The Best Organizational Change Models in the Digital Age

Organizational change models are frameworks that help change managers understand, implement, and improve their change projects.

However, like every other business discipline, change management is changing.

Many of the most popular change models were created years or decades ago – before the start of the digital age.

In this article, we’ll explore:

  • What organizational change models are
  • A few of the most popular change models
  • How digital transformation is impacting these change models

Let’s start at the beginning…

What Are Organizational Change Models?

Organizational change models are also called change management models, change management frameworks, change management methods, or other similar names.

These models perform a few functions:

  • Offer insight into group dynamics and group psychology.
  • Provide a practical action plan for implementing change.
  • Focus heavily on change at the individual level.
  • Aim to overcome common obstacles to change and mitigate risk.

Now, let’s look at some of the most popular change models.

Kurt Lewin’s Change Model

Kurt Lewin is considered by many to be the forefather of change management. 

He developed a very simple – yet powerful – change model that describes every organizational change process:

  • Unfreeze – The first step for any organizational change process. Businesses must remove old habits, processes, and procedures.
  • Transition – During this stage, groups are in between the previous state and the desired state. This is the stage when things are most uncertain.
  • Freeze – Finally, businesses must institute their changed processes. They must take active steps to ensure that these new processes stick.

For decades, this model has informed other organizational change frameworks.

Due to its simplicity, it is very easy to understand and apply.

However, in subsequent years, other change management models have risen to prominence.

John Kotter’s Change Model

John Kotter’s 8-step change model is one of the most famous models in the change management industry.

Its stages include:

  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Build a guiding coalition
  • Form a strategic vision and initiatives
  • Enlist a volunteer army
  • Enable action by removing barriers
  • Generate short-term wins
  • Sustain acceleration
  • Institute change

What distinguishes this model from Lewin’s model is its practicality.

While the Lewin model is more theoretical, Kotter’s is meant to be applied.

The ADKAR Model

Developed by Prosci founder Jeff Hiatt, the ADKAR model is also a practical model.

It consists of 5 stages:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to support the change
  • Knowledge of how to change
  • Ability to demonstrate skills and behavior
  • Reinforcement to make the change stick

Prosci’s model is a good choice for businesses that want a straightforward model built around individual change.

However, one thing that all these models have in common is their focus on individuals and groups.

In today’s digital economy, some people question these models’ relevance.

Are they still valid in such a fast-paced world?

Or should we change the way we think about change management?

How Organizational Change Is Changing in the Digital Age

Humans still design, operate, and lead businesses. 

And as long as they do so, these change models will stay relevant and useful.

However, it is clear that digital technology has transformed our world.

Computers, the internet, and mobile technology have all changed the way we work and live.

They have also impacted business disciplines and processes – change management included.

Here are a few ways that technology is impacting organizational change models:

  • Data drives insights, predictions, and decision-making. Data offers exceptional insights into change management projects. It can be used to predict project outcomes, measure progress, predict team synergies, and much more. Ultimately, change projects that are data-driven outperform those that aren’t.
  • Agile, lean, and other new business models have impacted change management. Agile change management is derived from agile software development. This business approach is more flexible and adaptable than traditional approaches to management or development. In today’s marketplace, such adaptable approaches are quickly gaining popularity.
  • Continual change is replacing discrete change. The change models mentioned above are based around discrete projects. That is, they are designed to execute change projects that have beginnings, middles, and ends. However, in an economy that constantly changes, continual change is a requirement.
  • New tools are improving change management projects. New software solutions, such as digital adoption platforms and project management tools, are also impacting change management. When used in conjunction with change management frameworks, these tools streamline projects and improve project outcomes across the board.

It is highly likely that in the coming years and decades, new change models will emerge.

Agile change management, for example, may become the seeds for new change frameworks.

Today, however, businesses should focus on what works: organizational change models that are built upon individual change. 

And, to get the best results, they should make use of the latest tools, technology, and platforms.

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.