4 Fundamental Change Management Models | Lucidchart Blog
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While definitions vary, change management generally refers to how teams and companies implement organizational change. Often referred to as the only constant, change—and the management of it—is an ever-evolving process that affects everyone. And although there is no one right or wrong way to mitigate change, there are a few tried-and-true change management models that organizations return to again and again.

Lewin’s change management model

Kurt Lewin developed this change management strategy in the 1940s, but it remains relevant because of its simple yet effective structure. According to Lewin, organizational change management can be broken down into three smaller, more manageable stages:

  • Unfreeze
  • Change
  • Refreeze

A physicist by trade, Lewin used the example of how to turn a cube of ice into a cone of ice and applied it to organizational change management.

First, a team or organization must “unfreeze” their current process and perceptions when preparing for upcoming changes. This helps the team approach the task or challenge with a clean slate without bias or bad habits.

Next, it’s time to implement changes. Effective change requires clear and constant communication across all affected channels both during and after deployment.

Finally, it’s time to “refreeze.” Assuming accurate feedback and ongoing communication occurred during the “change” step, the refreeze step locks into place the new process. Like ice molds, teams and organizations need to move away from an old mold before they can fit into a new one.

The Lewin change management process, while too simplistic for some, is favored by others for its ability to uncover old patterns or overlooked problems as well as for its clean approach to new ways of thinking.

Lewin's Model
Lewin's change management model (Click on image to modify online)

ADKAR model

The ADKAR model is popular for its people-focused approach to change management. Created by Jeffrey Hiatt, the ADKAR model helps facilitate change on an individual level since change is often less about the changes themselves and more about people’s reactions to them. ADKAR is an acronym for:

  • Awareness: Awareness of the need to change
  • Desire: Desire to participate in and support the change
  • Knowledge: Knowledge of how to change
  • Ability: Ability to implement the change
  • Reinforcement: Reinforcement to sustain the change

Since organizational change is directly dependent upon its employees for successful implementation, it’s critical for individuals to have a clear understanding of what changes are occurring, why they are occurring, and how they affect them personally. The ADKAR model helps individuals process change through clearly defined stages that enable them to both understand and accept the changes at hand.

ADKAR change management model (Click on image to modify online)

Kotter’s 8-step change model

Developed by John Kotter after a survey of over 100 organizations in flux, this 8-step change model also focuses more on the people experiencing large organizational changes rather than the changes themselves. The eight steps are:

  1. Create a sense of urgency.
  2. Build a strong coalition.
  3. Form a strategic vision.
  4. Get everyone’s buy-in.
  5. Enable action by removing barriers.
  6. Generate short-term wins.
  7. Sustain acceleration.
  8. Institute change.

Kotter’s change management process skillfully turns possibly resistant individuals into receptive participants through trust, transparency, and teamwork. By identifying the end goal, employing everyone’s involvement, and executing the impending changes together, this process remains a long-standing favorite among change management models.

8-step model
Kotter’s 8-step change model (Click on image to modify online)

Kubler-Ross change curve

Most widely known as the five stages of grief, the Kubler-Ross change curve can also be thought of as a reliable change management strategy due to its breakdown of how people process change in general. Organizations can better prepare for change when they also anticipate the possible reactions by their workforce. The five stages are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

If teams and companies lose sight of whom their changes impact the most, then their attempts to make those changes will be for naught. Changing an organization is not like changing a tire; there are emotional factors to consider. One caveat to consider with this change management strategy is that these stages are not always sequential and that everyone can progress through them differently, so its effectiveness is not always predictive. As such, it can also be used to supplement other change management process steps for a two-fold approach.

Kubler-Ross change curve (Click on image to modify online)

Prepare for change with Lucidchart

With the right tools, planning for even the broadest of changes within an organization becomes possible. Sign up for your free Lucidchart account today to start customizing your own change management process.