Change management models serve as metaphorical compasses that help guide an organization through the often difficult process of change. The primary objective of these models is securing employee buy-in because, without it, the initiative is likely to fail.
For the remainder of this article, we’ll discuss five of the most popular change management models in use today. Each provides its own take on the process of change with numerous concepts, theories, and methodologies.
Kotter’s change management model was created by Harvard Business School Professor John P. Kotter. The model is an eight-step approach that focuses on building enthusiasm for the change and helping employees understand why it needs to occur.
However, Kotter’s model does not account for employee feedback. This means it may be more suitable for larger companies where the consequences of alienating a few staff are less severe.
Briefly, the eight steps of the model include:
- Create a sense of urgency.
- Assemble the change team.
- Formulate a strategic vision.
- Communication the vision to stakeholders.
- Remove potential barriers to change.
- Focus on short-term wins.
- Build and maintain momentum, and
- Institute the change.
The McKinsey 7-S model was developed by McKinsey Company consultants Tom Peters, Julien Philips, and Robert Waterman in the 1980s. Since its release, the model has been widely accepted by academics, practitioners, and businesses alike.
The McKinsey model is a more complex interpretation of change management that emphasizes human resources instead of production factors such as capital or infrastructure. As a result, it is also better suited to larger organizations.
The seven interconnected elements of the model include:
- Strategy, and
- Shared values.
Lewin’s change management model
The three steps, which Lewin believes explain the process of change, include:
- Unfreezing – to facilitate employee buy-in, each must be made aware of how the status quo is hindering the company and what is proposed to be done about it. Wherever possible, leaders must also explain the logic behind the change and how it can personally benefit employees.
- Changing – where the company implements the change and transforms or transitions to a new state. This step is marked by fear, uncertainty, and anxiousness. To ensure the change process moves to the third step, it’s important to repeat the benefits of upsetting the status quo.
- Refreezing – to ensure the change becomes the new status quo, it should be solidified, reinforced, and stabilized across the organization. This helps employees avoid falling back into old habits.
Bridges’ transition model
Bridges’ transition model was developed by William Bridges, an organizational consultant who posited that individuals should be supported and guided through the transition process.
Like Lewin’s interpretation, there are also three defined stages:
- Ending, losing, and letting go – when many first hear about a planned transition, they react with a host of negative emotions. These emotions should not be denied or invalidated by leaders. Instead, it is important to reassure the employee and remind them that their skills are still relevant and valuable under the new status quo.
- The neutral zone – as the change occurs, employees may find adapting difficult and reminisce about simpler, less stressful times. There can be resentment, skepticism, and low morale. Leaders must encourage their subordinates to remain persistent and see the change through to the end.
- The new beginning – eventually, employees begin to settle in to the new way of operating and see a reward for their effort. The negative emotions experienced in step one are replaced with joy, hope, and optimism for the future.
Nudge theory is somewhat different to the other change management models in this list. Instead of providing a step-by-step framework, it emphasizes finding a way to move employees toward wanting to change on their own.
Nudge theory is mainly credited to American academics Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein. The pair based their theory on research by psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman around heuristics, which are faulty systems of thinking that arise from habits, conditioning, and other weaknesses. By overcoming these systems, change can be more warmly embraced, accepted, and then implemented.
- Change management models serve as metaphorical compasses that help guide an organization through the often difficult process of change.
- Kotter’s change management model is an eight-step approach that focuses on building enthusiasm for the change and helping employees understand why it needs to occur. The popular McKinsey 7-S framework, on the other hand, takes a more human-centric approach to managing change.
- Other change management models include Lewin’s change management model, Bridges’ transition model, and Nudge theory. The latter is less a methodical approach and more one that is based on negative thinking systems.
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