Change can be difficult for one person to manage — let alone an entire organization. To help a business surf the waves of change, it can be useful for leaders to adhere to a model that has been effective for business changes in the past. The following 13 models (and theories) might provide leaders with some insight into how to better serve their workforce during an upcoming period of change.
Outlined in Harvard Professor John Kotter’s book “Leading Change,” Kotter’s Change Management Theory is among the most popular because it seems like a straightforward eight-step process. However, Kotter offers a top-down approach, so modern organizations will need to modify it to build grassroots momentum.
In contrast to Kotter’s top-down approach to change, the Prosci ADKAR model pays attention to the needs of workers at every level of the organization. The name of the model stands for the five outcomes required of every participant in change: awareness, desire, knowledge, ability and reinforcement.
One of the oldest change management models, Lewin’s Change Management Model from then 1940s remains popular thanks to its simplicity. Lurt Lewin requires only three steps, but unlike Kotter, who emphasizes urgency, Lewin underlines the importance of diligence and encourages organizations to take their time in winning support from employees before advancing through the model.
McKinsey consultants Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman created the 7-S framework in their book “In Search of Excellence.” Rather than offering a list of steps, this model charts the seven interconnected factors of change, such as shared values, staff, strategy and structure. Though not exactly actionable, this framework helps executives identify which elements to monitor before, during and after a change.
Based upon the notorious five stages of grief developed by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the Kubler-Ross Change Curve describes the progress of emotions employees are likely to experience and the actions they will likely take when confronted with a change. These include shock, denial, frustration, depression, experimentation, decision-making and integration.
Another model taking inspiration from the five stages of grief, the Satir Change Model aims to equip executives with the ability to predict and respond to changes in team performance. It involves five stages, beginning with an old status quo and ending with a new status quo.
It is important for executives to recognize employee emotions and actions throughout the change process, but it is equally important to recognize the mindset behind resistance. Maurer’s change model involves three levels of resistance that employees must pass through before they will accept a change. Instead of trying to eliminate resistance, Maurer advocates for swift movement through these levels with the use of open communication and use of feedback.
Nudge Theory, described in “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness,” discourages strict enforcement or harsh consequences for non-compliance. By offering change as a choice, organizations can prevent building stress in the workforce which might result in resistance. Of course, Nudge Theory only works for optional change; mandatory changes, like regulatory change, might be better managed with tools like regulatory compliance software.
While other models focus on the effects of a change, the LaMarsh model emphasizes the risks of not changing. By identifying and clarifying risks, executives are supposed to achieve greater buy-in and smoother adoption of changes across the organization.
The Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle — also sometimes called the Deming Wheel — is a useful tool for any attempt at optimizing and improving business processes. To initiate change, organizations continuously engage in the four steps outlined in the title, though the details of the steps might change depending on what kind of change executives are hoping to accomplish.
Unlike other change management theorists, Kaizen calls for a continuous process of transition rather than a one-time change. Rather than steps, this model involves principles, which outline how organizations can reframe their approach to change. Some principles include creating an environment of empowerment, being proactive about solving problems and letting go of assumptions.