safeguard against the loss of profits if CEOs sell some companies off for short-term gains to avoid long-term collapse.
Today, shareholders have a massive influence on company priorities and behaviors. Shareholders should assess portfolios and ensure everything is working for a company.
CEOs must ask themselves difficult questions such as “are we as successful as our competitors?” and “are our change investments making a return?”. Being humble and objective about the successes of other companies can reduce unpleasant surprises and ensure readiness for future disruptive change.
By following these steps, a CEO should ensure high agility and efficiency of resources. More than any other factor, CEOs must be honest about a company’s progress and react when needed to disruptions.
Communication with team members about a company’s status is also integral to a successful change response. With good communication, everything else often falls into place as intense dialogues promote strong team cohesion and mutual respect.
Employees: The Key To Organizational Change
Whether settling on one change management model, such as the method-oriented Lewin’s change management model, a softer model like Kotter’s theory or the Kübler-Ross framework, or a combination of several hard and soft models, employees make models work.
Although it is essential to choose the right change management frameworks, trust is not nurtured without strong leadership, training, and resources, making the change management model choice meaningless.
However, with experienced staff making the right decision about which change management model to utilize and trust from the team, powerful and effective change can occur as the late status quo transitions into the new status quo. This change can only happen if employees move through the processes and communication is strong throughout the process.
From planning a change strategy, the completion of process mapping, to implementation, and the subsequent maintenance of new changes–it’s a draining process on soft and hard resources. From finances to emotions, a lot will be taken out of a company when change rolls around.
Loss is a theme that comes up a lot in the softer models, as the staff is losing, even grieving an established routine they may cherish. This loss highlights the human impact of change, despite occurring in an environment where profits are essential and competition lurks around every corner.
For these reasons, there is no organizational change without personal change. But with solid communication comes strong trust and respect, potentially seeing a company through any disruption as employees point the way to successful change.
Continuous improvement is greeted with open arms by a loyal workforce. And all the investment in change returns a high yield when the correct change management model works for both company and staff.
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