7 Best Change management models for 2023

méthodologie conduite du changement

Navigating change isn’t always easy, especially in a corporate setting. Though it’s an inevitable part of growth, organizational change is an ongoing challenge that requires effective strategies for successful implementation. The reality is that once organizations begin to scale, change quickly becomes unmanageable without processes to guide the workforce.

“Traditional business strategy too often does not bother to create a story or narrative about its actions for its employees and the world to gather around. For the strategy to become reality, people need to see themselves in the story and then take action to make the story happen.”

Beth Comstock, Imagine It Forward.

What are change management models?

Change management models are a set of actions used to carry out transformation projects within a company. The goal is to create the right change management methodology to facilitate employees through new practices, technologies, mergers, etc.

Change management models were developed in response to human observations within the workplace to help eliminate employee resistance to change. Understanding the different change management models is the key to creating and implementing the right change management methodology for your organization.

Explore 7 of the most well-known change management models to guide your future change management projects.

Lewin’s change model

Although it dates back to the 1940s, this method is still prominent today. For Kurt Lewin, change management should be carried out in three phases – unfreezing, modifying, and refreezing. 

  1. The first phase implies the person is preparing for change. It could be the moment they’re faced with a new problem and aren’t yet committed to performing an action.
  2. During the second phase, the person is actively ready to make a change and face uncertainty. It symbolizes the fear of letting go of past processes and resistance to change.
  3. During the third phase, a transformation has taken place and the person is ready to refreeze into their new state. 

When all 3 phases are complete, a successful transformation has taken place.

ADKAR model

This ADKAR model acronym stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. Created by Jeffrey Hiatt the founder of Prosci, the model is based on the analysis of hundreds of organizational changes, both successful and unsuccessful over many years.

  • “Awareness” is when an employee becomes aware of a necessary change.
  • “Desire” refers to the desire to engage in change.
  • “Knowledge” refers to the knowledge required to drive change. 
  • “Ability” is the ability to use that knowledge to implement change. 
  • “Reinforcement” refers to everything that allows the change to be sustainable. 

This method has a very clear objective: to facilitate change management at an individual level. Here, the change itself is not very important, but rather the desire to change. 

McKinsey 7-S model

The 7-S framework was invented in the late 1970s by McKinsey consultants. The framework is used to evaluate the way different parts of an organization operate interdependently. According to this methodology, seven fundamental elements are necessary for any business.  

The 7-S framework is made up of hard and soft S words demonstrated below.

Hard SSoft S
Strategy Style
Structure Staff

The model suggests these seven elements are interconnected and can help companies perform with a competitive advantage. It implies that if one element is modified, a ripple effect will impact all the others.

Kotter’s 8-Step model of change

Created by change management expert John Kotter, the eight-step model of change is a form of management that focuses primarily on the psychology of employees during a change over the change itself. It is a roadmap for change leaders of all levels. After observing more than a hundred companies, John Kotter succeeded in identifying 8 major steps required to lead a change project.

  1. The first step is to create a sense of urgency to motivate employees. 
  2. The second step is to build a team of leaders and advocates to drive the project.
  3. The third step is to define a strategic vision. 
  4. The fourth step is transparency and communication with all stakeholders involved.
  5. The fifth step is to identify all potential roadblocks and obstacles. 
  6. The sixth step is to create achievable short-term goals. 
  7. The seventh step is to facilitate momentum
  8. The eighth step of change is maintaining the implementation of new practices so that they remain anchored in the corporate culture.

Bridges transitional model

William Bridges is a change consultant behind the Bridges transition model. The approach is based on a human analysis of what people experience during change, paying particular attention to the transition taking place. Bridges recognized three stages a company should help guide their employees.

Ending, and letting go
The first stage is where resistance is born, and where employees are required to let go of stability to make way for change.

The neutral zone
The second stage resembles a state of limbo, where employees are stuck between letting go of the old and welcoming the new.

The new beginning
The third and final stage is a state of acceptance and adoption of the change.

Kübler-Ross change curve

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross devised the change curve. The model follows the five stages of grief people experience when going through change. It recognizes our emotional response to change, which is so commonly neglected in business.

In order to experience grief, Kübler-Ross suggests we through five phases:

  • denial
  • anger
  • bargaining 
  • depression
  • acceptance

The model highlights our need for empathy and transparent communication during change. The Kübler-Ross curve also implies the importance to recognize that each person crosses these phases differently.

The Deming cycle

Developed by Dr. Deming, is the Deming Cycle or Plan-Do-Study-Act (the PDSA Cycle). 

  • Plan – identify what needs to improve and devise a plan.
  • Do – test your plan in a small group.
  • Study – examine the results to determine its success
  • Act – use your results to take action

This model is a circular process, that promotes improvement. From steps 1 to 4 the process helps to identify improvements and the actions to fulfill them.    

How to select the right Change management model

There is no right or wrong change management model to follow. As an organization, you can pick and choose parts of each model to create a change management methodology that’s right for your project. 

The consensus among each model is to place your employees at the heart of change and involve them in every step of the process. Change needs to permeate through every level of an organization to be homogenous and sustainable.

Whether you’re working on company-wide or department-wide changes, there are also tools on the market to facilitate change. At Lemon Learning, we specialize in digital adoption, change management, and digital transformation projects. The platform is designed to immediately improve user performance and confidence from the moment they enter their tools. Platform editors such as project and training managers can access in-depth user analytics for data-based decision-making.

Sarah C

Sarah oversees all things inbound marketing, exploring the many business uses and topics surrounding digital adoption. Her previous experiences include B2C and product marketing in the social listening space, uncovering emerging industry trends.