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Nov 26, 2019

Approx. 8 min. read

5 Change Management Models to Take a Look at

Based on organizational goals and culture, companies implement various change management models. Choosing the right model, however, may be a...


Based on organizational goals and culture, companies implement various change management models. Choosing the right model, however, may be a challenge. 

In this blog post, we will go over some of the most popular models for change management. 

Why Choosing the Right Change Management Model is Important

Effective change management is a challenge that most organizations face today. The times when stability and predictability were the main business priorities are over!

💡Internal communication is critical in change management. Download our free eBook "Building a Better Company with Internal Communications" and learn how to leverage your internal communication to drive change. 

Market transparency, labor mobility, globalization, instantaneous communications and access to information force us to get out of our comfort zones and make changes within our organizations.

Change management is the process when organization undertake projects or initiatives to improve current performance, seize new opportunities or address key issues.

These efforts often require changes to business processes, job roles, organizational structures and technologies used.

Even though different groups within organizations may look at change management differently, it is extremely important to always address the human side of change in organizational contexts.

Therefore, remember that employee communication is the key for effective change management

Your people and their resistance to change are the main reason to evaluate different change management models to implement. 


Since every organization has different company values, culture, goals and change objectives, not every change management model fits all. 

Let’s take a look into a few change management models for you to consider. 

Top 5 Change Management Models to Consider

In order to implement changes such as digital transformation or smoothly transition during mergers and acquisitions, it is important to structure the whole project. 

In order to do so, it is useful to follow existing change management models. 

Let’s take a look into the 5 most popular change management models. 


1. Kotter’s Change Management Model

Kotter’s change management theory is one of the most popular and adopted ones in the world. 

This model has eight stages and every one of them focuses on employees’ response to change.

  • Increase urgency – Creating a sense of urgency among employees may be the best driver for employees’ motivation and engagement.
  • Build the team – Determine the right set of skills and personalities for the team that will be most likely to drive change within the organization. 
  • Get the vision correct – Take into account not just the strategy, but also employees' creativity, emotions and project's objectives.
  • Communicate – Be transparent and frequently communicate with people about the changes being implemented.
  • Get things moving – Get support, remove the roadblocks and implement feedback in a constructive way.
  • Focus on short term goals – Don’t just focus on the end result. Set small goals and recognize small achievements to boost employee morale.
  • Don’t give up – Changes don’t happen overnight, and obstacles are unavoidable. Be persistent while the process of change management is going on, no matter how tough things may seem.
  • Incorporate change – Reinforce and make the change a part of the workplace culture. Help employees adjust, and reward them for the new behaviors. 

🧡 Why we like this model?

Kotter’s change management model is pretty easy to follow and incorporate. Our favorite part of this model is that it focuses on preparing employees for change rather than change implementation itself.  

The focus on human experience and proper workplace communication are the reasons why this is one of the most commonly used change management models. 

2. McKinsey 7-S Change Management Model

McKinsey 7-S framework or model is one of the longest lasting change management models out there. 

This model consists of 7 crucial categories that companies should be aware of when implementing change. 

  • Strategy – Strategy is the change management plan that should consist of a step-by-step procedure or future plan.
  • Structure – This factor is related to the structure in which the organization is divided or the structure it follows.
  • Systems – This stage focuses on the systems that will be used to complete day-to-day tasks and activities.
  • Shared values – Shared values refer to the core or main values of an organization according to which it runs or works.
  • Style – The manner in which the changes and leadership are adopted or implemented is known as ‘style’.
  • Staff – The staff refers to the workforce or employees and their working capabilities.
  • Skills – The competencies as well as other skills possessed by the employees working in the organization.

🧡 Why we like this model?

Unlike most other models, this model focuses on all the important factors that the change may have an influence or effect on. 

While most other models represent some kind of a process or workflow, McKinsey’s model simply reminds us on all the business aspects that should be defined before the change is being implemented. 

3. ADKAR Change Management Model

ADKAR model can be used by Change Managers to find out various gaps in the process so that effective training can be offered to the employees. 

Even though ADKAR model focuses on the business oriented goals, it can be very useful to support employees to more easily go through the process of change.

ADKAR Model stands for:

  • Awareness – of the need and requirement for change
  • Desire – to bring about change and be a participant in it
  • Knowledge – of how to bring about this change
  • Ability – to incorporate the change on a regular basis
  • Reinforcement – to keep it implemented and reinforced later on as well.

🧡 Why we like this model?

This change management model is a great solution for companies that are trying to look at both business dimensions of change as well as people dimensions of change.

Unlike other change management models, this model focuses on the identification and evaluation of the reasons why changes made are not working and why desired results are not being obtained.

4. Kübler-Ross Five Stage Change Management Model

This model is different from the others in a sense that is 100% employee oriented. The model can also be applied to other life situations such as loss of job, changes in work and other less serious health conditions. 

This model helps employers understand better their employees and empathize with them. This model consists of five stages through which your employees may be going during organizational changes.  

  • Denial – In this stage, employees are not willing to or unable to accept the news. This happens because most people show resistance towards change and may not want to believe what is happening.
  • Anger – This model assumes that when the news first get absorbed, anger follows. Denial converts into anger when employees realize that the change will actually happen. 
  • Bargaining – During the bargaining stage, employees try to get to the best possible solution out of the situation or circumstance. Bargaining is a way for people to avoid ending up with the worst case scenario.
  • Depression – When employees realize that bargaining is not working, they may end up getting depressed and may lose faith. Some of the symptoms include low energy, non-commitment, low motivation and lack of any kind of excitement or happiness.
  • Acceptance – When employees realize that there is no point in fighting change any more, they may finally accept what is happening and may begin to resign to it. 

🧡 Why we like this model?

We love this change management model because of its focus on employees, their feelings, fears and needs. 

Organizations that manage to understand their employees better, they are much more likely to eliminate some of the biggest barriers towards successful change management. 

Because most employees go through the above mentioned feelings, it is extremely important to keep employees informed and to have an effective business communication strategy

5. Lewin’s Change Management Model

Lewin’s Change Management Model is one of the most popular, most accepted and most effective change management models.

It helps companies better understand organizational and structured change. This model consists of three main stages which are: unfreeze, change and refreeze. 

  • Unfreeze: This is a preparation stage in which employers must get prepared for the change. Crucial here is open employee communication explaining why the change is necessary. The goal is to overcome employees’ resistance to change as much as possible. 
  • Change:This is the stage in which change gets implemented. Continuing on the first stage, good leadership and effective employee communications are crucial here. 
  • Refreeze: This is the stage in which changes are accepted and employees go back to their routines. 

This stage should be considered as almost ever-going. Leaders should make sure that changes are adopted and used even after the change management objectives have been achieved.

🧡 Why we like this model?

Lewin’s change management model in a very simple way describes the main 3 stages that every change management process has to go through: pre-change, during change and posy-change. 

Because of its simplicity, many organizations choose this model to follow when implementing changes. 

Why Organizational Changes Fail

In a research by PMI, of 256 companies that were surveyed, only 14% of them said that change failures can be chalked up to company's inability to cope with technology.

The other 86% of failures are related to these challenges:

  • improperly defined objectives (17%),
  • unfamiliar scope (17%),
  • lack of effective communication (20%) and,
  • poor project management skills (32%)


Employee Communication is the Center of Every Change Management Model

Within organizations, change initiatives mostly come from the top down. However, ultimately, it is the employees of your organization who have to change how they do their jobs. 

If these individuals are unsuccessful in their personal transitions, if they don’t embrace and learn a new way of working, the initiative will fail. 

On the other side, aligning employees with business goals is not an easy task.

As we saw from the above mentioned models, employee communication is the central part of every change management model

Without having your employees on board, changes are impossible to implement successfully within organizations. 

Make Change Management More Successful with Smarp

As improper employee communication is one of the main reasons why change management projects fail, companies now have to reconsider their internal communications efforts and switch to new employee communication solutions. 

Smarp, our employee communications platform, is designed to help organizations be more effective in change management

During change management processes, organizations mostly struggle to deliver relevant information to their employees at the right time and to always keep them connected. 

Smarp’s mobile-first approach, personalized employee news feeds, user friendliness and the ability to connect all the important information into one place, are just some of the reasons why enterprise companies use it as their primary mean of internal communication

Schedule Smarp demo to see how it can help your streamline your change management efforts and make them more successful by aligning all of your employees. 

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Written by

Kristina Martic

Kristina Martic

Digital Marketing and Employer Branding

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