Change happens—the risks are high if we don’t manage it thoughtfully and carefully.  There are steps to be followed and if we ignore any of them, at worst, we risk failure; at best, we create unnecessary stress and anxiety for our employees. 

In my first job as a supervisor, I was directed by my boss to install a database among a working team of 4 people.  And it was a useful software tool.  We needed it badly!  However, I dropped the project into the laps of my employees like a hot potato with no attention to process.  The resistance was fast and fierce, and looking back over 15 years—predictable!  My reaction to the resistance could best be summed up as, “If you’re a hammer, everyone looks like a nail.”  We got the project done, but I alienated my staff in the process and it took too long because of that.  This doesn’t have to happen to you. 

There are many models that provide guidance in preparing for changes and ensuring the changed behavior sticks. A few of the more common models include Lewin’s Change Management Model, McKinsey 7 S Framework, Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model, and the ADKAR® Model. 

Lewin’s Change Management Model is the simplest and most popular of the three. There are three main stages in organizational change: unfreeze, change and refreeze. To facilitate change, the organization must first unfreeze the process, change the process and then refreeze the process. An important and often overlooked aspect of change management is the final phase – refreezing in Lewin’s model. Once a process has been changed, the change must be reinforced by the organization allowing time for learning and implementation.

In McKinsey 7S Framework, the 7-S’ are:

  • Structure
  • Strategy
  • Systems
  • Skills
  • Style
  • Staff
  • Shared values

Most often, the model is used as an organizational analysis tool to assess and monitor changes in an organization. The theory that serves as a basis for this model says, for an organization to perform well, these seven elements need to be aligned and mutually reinforcing. When working to identify what needs to be realigned to improve performance, or to maintain alignment (and performance) during other types of change, this model can be useful. Regardless of the type of change – restructuring, new processes, organizational merger, new systems, change of leadership, and so on – the model can be used to understand how the organizational elements are interrelated, and so ensure that the wider impact of changes made in one area is taken into consideration.

The 8 steps of Kotter’s Change Model are:

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency
  2. Build a Team Dedicated to the Change
  3. Create a Vision for Change
  4. Communicate the Need for Change
  5. Empower Staff with the Ability to Change
  6. Create Short Term Goals
  7. Stay Persistent
  8. Make the Change Permanent

While using this model does take a great deal of time and steps cannot be skipped, it maintains the focus on the organization as it prepares for and accepts the change, while making transitions easier.  It provides steps for leaders/managers to plan and pursue. 

The steps in the ADKAR® Model are:

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

This model focuses closely on the individuals undergoing the change, how they experience it, how they react to it, and what behaviors they must ultimately adopt.  

Whatever model you should choose, I’ll leave you with a few reminders that I’ve gained over the years, mostly from my mistakes.

  1. Leading through change is more about preparation and persuasion than power and position. 
  2. Employee reactions to change are normal.  Don’t fear them.  Prepare for them.  Don’t personalize them. 
  3. Change is a process and takes time and patience.  Some employees will adapt quickly, some slowly.  The goal is to get your whole team through it.
  4. Some people will never change, no matter what you do.  They’re stuck, and that’s on them.  They may not belong in your organization or on your team.  As a leader, you may need to help them see that. 
  5. Seek help from outside sources if you need help strategizing and executing change.  The bigger the change, the greater the challenge to your own leadership ability.  I wish I had done this earlier in my career.   

IPS consultants have years of experience supporting managers through change, and work fluently with all these models.  Let us support you with expert training and coaching, as you successfully lead your organization through change.