Ironically, the only constant in life is change. And the same holds true for successful organizations.
Organizations must regularly change to remain competitive — or risk stagnating. But dealing with change ain’t easy! The more complex, large or established a business, the more difficult it is to disrupt the status quo.
This is where change management models come into play. These tried and true frameworks act as compasses, helping you navigate turbulent transitions and guide your team when adopting new processes.
So today, I’ll discuss eight change management frameworks you can use to weather the seasons of change while maximizing your return on investment. Choose the best model for your situation, and don’t be afraid to repurpose any of these templates to create a change management plan that works for you.
Click to jump ahead:
What is change management?
Change management is a strategy to facilitate and manage organizational change. These changes may happen for many reasons, spanning from external factors to internal tweaks or larger transitions.
Accordingly, change management models are a form of executive communication that provides theories, methodologies and strategies to help navigate transitional times, to encourage the adoption and success of any ch-ch-ch-ch-changes made. (Apologies for the onslaught of Bowie references to come).
Check out this change management infographic for more information:
Why is change management important?
Change management is vital to effectively handle transitions of all shapes and sizes, by helping teams adopt new methods successfully.
Without change management, transitional periods become even more costly and rocky. After all, people are hesitant to change their ways. And this resistance only leads to increased stress, decreased morale and dampened productivity — bad news all round.
So in essence, change management keeps your business viable, and helps you respond better to industry trends and shifting markets too. Following that, change management models provide the framework to initiate, implement, monitor and evaluate change, so all stakeholders can rest easier in the face of uncertainty.
What are the models of change management? (8 change management frameworks to use)
All set to start making some ch-ch-ch-ch-changes? Turn and face the strange with these eight change management models:
Lewin’s Change Management Model
First up is Lewin’s Change Management Model. This model is a simple-to-understand change management framework that uses an ice cube metaphor to describe the process. Pretty cool, huh?
(Yes, that was a joke. Kinda weak. My bad.)
As such, Lewin’s model consists of three phases: unfreezing, changing and refreezing.
- The Unfreezing Phase is the planning and preparation stage, wherein status quo operations must be disrupted. This period involves persuading folks on the need for change, and understanding why it must be done. For example, leaders should explain the logistics and benefits of an acquisition thoroughly before a merger begins.
- The Changing Phase is the actual implementation of new organizational processes and practices. Time and communication are key here, as this period guides employees through the change and helps overcome their resistance to it. Following our earlier example, this is where the logistics of a merger are ironed out, redundancies eliminated and concerns actioned.
- The Refreezing Phase is the time after implementation, when a “new normal” sets in. A sense of stability should emerge as changes are institutionalized, new benefits are realized and employee confidence rebounds. A telltale sign is when organizational charts and job descriptions solidify.
This model tends to work best when all senior management is supportive and organizational or team-wide changes are needed.
Check out this change management model infographic for a helpful explanation.
You can use this template to educate employees and other stakeholders about the process too.
McKinsey’s 7S Change Management Model
The McKinsey’s 7S Model is a change management framework that views change as an interconnected process affecting all other aspects of the workplace — strategy, structure, systems, skills, style, staff and shared values — in a unidirectional and equal fashion. It’s designed to help leadership ensure the organization is set up to succeed on all fronts, and acknowledge the domino effect change often has.
Check out the infographic below to see a visual representation of this system.
Note how the shared values (or organizational values) category is placed at the epicenter of all. This is because they’re integral to the overall company culture and everything that transpires within.
Let’s discuss each:
- Strategy is the plan of action which determines what is needed to carry out change, realize any benefits and gain a competitive edge.
- Structure refers to the chain of command and systems of accountability in place that help an organization deal with change-related confusion and chaos.
- Systems involve the business processes and protocols, established workflows and standard operating procedures (SOPs) for day-to-day tasks that are impacted by the change.
- Skills centers around the ability of employees to complete tasks so the organization remains operationally successful. This may include identifying and compensating for any skills gaps, for example.
- Style pertains to the management style of leaders and its effect on decision-making. Any strategies developed for instituting change are heavily influenced by this element. For example, decisions around how management will explain changes apply here (i.e. will they use visuals to relay their change management plan?)
- Staff focuses on employees and their performance within the organization.
- Shared Values refers to the overarching beliefs or principles that guide the actions of all involved; they are often reflected in an organization’s culture.
The Mckinsey 7S model is best suited for company-wide changes that require a holistic approach. By analyzing how these elements interact and affect one another, this framework helps your company identify misaligned areas and stay balanced.
Kotter’s Change Management Model
Kotter’s change management framework is a guiding checklist that helps organizations successfully implement change from the top down.
Below is an infographic explaining Kotter’s eight aspects of change management that you and your change team can reference.
As shown, Kotter’s theory defines eight distinct phases:
- Create a sense of urgency. In order to initiate change, leaders and managers must get the ball rolling by making a compelling case for it.
- Form a change team. This step involves identifying change leaders and establishing a coalition to facilitate the process.
- Create a strategic vision for change. The next step is about formulating a clear, concise and understandable statement regarding how the change will be carried out. This may involve emotional appeals or creative elements as well.
- Communicate this vision. Now it’s time to talk the talk and walk the walk, embedding this strategic vision into every action the organization takes. Incorporating visuals into your communications is a great tactic for this step (see below).
- Remove barriers to change. It’s important to acknowledge the many roadblocks on the way to true change — everything from emotional resistance to physical obstacles and logistical challenges. Here, the change team should listen to feedback and help others understand what is happening.
- Build off short-term wins. Demonstrating the benefits of a change early on increases likelihood of acceptance. Use low-hanging fruit to substantiate any decisions made. If the goal was to increase productivity, for example, you could start conducting weekly reviews of the work being done.
- Maintain momentum. As the process continues, keep delivering on those benefits and reinforcing the changes through continuous reflection and communication.
- Anchor change. With the benefits of change now realized and accepted, it’s time to permanently embed change by instituting it through policies, procedures and guidelines.
ADKAR Change Management Model
In contrast to other change management frameworks, the ADKAR model guides change at the individual, rather than organizational, level. It takes a ground-up approach, putting the focus on the people behind the change instead.
‘ADKAR’ is an acronym that stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. Each represents a goal to be realized by the company on the pathway to change.
I’ll explain the five elements below. But first, here’s a flowchart you can reference:
If you want to apply it to your own change case, simply swap out any visual elements (including text, icons and colors) using Venngage’s Chart Maker. With a Venngage Business account, you can keep your branding on-point too, using our automated My Brand Kit. This feature automatically adjusts the color palette to suit your unique brand guidelines.
Let’s review the stages:
- Awareness: This stage includes gaining a shared understanding of the issue facing the organization and why change needs to happen.
- Desire: This stage highlights the reason why change is imperative.
- Knowledge: This aspect refers to the knowledge needed to understand and manage changes once enacted. Providing information and training is key here.
- Ability: Distinct from knowledge, ability is the act of putting the knowledge of how to deal with change into practice.
- Reinforcement: In order to sustain the change, the reinforcement phase ensures changes are upheld through rewards, routines, recognition and reflection.
For more info, check below for a presentation on the ADKAR Model you can use. It goes in-depth to explain this particular change management framework, using icons and color to break up the text and promote retention.
The ADKAR framework limits resistance from employees by centering them, valuing their input and providing support each step of the way. This model tends to work best for implementing smaller changes so daily routines aren’t disrupted.
Here’s another visual aid you can use:
Nudge Theory of Change Management
Fancy a little psychological warfare?
Kidding. But there is a method for getting your workforce onboard with change organically — all you need to do is leverage their cognitive biases.
Enter the Nudge Theory, or Model, of change management.
This framework does exactly what it sounds like, nudging people in the direction of the desired change and helping them see the need for it themselves. It’s an approach that works to limit resistance by helping employees feel a part of the change process without enforcing their participation.
(And that’s on behavioral economics.)
There are several steps comprising the Nudge theory:
- Define the outcome: Pinpoint exactly what you’re trying to achieve and how. For example, increasing collaboration by increasing face-to-face team communications.
- Identify obstacles and existing nudges: consider what elements are at play that would hamper their ability to participate in your desired change. For example, remote workers, varied schedules and tasks and consistent workloads.
- Consider employees’ points of view: Ask what benefits they would receive from the change, and angle it to your advantage. This lays the foundation for future nudging efforts. For example, employees’ individual projects would benefit from more input, and team morale would increase significantly.
- Remove any obstacles if possible: If you can, clear the way for your desired change. For example, block off time periods where employees can meet virtually.
- Start nudging: Provide evidence showing that a particular solution is the best option above all else. For example, share resources for departmental collaboration, suggest a multi-part activity during team meetings.
- Present change as a choice: Allow employees to choose the option they’d prefer — knowing full well the advantages of your preferred
- Review and adapt: Measure the success of your desired outcome, listening to feedback and adjusting your approach where necessary.
Bridges Transition Model
Similar to the ADKAR Model, the Bridges Transition Model centers employees. This process for change management maps out the human response to change throughout three distinct stages of transition.
Endings – Most changes paradoxically begin with an ending (when one door closes, another one opens, feel me?). In this stage, people figure out what they’re losing and consider how to manage those losses, such as processes, workplace arrangements and/or team members.
Neutral Zone – This zone is at the very crux of the transition process, when old methods give way but new ones aren’t yet set in stone. People are in flux, learning what their new roles and responsibilities will be as new beginnings take form. Confusion abounds.
New Beginnings – After a period of uncertainty, new understandings and attitudes evolve. Employees feel renewed purpose and are ready to contribute to the success of their organization’s fresh start.
For more in-depth information on each stage, check out the slides in this presentation:
Wondering what is the transition management process? The Bridges Model can be broken down further into five steps:
- As an employee-centered approach, the first step is to communicate the change to employees and gather information from those affected so you can understand their concerns.
- Next, assess your organizational readiness for change, looking at external and internal factors; a SWOT analysis really comes in handy here.
- Communicate with team leads about how changes will be felt on an individual level, so they can offer support and manage the transition effectively.
- As employees progress through each stage, be sure to monitor their progress so you can keep track of their journey and any roadblocks.
- With organizational changes now adopted, make each individual aware of their importance to the organization, and how they’ve contributed to the transition’s overall success.
Looking for a one-page solution to break down this complex information? This change management process infographic will help you visualize each stage and the steps involved.
With Venngage, it’s easy to share and collaborate on documents like this with real-time Team Collaboration. You can leave comments to make suggestions or clarify any discrepancies, so your change management team stays up-to-date.
Kübler-Ross Change Curve Model
Ever heard of the five stages of grief?
If you haven’t, they look a little something like this.
Adapted from Kübler-Ross’s therapeutic model, this change management framework helps leaders empathize with the emotional impacts of organizational change. As a result, they’ll be better equipped to handle employees’ reactions and concerns as they move through each stage.
The visual aid below illustrates these adapted phases. Read on for an explanation of each…
- Shock: Once informed of the change, employees may be in disbelief. After a round of layoffs are announced, for example, employees might not know how to respond or what to do.
- Denial: During this stage, employees’ emotional defenses go up. They may refuse to acknowledge or accept the changes, rebuffing any attempts to proceed and redoubling their efforts towards old processes. For example, employees may refuse to take on leftover responsibilities (or at the very least, deprioritize them).
- Frustration: At the point when changes begin to take place, employees may feel an overwhelming sense of frustration that they cannot fight the change or don’t know how to integrate new processes into existing work. Resistance is at an all-time high, and they’re not afraid to voice concerns to others.
- Depression: Feeling dismayed or low energy altogether, this phase signifies the lowest point emotionally for employees, as they realize the change is here to stay. Productivity and morale are heavily affected.
- Experiment: Here, employees may begin to engage with the change once the benefits have been outlined and their input has been considered. In our example, strategic restructuring has started and staff have altered their routines to adapt.
- Decision: At this stage, employees become more engaged as the change is seen as a challenge, rather than something to be avoided at all costs. Productivity and morale rebound.
- Integration: Finally, the change is accepted for what it is and integrated into existing patterns and behaviors. The distribution of organizational responsibilities stabilize as new processes are made concrete.
To further your understanding, here’s an infographic:
Keep in mind that not everyone will experience all seven stages. However, this framework is a great starting point for acknowledging employees’ perspectives and leveling with them.
Unlike other change management models, the PDCA cycle is formally recognized as a continuous solution for managing change. The acronym stands for “Plan, Do, Check, Act”, with four steps designed to work in a loop:
- Planning. This phase involves identifying any shortcomings in organizational processes, and developing potential solutions to improve upon them.
- Doing. In this stage, solutions for change are implemented on a small scale to observe effects while minimizing any risks.
- Checking. It’s time to benchmark any progress and consider the outcomes of the change. If effective, continue on to the next phase. If not, restart the cycle at the planning stage again to find better options.
- Action. Once you’ve seen evidence that the solution works, implement the change company-wide.
The PDCA model is commonly used to identify and solve problems in products, services and systems or optimize processes that aren’t quite satisfactory. It helps organizations view change management as a tool for continual improvement and growth.
All set to start cycling? Add visual interest to your business communications with this process infographic.
Change Management FAQ
What are the 7Rs of change management models in organizations?
The 7Rs of change management models pertain to seven questions you can use to assess change-related risks and the effectiveness of change management processes.
- Raised: Who wants to execute the change?
- Reason: What’s the underlying reason for suggesting a change?
- Return: What is the expected return, or benefit, from the change?
- Risk: What are the risks involved once the business starts implementing the change?
- Resource: What resources are needed to deliver on the change?
- Responsibility: Who is responsible for implementing the change at various stages?
- Relationship: What is the relationship between this change and any other suggested changes?
What are the five steps to change management?
Despite their differences, most change management models contain some version of the following five steps:
- Planning and preparing the organization for change
- Crafting a strategic vision for the change
- Implementing the change
- Reviewing the effectiveness of the change and impact on employees and processes
- Reinforcing the change through routines, rewards and recognition
Ensure an effective transition with these change management models today
Change management is a challenging period for any business. But when planned well and handled effectively, it can yield incredibly rewarding results.
The bottom line: choose the right change management model that’ll help you strategize effectively, and watch your organization and employees grow accordingly.
Ready to get stakeholders onboard, so you can educate them on the benefits of change? Venngage has thousands of executive communication solutions and change management models you can use to convey the process and benefits of organizational ch-ch-changes in an engaging, visually-stimulating way.