Change Management: Models of the Change Process

Change is hard. Supporting individuals as they navigate their change journey helps to ensure people are prepared and equipped for the change (pre- and post- change implementation).

The application of a change methodology can assist the change leader to increase change initiative adoption rates. In addition, a change management methodology can:

  • Provide proven guidelines and best practices to help the team/unit/department or university through the process of planning and implementing the change
  • Position employees to adopt new behaviours, skills, and values
  • Encourage innovation
  • Foster an environment of continuous improvement
  • Promote a shared common vision among employees

There are a number of change management models organizations turn to for inspiration. Each model walks through a variety of ‘€˜phases’ or ‘stages’ that need to be completed in order for the change to be successfully realized. Examples include:

Prosci ADKAR

Created by Jeff Hiatt, the ADKAR model guides individual and organizational change.

ADKAR is an acronym that represents 5 stages an individual or organization moves through to realize change successfully.

The stages are: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement.

This tool can be used to help inform planning for change management activities.

Ambrose Model of Change

The Ambrose model of change emphasizes the emotional response to a change activity.

Ambrose model of change

The key takeaway is that, as leaders of change, it is important we understand and prepare for an individual’s emotional and unique response to the change.

The Ambrose model focuses on 5 elements: vision, skills, incentive, resource, and action plan. When all 5 elements are present, change efforts are more successful, and we are most likely to achieve the desired outcome. The model further demonstrates that when elements are absent, an emotional response is observed. For example: lacking a clear vision and understanding of why the change is need, the likely emotional response observed will be confusion.

Bridges' stages of transition

Developed in the early 1990s by William Bridge’s and published in his book “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change” this model describes three stages that need to be completed for individuals to move through change successfully.

The three stages being: Endings -> Neutral Zone -> New Beginnings

  • Endings = a period of time when individuals let go of the old way. It represents an ending and a time for change leaders and managers to support individuals with their losses.

  • Neutral Zone = a time when individuals find they have let go of the old way and are now preparing for the new way..

  • New Beginnings = the final process whereby individuals adopt the new way and the change begins to work.

Please review Bridges Transition Model for more information.

The Change Curve

Developed in the 1960’s by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the Change Curve describes the 7 stages individuals go through when faced with change.

The stages are:

1. Shock

2. Denial

3. Anger or blame

4. Bargaining and self-blame

5. Depression and confusion

6. Acceptance

7. Problem-solving

This curve can be applied to any type of change: work or personal.

While the steps represent a natural human response for adapting to the change it is important to note that the journey through the stages is unique as individuals will react to change in varying ways.

This model can be used by managers to help predict how team members react to change and where they are along their respective change journey.

For information on a slightly modified version of the model and how you can help your team members accept change, please visit “The Change Curve” by MindToolsVideos

Kotter 8 Step Change Model

The Kotter 8-step process for leading change was developed by Dr. Kotter. Described in his book: “Our Iceberg is Melting” (Kotter, John P. (2006), p 130) the eight-step process of successful change is broken down into 4 distinct phases are:

Set the stage

  • Create a sense of urgency
  • Pull together the guiding team

Decide what to do

  • Develop the change vision and strategy

Make it Happen

  • Communicate for understanding buy-in
  • Empower others to act
  • Produce short-term wins
  • Don’t let up

Make it stick

  • Create a new culture

Lewin's Model

The Lewin's model divides the change process into three stages: Unfreeze -> Make changes -> Refreeze. The model, while simple, helps to define the activities the change leader can complete to support and move individuals through the change.

  1. The first stage ‘Unfreeze’ relies on the change leader assessing the current state. This will require collaboration and engagement by existing stakeholders. During this stage, the change leader can analyze and identify opportunities for improvement. Through engagement and collaboration, individuals will be more committed to the change and can create a vision of the desired end state. During this stage, the change leader and change team can also identify change champions and possible resistors.
  2. The second stage ‘Make changes’ is an opportunity to move individuals through the change. In this stage the change plan is created and deployed.
  3. The third and final stage ‘Refreeze’ is when new work practices become new work habits, when the change becomes the new norm. During this stage change leaders may look to reward adopters and address non-adopters

University of Waterloo

1. Think and Plan

A time where the change is conceptualized, and information is gathered to inform the steps that need to be taken to implement the change. This may include conducting interviews, defining the characteristics of the change (size, incremental or radical) to inform the change strategy; selecting the change team; and identifying roles and responsibilities; defining impacted stakeholder groups and undertaking a preliminary assessment of the impact the change will have on these groups. Collaboration and innovation are key to this phase.

2. Inform, motivate and train

A period of time to engage individuals impacted by the change, foster existing partnerships, or create new ones. A time to also understand potential barriers, assess and manage resistance to the commitment of the change. In this phase create and roll out communication and/or training plans.

3. Reinforce

A time to implement and sustain the change, adjust approaches to reinforce change adoption, celebrate success and recognize contributions. Activities should include frequent check-ins, engaging stakeholders to solicit feedback and, if applicable, address additional training needs. This is also a time where collection of data to inform adoption success rates will be valuable. Reflecting back on all activities undertaken and assessing success of these activities is also important and will help to inform planning for future change initiatives.