Change Management Models

September 7, 2023
8 minute read

Organizational change is a normal part of doing business, but it can be challenging to navigate without a strategic approach. Change management models are essential for organizations to know about because they provide specific guidelines and frameworks for planning and implementing change effectively. 

These models help organizations learn best practices, develop a more effective change management methodology, and ensure successful outcomes. They help organizations connect individual change to their broader goals and objectives, ensuring alignment and maximizing the impact of change initiatives.

In this article, we’ll talk about the most popular change management models you can consider when formulating your change management strategy.


What Are Change Management Models

Organizational change management models are crucial tools for organizations and their employees when it comes to successfully navigating through significant changes. These models of change management provide specific guidelines and strategies that leaders can follow to improve the chances of successful change implementation. 

These models offer numerous benefits, including the ability to measure results, improve accountability, increase confidence, reduce employee resistance, and achieve a greater return on investment.


History Of Change Management Models

Change management models developed gradually through the years as organizations realized the value of individual contributions to the success of their business. 

Prosci identifies three major eras: pre-1990, 1990-2000, and 2000-present.



Source: Prosci


Before the 90’s, organizations were focused on understanding how human beings reacted to change. This brought about the foundations of the change management discipline. 

It was during this period that the Kurt Lewin’s Change Management Model was introduced, which continues to be a relevant model today –which we will talk about later.

From 1990-2000, several processes, seminars, studies, and formal concepts have started developing. Change management became a hot topic in the C-suite level, and language has started to form around the subject.

Change management processes started being formalized in 2000, and the industry continues to develop to this day.


Levels Of Change Management

Change management happens at three different but interrelated change management levels: individual level, organizational level, and enterprise level. Let’s talk about their differences.

Individual Change Management

Organizations are made up of individuals who each contribute to the completion of the company’s goals. Individual change management involves supporting individuals through the transition by enabling and empowering them to engage, adopt, and utilize the change effectively. 

Four key schools of thought need to be considered when dealing with individual change: 

  • Behavioral - changing behaviors of others through rewards and punishment
  • Cognitive - achieving results through positive reframing
  • Psychodynamic - understanding and relating to the inner world of change
  • Humanistic Psychology - believing in development and growth, and maximizing potential. Emphasis on healthy development, healthy authentic relationships, and healthy organizations

Source: Making Sense of Change Management by Esther Cameron And Mike Green

This can be achieved by utilizing tools such as the ADKAR Model, along with other models of change management we’ll be discussing later in the article.

Organizational Change Management

Change management from the organization or project perspective is about bridging change management for the company, with the guidance and support the affected employee groups need to implement the change effectively.

At this level, changes are managed by first identifying the affected groups, understanding the adjustments needed in their daily activities, and providing the tools, skills, training, and support they need.

Enterprise Change Management

Enterprise change management is a strategic capability that organizations can develop to improve their ability to adapt and thrive.

Enterprise Change Management (ECM) involves deploying change management skills, tools, and processes throughout the entire organization. This helps ensure that human capital is utilized effectively, projects deliver a return on investment, and the negative effects of change saturation are mitigated. 

Additionally, ECM fosters organizational agility and creates a competitive advantage by enabling leaders at all levels to effectively navigate change.

Best Change Management Models


The ADKAR Model was developed by Jeff Hiatt, the founder of Prosci, the global leader in change management solutions. This model focuses on the five stages of change: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. It emphasizes the importance of getting employees to realize the need for change, embrace it, and reinforce it in the future. 



Source: Prosci


By using this model, organizations can identify areas of resistance and address them effectively, ensuring a smooth transition during times of change. 

However, it is important to note that the ADKAR Model is not a complete change management methodology. Instead, it is a component of the Prosci Methodology, which is a structured approach for managing organizational change.

McKinsey 7S Model

The McKinsey 7S Model is a powerful framework that assesses the organizational effectiveness and future success of a company. It looks at seven internal factors that can be organized in two groups: hard elements and soft elements.


Source: Mind Tools


Hard elements are simpler to identify and can easily be influenced by management: strategy, structure, and systems. Soft elements are challenging to describe and are highly influenced by individual values and company culture: shared values, style, staff, and skills.

The McKinsey 7-s model is a good diagnostic tool for evaluating the best approach to change management, depending on which areas are most crucial to help your company adapt to the change. 

Kubler-Ross Change Curve

The Kubler-Ross Change Curve was developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the 1960s to explain the stages of grief experienced by individuals facing personal loss. Since then, it has been applied to various contexts, including personal transition and organizational change. 


Source: Cleverism


The curve represents the emotional journey that individuals go through during times of change, starting from denial and resistance, and then moving towards acceptance and integration. Understanding this curve can help individuals and organizations navigate the challenges and emotions associated with change, ultimately leading to successful adaptation and growth.

This model is good to use for small groups and teams. However, it won’t be as effective when navigating large-scale changes because of the vast variety of emotions that must be accounted for.

Kotter’s Theory

Kotter's 8-Step Change Model is a highly effective approach developed by John P. Kotter, that aims to reduce resistance to change, which is often a major barrier in organizations. The model provides a clear roadmap for change managers to follow, starting with creating a sense of urgency and ending with making the change stick.


Source: Visual Paradigm Online


By following the 8 steps outlined in the model, businesses can overcome obstacles such as lack of teamwork and resistance to change, and effectively implement large-scale changes. One of the reasons why this model is popular is its simplicity and ease of understanding, making it accessible to leaders at all levels of the organization.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that this model tends to disregard employee feedback. While this might work on a large-scale organization, it has to be coupled with a model to support individual needs. For small groups, this approach would not be ideal to use.

Stephen Covey Change Management Model

The Stephen Covey Change Management Model, as outlined in his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," is a powerful framework that focuses on personal change and development. By adopting these habits, individuals can enhance their personal and professional lives. Moreover, the Covey model can also be applied to teams and organizations to improve their effectiveness and achieve their goals.


Source: Trevor Lubinski


Covey's philosophy is based on the idea that change starts from within each of us and then radiates outwards. He emphasizes the importance of shifting our perceptions and beliefs in order to transform ourselves and improve our situations. 

The model consists of seven habits that can lead to sustained success and effectiveness. These habits include being proactive, setting goals, prioritizing tasks, collaborating effectively, seeking understanding before being understood, finding innovative solutions, and making time for self-renewal. 

Kurt Lewin’s Change Management Model

Kurt Lewin's Change Management Model is one of the cornerstone models for understanding organizational change. Developed back in the 1940s, this model still holds true today.

The model consists of three stages: unfreezing, movement, and refreezing. The analogy used is changing the shape of a block of ice.

Source: Practical Psychology


The first stage, unfreeze, is aimed at creating awareness about the upcoming change and addressing any resistance. This involves analyzing current structures and processes, communicating the need for change, and addressing employee concerns. 

The second stage, change, is where the actual implementation of the change happens. It is important to implement the change smoothly and quickly to minimize disruptions. 

The final stage, refreeze, focuses on achieving stability and equilibrium after the change. This stage aims to stabilize the new status quo and ensure that the change becomes embedded in the organization's systems, processes, behaviors, and culture. 

The Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze model helps organizations prepare for change, overcome resistance, and adapt to new conditions more effectively.

Nudge Theory

Nudge theory, popularized by economist Richard Thaler, is a powerful tool for influencing behavior in a subtle and effective way. This theory suggests that behaviors can be influenced by making them easy, attractive, social, and timely. 


Source: Crowjack


Nudges work best when they are easy to follow, visually appealing, socially reinforced, and presented at the right time. So, whether it's motivating employees, increasing productivity, or managing change, nudge theory can be a valuable tool in encouraging positive outcomes.

Satir Change Model

The Satir Change Model, developed by family therapist Virginia Satir, consists of four stages: late status quo, introduction of a foreign element, resistance, chaos, and integration and practice (new status quo). 




Each stage has unique effects on feelings, thinking, performance, and physiology. By understanding these stages, managers can better navigate the complexities of change and support their team members throughout the process. 

The model is particularly useful in understanding employee reactions to change, creating effective change plans within organizations, countering resistance to change, and preventing a reversion to the previous state.

Maurer 3 Levels Of Resistance And Change Model

The Maurer 3 Levels of Resistance and Change Model is a valuable tool developed by Rick Maurer that identifies three levels of resistance: "I don't understand," "I don't like it," and "I don't like or trust you." Each level requires a different approach to effectively address and overcome resistance. 



Source: WhatFix


Level 1 resistance is characterized by a lack of information or disagreement with data. In this case, providing education and clear communication can help individuals understand the change and its benefits. 

Level 2 resistance involves emotional reactions based on fear of losing face, status, control, or jobs. Change models that focus on transitions and emotional states can be used to manage this type of resistance. 

Finally, Level 3 resistance is rooted in a lack of trust or confidence in leadership. Addressing negative connotations, building trust, and demonstrating leadership credibility are crucial when dealing with this level of resistance.

PDCA Model

The PDCA Model, also known as the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle involves a systematic approach to problem-solving and decision-making. The model consists of four stages: plan, do, check, and act. 


Source: Kanbanize


In the planning phase, organizations identify areas for improvement and set objectives. In the "do" phase, they implement the plan and collect data to assess its effectiveness. The "check" phase involves analyzing the data to evaluate the outcomes and identify any gaps or issues. Finally, in the "act" phase, organizations make adjustments and take corrective actions to address the identified problems.

The PDCA model is best used when starting a new improvement project, developing a new design, defining repetitive work processes, or planning data-driven decisions. It facilitates continuous improvement, encourages problem-solving, and supports effective decision-making based on evidence.

When using the PDCA model, it’s important to use reliable project management software to help you consolidate all feedback and progress in one place. Workamajig is the only project management tool designed for creative teams. It has flexible functionality and comprehensive tracking tools that will help you make data-driven decisions in helping your organization adapt to changes.


How To Choose The Right Change Management Model For Your Organization

With numerous models of change available, how do you pick one that’s right for you? Here are factors you may want to consider when selecting which change management model you want to utilize for your situation.

Level Of Change

When it comes to choosing the right change management model, it's important to consider the level of change that your organization is undergoing. Whether it's individual, organizational, or enterprise-wide change, each level requires a different approach. It's beneficial to use multiple models that complement each other, addressing the unique challenges and needs of each level. 

Organization Size

The size of your organization plays a role in determining the most effective model. Larger organizations may require more robust and comprehensive models that can handle complex change processes.

Leaders And Leadership Styles

The presence of strong leaders and their leadership styles should be taken into account. Leaders who are actively involved and supportive can greatly influence the success of change initiatives.

Change Management Resources

Different models may require different resources, such as training programs or external consultants, so it's essential to assess what resources are available and align them with the chosen model.

Type Of Impact

Some changes may have a more significant impact on employees and require a more comprehensive change management model, while others may be less disruptive and require a simpler approach. While some changes are merely logistical in nature (eg. new tools or processes), some may have a more emotional impact (eg. acquisitions, layoffs, organizational structure adjustments, etc.)

Understanding the potential impact of the change will help you select a model that can effectively address the specific challenges that may arise.

Company Culture

Each organization has its unique culture, and certain models of change management may be more compatible with your company's values, norms, and practices. By selecting a model that aligns with your company culture, you can foster greater employee engagement and acceptance of the change.

Stage In Change Process

When it comes to choosing the right change management model, it's important to consider where you are in the process of change. Are you in the diagnostic stage, where you are assessing the need for change and identifying areas for improvement? Or are you in the execution phase, where you are implementing the changes and ensuring they are successfully integrated into the organization? By understanding your current stage of change, you can select a model that aligns with your specific needs and goals. 



Implementing organizational change can be a challenging task, but with the right approach, it can be made more effective. 

Change management models provide specific guidelines and frameworks to help organizations plan and implement change successfully. These models of change management offer structured processes and tools to navigate through the complexities of change. 

By using a trustworthy change management model, organizations can increase their chances of success and save time in developing a change management workflow.

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