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Change Management Models

13 Aug 2021

Wooden block letters with the inscription "Be the change".

There is no denying the inevitability of change in a business environment, given how fast new technology emerges, industries progress, and present events shift. As such, your business must evolve to survive by embracing organizational change. However, change is rarely easy, and implementing modifications can become more challenging if your business is large and complex.

Consequently, every company needs a strategic and practical approach to institute genuine transformational change. Therefore, a change management plan is vital to make the process of change more effective.

What Is Change Management?

Although definitions may vary, change management generally refers to how companies and teams implement organizational change. Change is often referred to as the only constant, and managing this change well is an ever-evolving process involving all of an organization's members. 

As such, companies rely on this proven methodology to help them implement significant transformation or a set of changes effectively. As per the Havard Business reviews, the goal of change management is to cope with a newer and more challenging market by altering the way business is conducted. Indeed, successfully implementing all your intended changes and satisfying all your intended objectives is what matters in the end. 

To better adapt to new trends, you can use change management to transform your internal and external processes, including your business environment, workflow, job roles, available technology, and organizational structure. However, successful change management rests on establishing the proper steps towards the process and preparing and supporting your employees to embrace the new additions. You must also monitor activities pre and post-change processes to ensure success.

What Types Of Change Management Models Are There?

As the need to make changes becomes obvious, your company must outline the best steps towards successful organizational change management. Approaching change from a chance perspective is a considerable risk, and many change projects undertaken this way soon fail. However, by looking at successful change management examples, you can significantly increase your odds of successful change.

Consequently, your organization needs practical change management models to offer specific guidelines to assist it in planning and implementing change. Change management models are methodologies, concepts, and theories that outline a thorough approach to organizational change. These models act as a guide to making changes and staying on top of the transformation process. 

Change management models also ensure that the change is widely accepted, put into practice, and solidified as the new norm. Each model adopts a unique approach to bringing about transformations and, most importantly, making them stick. Various change management models exist, and you can select one from the over ten models for managing change if this approach fits your business structure better.

On the other hand, you can mix and match concepts from multiple models to achieve a more desired effect. Some of the tried and tested change management processes that are popular with businesses include:

  • Kotter’s Theory of Change Management

  • Lewin’s Change Management Model. Kurt Lewin’s model has three stages, namely unfreezing your current process, change, and refreezing.

  • The McKinsey 7-S Model

  • Bridges' Transition Model by William Bridges. The model has three stages: ending, losing, and letting go, the neutral zone, and the new beginning.

  • Nudge Theory

  • Kübler-Ross Change Curve

  • ADKAR Change Management Model

  • Satir Change Management Model. The Satir Model describes how individuals move from the late status quo to the new status quo


  • Deming Cycle (PDCA). PDCA  is a four-step model for change that stands for plan, do, check, act. It is geared towards improving control and continuous improvement of selecting which changes to implement.

  • Maurer 3 Levels of Resistance and Change Model

How Does A Change Management Model Help An Organization Manage Changes?

Change management models are highly influential in helping companies manage their organizational changes. However, many experts agree that to enjoy the genuine benefits of the change, and you will need to manage it properly. 

Thankfully, change combines context, content, purpose, people, and processes, so recognizing the process this way is the all-important first step towards maximizing the possible benefits of change management. Adopting the suitable change management model can help your organization launch change initiatives and manage them properly in several ways, including:

  • Forecasting

Change models can predict the process change will take and prepare all your employees for this. Therefore, change models offer a structure that gives employees a sense that any change is manageable, allowing your workers to normalize their experience. Also, adopting a change management model makes it likely for employee performance to increase since workers feel supported and understand the new status quo easily.

  • Helps Measure Results

No effective change can occur if intended results and ways to measure them aren't outlined. Thankfully, change models require organizations to set clear objectives, create schedules, and negotiate their budgets. After implementing these models, you have baseline goals against which you can measure any experience.

Change management models offer a great way to measure how your employees manage the transformation and what interventions can be helpful. Also, these models may provide opportunities to measure professional efficacy to determine how effectively your workers have applied new practices and technology. Furthermore, you can also measure budgets, time, and rate change is being adopted.

  • Increases Accountability During The Change Process

Change management models outline and simplify processes in ways that all stakeholders can understand. Also, these methodologies create the intention for changing the current state that enables people to consider their roles in the process, holding them accountable for their transitions. Failure to use a change model increases the likelihood of not achieving the intended transformations or partly achieving them, so this accountability is crucial to help organizations manage change better.

  • Increase In Confidence

Significant changes in a company, such as alterations to the organizational structure, can make some periods in the change process overwhelming. However, change models can help people make sense of times that seem chaotic and out of control. In addition, people in an organization are more confident talking to others about change when a reliable change management model exists.

  • Less Resistance

Change models can also identify possible resistance areas and implement strategies specifically formulated to lower or eliminate resistance even before the change process starts. 

  • Shared Approach

Change management models offer a shared approach to managing change in large organizations. Also, these models provide a focus for every change management activity and align resources within the organization to achieve transformation.

  • Role Clarification

It is no secret that change models engage various professional roles and offer accountability for each person’s role in the efficacy of the change process. These roles include learning and development professionals, executives and top management, human resources, supervisors, and communication experts. As such, change models clarify the roles of each person from the top-down, so everyone knows when they are needed.

  • Enhances Communication

Effective communication has always been a critical aspect of clarity. Therefore, your teams must be aware of each other's responsibilities and roles for collaboration's sake. These teams must also have an established, transparent process to make their needs understood.

Consequently, communication is a crucial aspect of change management. As such, change management teams will spend a lot of time drafting communication plans for implementation while offering other stakeholders opportunities to ask relevant questions and express their concerns. 

This enhanced communication strategy can be crucial during the planning stage since change managers can gain more knowledge and learn about different priorities and interests early on. In addition, open communication between departments and teams deepens collaboration, increasing the likelihood that the organization will navigate future projects and targets more easily.

What Is The Difference Between Linear And Agile Change Management Models?

Agile and linear, also known as the traditional or waterfall approach, are two popular development and project management approaches. Both perspectives also differ significantly regarding the way through which they facilitate change management. 

Under the linear change management model, projects run in a sequential cycle. This concept is heavily reliant on predictable experiences and tools. Every project follows the same life cycle, with feasibility, planning, designing, creating, testing, production, and support stages.

Furthermore, all projects under the linear model are planned upfront without any scope for altering requirements. In addition, this approach assumes that cost and times are variable while requirements remain fixed.  This model's rigidity is the main reason why experts do not recommend it for large projects because it leaves no room for changing the conditions once you begin your projects.

On the other hand, agile project management prioritizes flexibility, teamwork, and customer collaboration, a sharp contrast from the linear approach where cost, time, scope, and other factors are of more importance. Also, all tasks and schedules under the agile approach are replaced by time boxes known as sprints. Every sprint has a set timeframe and a deliverable list prioritized according to business value. Also, sprints assist teams in dealing with changes and developments more flexibly. Furthermore, feedback is crucial under the agile method, and transparency increases since the entire team plans and shares ownership of the project, so everyone knows about the project's progress.

Wooden block letters with the inscription "Decide, commit, repeat".

5 Change Management Models

Kotter’s Change Management Model

A Harvard Professor and change management expert, John Kotter developed Kotter's 8-step change model after surveying more than 100 organizations undergoing change. Kotter's theory focuses primarily on the people experiencing a significant organizational change and their psychology rather than the changes themselves. The eight steps involved in this model are:

  1. Create a sense of urgency that motivates people.
  2. Build a strong coalition with leaders and change teams from different departments and with diverse skills.
  3. Form a strategic vision for what you intend to accomplish.
  4. Get everyone’s buy-in so you can get them on board and ensure that they understand their role in the process.
  5. Identify and eliminate roadblocks that cause friction to enable action.
  6. Create short-term goals so your change management plan can be achieved through a series of short-term wins and highlight the benefit of the change.
  7. Sustain the momentum throughout the entire implementation process.
  8. Maintain the transformation after the initial project is over.

John Kotter's change management model is relatively easy to follow and incorporate. It focuses primarily on preparing employees for a change instead of the change implementation itself. Also, it can inspire resistant individuals to embrace change through trust, teamwork, and transparency. Furthermore, the Kotter Model prioritizes effective workplace communication and a great employee experience, so it is no surprise that it is one of the most widely used change management models.

McKinsey 7-S Change Management Model

Robert H. Waterman and Thomas J. Peters developed the McKinsey 7s model at the McKinsey consulting firm during the 1970s to assess how different parts of an organization work together. It is one of the more complex models, but this difficulty may be necessary when implementing complex organization-wide changes. 

The model's elements aren't designed to be addressed in a particular order, but by how they affect one another so you can identify weaknesses. This way, you can know the changes you need to make for a more coherent approach to business. The seven stages of the model are:

  1. Strategy - Organizations must analyze their objectives and adapt to future changes to ensure their survival in the marketplace. This involves identifying problems and creating a plan of action to address them.
  2. Structure - Leaders must analyze their organizational structure to see how people, activities, and machinery fit together. This way, they can identify the challenges and growth opportunities their structure will offer when implementing change.
  3. Systems - It is crucial to analyze daily activities and processes and the tools and people that undertake them to determine how the change will affect them.
  4. Shared Values - Shared values are the organization’s core values, influencing all aspects of its systems and people. As such, leaders must determine if these values can reinforce the change and the goals their organizations are trying to achieve.
  5. Style - Style refers to how change is adopted or implemented, so it is crucial to consider the behavior patterns of the key leadership groups. Analyzing these typical behavior patterns can predict how leaders will adopt and implement future changes.
  6. Staff - Your workforce's makeup, characteristics, capabilities, and roles also matter to determine how they will be affected by and react to change.
  7. Skills - Skills cover your employees' core competencies as well as the organization's capability as a unit.

ADKAR Change Management Model

The ADKAR Model is the brainchild of Jeffrey Hiatt, the founder of Prosci. It is a bottom-up method that prioritizes the individuals behind the change. Also, it is not a sequential method, as ADKAR is a set of goals that the company must reach as a collective. Each letter of the acronym represents one of these goals:

  1. Awareness (Of The Need For Change) - Your employees must understand why change is necessary, and it is easy to convince them of this if you have evidence to back your play.
  2. Desire (To Partake In And Support The Change) - Awareness isn't enough to bring about change that people don't want to happen. Therefore, you must win the hearts and minds of your workers to get them to participate in and support the change.
  3. Knowledge (on The Change Process) - Everyone must know their role in the change process to eliminate the uncertainty and anxiety regarding transformation.
  4. Ability (To Implant The Necessary Skills and Behaviors) - You may also need to provide extra training and coaching to employees to be empowered to fulfill their responsibilities. Employers who are well prepared and confident in their abilities to navigate change are less likely to resist it.
  5. Reinforcement (To Solidify The Change) - Regular reviews and incentives are excellent ways to help workers establish new habits that sustain the change.

The ADKAR Model reduces resistance and speeds up implementation because it places the focus on employees. Consequently, it offers organizations pursuing sustained change a higher success rate than other models.

Kübler-Ross Five Stage Change Management Model

Psychologist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross detailed the five stages of grief in her masterpiece, On Death & Dying. The Kübler-Ross model is based on these grief stages because it breaks down how workers respond to change emotionally instead of logically. This method's five steps include:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Your workers may move through these five stages at random and may even repeat steps. As such, many change management specialists recommend communicating and empathizing with them to feel that their emotions are valid as they journey towards acceptance.

Maslow’s Needs Pyramid

Abraham Maslow theorizes that humans are motivated to fulfill their needs by following a hierarchy of importance to survival. This theory can help in explaining why a worker's personal and work motivation can change in response to events that disrupt how their lower needs are met. The five needs on the pyramid include:

  1. Physiological Needs
  2. Safety Needs
  3. Social/ Belonging Needs
  4. Esteem Needs
  5. Self Actualization

The theory assumes that people will revert to their basic needs in uncertain times, like a significant organizational change. As such, leaders are encouraged to reassure workers of their job security to reduce their stress and the likelihood of getting resistance from them.

Also, this model assumes that you can motivate individuals by responding to their needs according to the hierarchy. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that all activities, engagements, and ongoing communications cater to the different motivations of your staff.


Employees will rarely welcome significant change with open arms, but you can minimize the adverse reactions to change through proper management. Therefore, select a change management model that will point you towards your desired outcome, ensuring that your path to successful change will be easier to navigate.

Furthermore, sustained support through transformation is vital, so you should leverage the appropriate change management tools to get the help necessary for significant organizational change. Lastly, no change management approach is a one-size-fits-all solution,  so it is best to understand and select one that suits your business needs or merge elements from them if necessary.

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