Change Management Principles Everyone Should Know
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Change Management Principles Everyone Should Know

Change can be both an opportunity and a challenge for organisations. How can leadership and HR teams enable their people to adopt new processes and embrace new ways of working? Understanding the basic principles of change management is a great place to start.

What Do We Mean By Change Management?

Although it seems to be a relatively new topic, principles of change management originated over 50 years ago amongst social psychologists researching processes for bringing about change at individual, group, and organisational level. Then in the 1990s, change management came out of academia and into the corporate space. Organisations now understand the importance of change as a process that needs to be supported and managed, as well as a discipline that requires experience, empathy and expertise.

In this article, we are focusing on how change management addresses the human side of change. Whether it’s an organisation restructuring, changes in leadership or a new technology implementation, these are all changes that impact teams and individuals at all levels of the organisation. If people don’t support the change, understand its purpose or what they need to do to make it successful, then failure with all the financial and reputational repercussions is not far behind.

Why Change Management Matters

The growth of technology has sped up the pace of business and the imperative for organisational agility. Company leaders recognise more and more the need for their organisation to adapt quickly to emerging innovations and create a competitive advantage for themselves. So the discipline of change management is no longer something reserved for IT projects. It is an essential competence for any organisational change, whether internal or external forces instigated the change.
Change management specialists, together with leadership teams and HR departments, are among the best-positioned to achieve effective change. Their role is to ensure that the implemented changes are clearly planned, communicated and aligned with the company’s overall strategy and values. This includes gathering and applying insights from all levels of the affected organisation so that potential blind spots are addressed appropriately and successfully.

Change Management Models

There are different approaches to help organisations plan, navigate and implement change processes, while ensuring that individuals and teams adopt and accept these changes. Here are six of the most widely used change management models:

Lewin’s Change Management Model

Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze. When social psychologist Kurt Lewin presented his change management theory in 1947, he observed that people have the natural inclination to resist change and seek what is familiar and comforting. In order to change, people must first go through a process of preparation, or unfreezing, before they can feel ready for the change.

The change then needs to be embedded in their thoughts and behaviours through a process of refreezing to establish the new norm.

McKinsey 7-S Framework

Developed in the 1980s by two McKinsey consultants, the 7-S Framework looks at seven internal factors that influence organizational success.

These include “hard” elements such as

  • Systems
  • Structure
  • Strategy

And “soft” elements like

  • Style
  • Skills
  • Staff
  • Shared Values.

This framework not only serves as a change management tool but also supports the process of organizational design during the change process itself and when considering new areas of change in the future.

ADKAR Change Management Model

Developed by the change management consultancy Prosci in 2006, the ADKAR Change Model is based on the understanding that organizational change can only be successful if top-down change is integrated with bottom-up change at the individual level as well.

ADKAR is an acronym for the five goals that need to be considered when planning and managing change:

  • Awareness of the need for change
  • Desire to support the change
  • Knowledge of how to change
  • Ability to demonstrate the expected skills and behaviours
  • Reinforcement to make the change stick.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

Harvard business professor John Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model outlines how to systematically and effectively implement change in an organization by addressing the 8 key barriers to change.

The 8 steps he recommends are:

  • Create Urgency
  • Form a Powerful Coalition
  • Create a Vision for Change
  • Communicate the Vision
  • Remove Obstacles
  • Create Short-Term Wins
  • Build on the Change
  • Anchor the Change in Corporate Culture.

For change to be successful, Kotter’s model ensures that all levels of the organization, from senior leaders to teams and individuals, are fully engaged in owning, implementing, and sustaining the change.

Kübler-Ross Change Curve

The Change Curve is based on a model originally developed in the 1960s by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to explain the grieving process. It describes the personal emotional journey that individuals typically go through when experiencing change and transition:

  • Shock
  • Denial
  • Frustration
  • Depression
  • Acceptance
  • Experimentation
  • Decision
  • Integration

Since it was first presented, the Kübler-Ross Change Curve has been widely adopted in businesses as a way to understand how people may react to organizational change and to provide guidance and support during the transition process.

Deming Cycle

Not strictly a change management model, the Deming Cycle (also known as PDSA) is a change needs and readiness analysis approach to achieving continuous quality improvement in processes and in organizations as a whole.

It comprises a logical sequence of four steps:

  1. Plan ahead to understand which change is necessary,
  2. Do take an experimental approach to test if proposed solutions are working,
  3. Study/ Check if the results align with strategic expectations and learn from that, and
  4. Act on the best results achieved so far and use this new knowledge in the next iteration of the improvement process.

Additional Resources

I am working on a booklet with an in-depth infographic for these and other change management models. If you would like to receive this booklet when it is ready, please sign up to get on the waiting list.

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