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Evolution of Change Management Models Pt. 2

For the second installment in our series on Change Management Models, we will take a look at some of the most popular consultant models. These frameworks were created by change management practitioners who synthesized knowledge from different fields and their experiences in consulting work to create flexible and repeatable methodologies.

If you would like to read the first part, read here.

The McKinsey 7-S Model

This model developed by McKinsey & Company consultants in the late 1970’s lists down seven components that a change initiative must focus on:

  1. Structure of the company
  2. Change strategy
  3. Business system and processes
  4. Shared values and organizational culture
  5. Skills of the workforce
  6. Style or manner of work
  7. Staff involved

The first three components are categorized as “hard” elements in that they are easier to identify and can be influenced by management. The other elements are considered “soft” because they are more intangible and influenced by the company culture. This model emphasizes the importance of coordination across the various facets of an organization to achieve a shared goal.

Kotter’s 8-step Theory

First introduced in 1996 by Harvard professor John Kotter, his 8-step change management theory focuses on the people involved in the change process and their psychology. The framework is based on his consulting experiences with over 100 companies globally and outlines step-by-step how organizations can implement change and innovation by emphasizing employee involvement. The steps are as follows:

  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Build a guiding coalition
  3. Form a strategic vision
  4. Enlist a volunteer army
  5. Enable action by removing barriers
  6. Generate short-term wins
  7. Sustain acceleration
  8. Institute change

Due to the top-down nature of this model, it has tended to work well in large organizations, especially when paired with other change management models. However, since it neglects to incorporate employee feedback, the model risks employee resentment and alienation, especially in smaller companies where dialogue between management and the employees is critical and expected.

The ADKAR Change Management Model

The ADKAR model is a bottom-up method formulated by Jeffrey Hiatt, the founder of Prosci. The model outlines five main goals to be reached when initiating any kind of organizational change.

  • Awareness of the need to change
  • Desire to participate in and support the change
  • Knowledge on how to change
  • Ability to implement required skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement to sustain the change

The ADKAR model focuses on employee input and support, which minimizes resistance and facilitates quicker implementation. This people-centric framework has been shown to work best for small, incremental changes wherein employees’ daily routines are not disrupted all at once.

Bridges Transition Model

Introduced by change consultant William Bridges, the Bridges Transition Model highlights the emotional transition that people experience during a change initiative. It further distinguishes change as something that happens to people externally, and a transition as a process that occurs within a person internally as they go through change. It conceptualizes this journey into 3 distinct stages:

  1. Ending, Losing, and Letting Go - Upon being presented with change, organizations usually encounter resistance as its employees undergo emotional upheaval. In this stage, employees should be able to communicate their concerns openly. Since fear of the unknown is a natural response to change, management should also emphasize the positives of the intended change initiative, and how its employees’ skills and experience will be needed to bring them about.
  2. The Neutral Zone - There is often confusion and uncertainty as employees try to let go of the old without a very clear idea of what the new is supposed to look like. Employees may often be saddled with a higher workload as they get accustomed to new systems and work processes. Open communication and feedback is encouraged in this stage, as well as setting short-term goals to improve motivation and acceptance of the change initiative.
  3. The New Beginning - As employees begin to embrace the change initiative, they are likely to experience a renewed commitment to their roles and an openness to learning. Organizations must work to sustain this positive momentum, as not everyone reaches this stage at the same time and people can still slip back to previous stages if they think the change isn’t working.

Conclusion: Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

When it comes to managing organizational change, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every single change initiative brings along a unique combination of internal and external challenges as well as personal and organizational factors that influence the overall change outcome. Thanks to the work of change practitioners throughout the decades, we now have several reliable frameworks available to help us manage the change adoption process. The challenge for today’s change managers is to leverage the right model (or a combination of them) for their unique business needs to attain continued organizational success.

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