What are the change management models

Career & Salary

Change, change and transformation. Everyone talks about it and knows how necessary it is to adapt quickly to constantly changing conditions. And yet change is difficult. This is illustrated by examples such as the Mann Gulch disaster, in which experienced firefighters died because they were unable to abandon what they had learned and change their behavior spontaneously. We are also seeing this in the current COVID-19 pandemic, and at the same time we are learning that changes are possible if the necessity is felt to be great enough. The following article gives an overview of the most important methods and models of change management.

Change management: definition

Change management "includes all tasks, measures and activities that are intended to bring about a comprehensive, cross-departmental and far-reaching change in terms of content - to implement new strategies, structures, systems, processes or behaviors - in an organization." So much for the definition, but what exactly does change management address? Change or change has become an integral part of day-to-day business: Changed market conditions, increased customer requirements and technical progress call for new structures and better processes. The human factor plays the central role - also in digitization. The economist Peter Drucker stated more than 50 years ago: "We are becoming aware that the major questions regarding technology are not technical but human questions."

And it is precisely this human factor that change management addresses. Change is difficult for us humans. Our brain is programmed to survive. It wants to ward off danger and is always looking for a reward. However, averting danger plays the more dominant role. It is additionally activated in the case of changes whose effects cannot be foreseen: Analytical thinking is suppressed, making changes difficult. Change management methods now ensure that changes can still be carried out, because they guide you through the change process in a stringent and effective manner, and define fields of action and individual tasks.

Change Management Models: An Overview

The Lewin model

Lewin's change management model with its three phases "Unfreeze - Move - Refreeze" is one of the simpler ones. The psychologist Kurt Lewin developed it in the 1940s. Originally intended as a model for social changes in a society, it is now used wherever changes take place - including in companies and projects.

The figure shows the three phases and their core tasks. In the "Unfreeze phase" the existing condition is thawed, which prepares the changes. When those involved realize that change is necessary, things get moving. The actual change takes place in the "move phase". Here it is important to create new solutions, to learn new behaviors and thus to implement the change. Once the changes have been introduced, the new state is frozen in the "refreeze phase" in order to keep the changes. This is achieved through training and coaching, among other things. The freeze also signals that the goal of the current change measures has been achieved.

The 8-step model from Kotter

Probably the best-known model for the successful implementation of business transformations is the model by John P. Kotter. The graphic shows Kotter's eight-stage process, which is also divided into three phases.

The first three stages are about building up the willingness to change. If there is awareness of the need for change, the management team can be won over to the transformation. Only when these steps have been successfully processed can the next steps follow.

Show urgency ("Increase Urgency"): The need for change must be shown: It cannot go on as it is. Targeted communication measures make those involved aware that the company and thus also jobs are insecure if something is not done. The background to this: change is only possible when those involved internalize that dangers must be averted.

The following points must be observed:

  • present the threat scenario and at the same time identify a possible solution;

  • demonstrate the benefits of the new strategy for the company;

  • work out the benefits for those affected and the answer to "What is in it for me?" give;

  • Clearly present the target image: Describe all facts, including those that are assumed to be given. Use the "KISS" principle (KISS = Keep It Short & Simple);

Build Guiding Team: It takes a good leadership team made up of influential people who all pull together. This is the only way to implement upcoming changes and anchor them in the company. It is important to include people on the leadership team who have a great influence and / or good standing in the workforce. At the same time, they must fully support the planned change. If it is then possible to win over so-called “gray eminences” - people in the company who are known for their critical attitude - this strengthens the team even further.

Develop vision ("Get Vision Right"): A strong vision is essential because it helps make the change happen. It specifies the overriding goal, shows what the future should look like, and answers the question of what makes sense: why and what are we here for? What role does each team play in relation to the overarching goals? The vision is one of the most important tools in change management. If it is able to address people's unconscious goals - because it is these that control their ways of thinking and behaving - then it acts like a magnet. It motivates projects and is one of several success factors for mobilizing employees. The strategy complements the vision: It describes the concrete path to the overarching goals.

In the second phase, the organization is involved and thereby enabled to accompany the upcoming change. It is important here that as many people as possible become involved and help shape the changes. This increases the chances of success and the sustainability of the changes enormously.

Communicate the vision ("Communicate for buy-in"): Communication comes before implementation. Those affected have to understand them in order to become involved or supporters. Introducing measures without first explaining the context to those involved would unnecessarily cause unrest in the company. When communicating, it makes sense to proceed in several steps: The change team first informs the client and gets a “go” there. The change team then informs the executives so that they can also answer questions from employees in company-wide communication. The next step is to find the right way to communicate the vision to everyone involved.

Authorization ("Empower action"): Only those who feel "empowered" can really help. That is why it is so crucial to give those involved room for maneuver in addition to their tasks. So the implementation is spread over many shoulders. If everyone is affected, in the end everyone has to do something, change something, so that the vision can be achieved. Planning is also important: who has to do what for everyone to achieve the goal? Responsibility is also shared with the tasks. Here it is often advisable to break down the goals into sub-goals for teams or organizational areas instead of just distributing tasks. Teams can then plan themselves. You are “empowered”.

Make short-term successes visible ("Create short term wins"): Quick successes have to be realized and made visible so that motivation increases. Quick wins should therefore also be identified as part of the target definition, because success is important in order not to let the initially generated motivation fizzle out. First successes should be related to the overarching overall goal, because then they strengthen intrinsic motivation. Small successes can have a big impact.

The last two stages serve the sustainable implementation of the change, the sustainable change.

Don't let up ("Don't let up"): Level 7 goes hand in hand with level 6 - after a period of change work, there is a risk of falling back into old patterns and slacking off in the efforts to change. The main problem is that the people in the company or project no longer perceive the necessity and urgency generated in stage 1. Because you've already achieved something. Now it is important to stay focused and strong and, for example, to make it clear to yourself and the team again and again why the change measures were initiated. And also to clearly show that the goal has not yet been achieved.

Anchoring changes in the corporate culture ("Make change stick"): Only when the achieved changes have been successfully anchored in the corporate culture are they sustainable and only then can one speak of a successful change management process. To achieve this, the right values ​​must be conveyed. While training and development programs can help, it is equally important to get rid of processes and procedures that do not fit into the new culture. Last but not least, it has to be decided how to deal with colleagues who defend themselves against the implemented changes and the new culture in the long term, i.e. who are not ready to accept the new.

Implementation according to Covey

Even if Stephen Covey's method of implementation is not one of the common change management procedures, it should be mentioned here. Because Covey shows why the implementation of plans (especially changes) often fails, and what can be done to ensure that the implementation succeeds. In order to achieve sustainable change, it is important to monitor progress over the long term and to communicate the degree of achievement transparently for all those involved. This closes the so-called implementation gap. Covey divides this implementation gap - shown in the following figure - into four levels:

  1. Employees do not know the goal.

  2. Employees don't know what to do to achieve the goal.

  3. Employees have no idea where they are on the way to their goal.

  4. Employees do not feel responsible for achieving the goal.

Basically, these four pitfalls are also dealt with in Kotter's model. Nevertheless, with every change measure it is enormously helpful to consciously question:

  • Do those involved know the goal?

  • Do you know what to do to achieve it?

  • Do you know where you are on the way to your goal?

  • And do you feel responsible too?

In order to address the last two points, Covey recommends continuously measuring the degree of achievement of the goals and communicating actively and regularly to all those involved. This avoids not only the third but also the fourth trip hazard. Because through regular involvement, the management team shares responsibility with all those involved. This creates trust, and those involved can make their contribution as independently as possible. And that is exactly what makes people happy: knowing what is expected of them, combined with the freedom to help shape things and to take on responsibility. It promotes their motivation in the long term, especially when transparent communication shows that they are currently part of a successful implementation.

Change management: seize the opportunity!

As mentioned at the beginning, the current pandemic shows, among other things, that change is possible. And it trains us all to deal with change. With Kotter's or Lewin's methods, there are good approaches that can be effectively supplemented by the point of view introduced by Covey. Now is the right time to take a closer look at these, because both the willingness and the need for change are currently on a high. (pg / fm)