Change Management Christopher SmithAugust 15, 2018

How Do Change Management Theories Help Organizations?

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How Do Change Management Theories Help Organizations?

There are many change management models that can help organizations undergo transitions. Each brings unique challenges, but nonetheless change management theory can be leveraged to meet critical business objectives.

Change is hardly a one-size-fits-all approach, so adapting elements of different models to your current circumstances is a great approach. Successful change initiatives incorporate multiple philosophies from different models, extracting points that benefit organizational culture.

Change management theory is a spectrum, but there are some common factors to consider on route to positive organizational outcomes:

What Are Common Factors for Successful Change?


Change management plans underline the overall scope of change. They help you establish a clear vision, but should be readily adaptable to evolving circumstances.

In its simplest form, a change management plan addresses: where you are now, where you’re going, and how you’ll get there. By addressing these three points with in-depth analysis, you’ll be better equipped to implement beneficial change.

Effective Communication

You can have the best change management plan in the world, but if it’s not communicated with staff it will fall on deaf ears. Your change project should be communicated with all invested parties, while listening out for valuable contributions from staff.

Executives must clearly communicate goals with management, who are the main point of contact with frontline staff.


A passionate leader will be required to drive change, because otherwise staff will be unconvinced of its importance. A committed leader will manage the activities and mechanisms responsible for change, and will generate a real sense of purpose throughout.

Empathizing With Staff

If staff aren’t on board with your initiatives, they’ll be doomed to failure. As a team leader, you should understand individual staff concerns, while seeing things from their perspective.

If you genuinely relate with employees, prioritizing staff well-being, they’ll be more likely to embrace change. Ensure you engage effectively to the extent you understand staff feelings, and provide support to help staff accept something new.

What Questions Should You Ask Before Implementing Change?

There are various questions to ask yourself and your team before initiating changes.

Addressing issues before they arise is a great way to deal with future occurrences, since you’ll be ready to respond to problems having identified them from the beginning. It is this level of pre-planning that helps you reduce risk and be well-prepared.

  • Is the reason for change understood?
  • Do leadership sponsor the change?
  • Is there evidence to support it?
  • Have we identified common barriers?
  • Have we engaged the right people?
  • Have we included the steps necessary to sustain change?
  • Does our plan describe how we will reach our goal?

Change Management Theory: The Four Main Models

There are four main pieces of change management theory that collectively represent the main body of work in the field.

By learning the philosophies outlined below, you can bring structure to your change projects, and implement changes that extend beyond short-term goals. By taking heed from these models, change will ultimately become embedded at the very core of your organization.

Lewin’s Freeze Phases

Psychologist Kurt Lewin once developed a model for change which is still relevant today. The underlying principles encapsulate the change environments in modern industry.

This has been the basis for subsequent change management theory, and is based on freezing and unfreezing.

The model states change involves a transition from a fixed state, through various stages, then inevitably back to a fixed state. The three-stage process involves:

  • A frozen state
  • An activity phase
  • Refreezing back to a frozen state

It is during the activity phase when change managers prove their worth. This is when staff react and adjust to change, before accepting it as the norm.

Kotter’s Eight-Step Strategy

Kotter’s Eight Step Strategy is as follows:

  1. Garner a sense of urgency
  2. Create a guiding coalition
  3. Establish a vision and strategy
  4. Communicate change vision
  5. Empower employees
  6. Generate short-term wins
  7. Consolidate benefits
  8. Anchor new cultural approaches

The Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle

This accurately assesses emotional changes when people experience bad news. It is a behavioral approach that extends beyond statistics, instead analyzing change from a psychological standpoint.

This is a great initiative when you consider it is human nature to reject anything that threatens your current environment, especially when it’s something you’ve grown accustomed to.

The model maps likely responses when major changes are announced, with expectancy it will be received badly. They highlight the emotional terrain staff will experience, outlining the importance of compassionate leadership during the early stages of change implementation.

The Prosci ADKAR Model

This is a simple and practical model that’s based on incremental change. This is useful when you consider too often change initiatives fail when organizations try to do too much, too quickly.

By hitting short-term targets, businesses can slowly realize benefits, and employees can adjust to processes at their own speed instead of being overwhelmed.

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