Employee Experience

Models of Change: 7 Main Models

5 Mins read

Models of Change: 7 Main Models article analyses the models to help your company and teams successfully cruise in the organizational changes. 

Transformations in technologies, industries, and numerous shifts depending on all the events happening worldwide are bringing inevitable changes in businesses and organizations.

The more significant a change is – the more challenging the process. The Harvard Business Review notes that around 70% of change management projects fail. Yet, the capabilities of organizational teams to implement these changes are a direct result of a business’s overall goals. 

What is Change Management?

There are different definitions for Change Management. Generally, it includes the steps that a company or a team undertakes to implement changes. There is no right or wrong way to do it, but there are some tested models that can help – the so-called models of change. 

Models of change provide specific information and guidelines on how to successfully implement changes. Further in this article, we present 7 main models designed by field experts and proven to positively guide businesses.

Why are Models of Change Important?

The following of one model or the combination of some has proven to bring successful results in the change processes. Organizations want to follow a model that has proven efficient and foresees possible risks. Not to mention, that once an organization uses such a model – it can serve as a template for other change processes as well. 

Model of Change 1: ADKAR Change Management

In order to foresee the necessary training for the employees, the ADKAR model of change provides the managers with possible gaps in the change process. It focuses on the business aspects and goals, and it stands for: 

Awareness of the need for change;
Desire to participate in the change; 
Knowledge of how to proceed with change;
Ability to regularly incorporate the change; 
Reinforcement means to reinforce changes later on as well.

This model greatly serves to identify why the change is needed, why it will work or not, and what results to expect. If those results are obtained, this model helps in identifying why. 

ADKAR Change Management Model
ADKAR Change Management Model

Model of Change 2: Lewin’s Change Model

Since the 1940s, Lewin’s Change Model is one of the most popular models that has proven to be effective. It is a significant help thanks to its simplicity and effective structure. It consists of three main stages: 

  • Unfreeze: In order to overcome the employee’s resistance to change, the initial phase of this model requires excellent communication. The employees should be convinced why change is needed. 
  • Change: Similar to the first phase, communication and leadership are essential in this stage as well. This is the stage where changes are actually implemented. 
  • Refreeze: Optimistically, this stage is where changes are implemented and accepted. It’s important for the changes to find their regular usage. A check on pre-set objectives should take place as well. 

This model can seem too simple for some teams, but organizations should definitely give it a try as it can help in identifying old patterns and clearly communicate the next steps. 

Lewin's Change Management Model
Lewin’s Change Management Model

Model of Change 3: McKinsey 7S Framework

Developed in the 1970s, this framework suggests the following seven fundamental aspects.

Hard elements (easy to control):

  • Strategy;
  • Structure;
  • System.

Soft elements (more difficult to control/change):

  • Skills;
  • Style;
  • Staff;
  • Shared Values.

This model is specifically efficient when organizations need to work with different departments and processes. The 7 elements are interconnected – meaning that if one is skipped or altered, it will affect all the others. For example, if a company decides to introduce new software programs, the style, strategy, and structure will change – alongside other elements. 

McKinsey 7S Framwork mode of change
McKinsey 7S Framwork

Model of Change 4: Kotter’s 8-step Change Model

This model was developed as a result of data gathered from 100 organizations surveyed. Its main focus stands on the people experiencing the organizational changes – rather than the changes themselves. The 8 steps as listed by John Kotter are as in the following:

  • Establish a sense of urgency
  • Build a guiding coalition
  • Form a strategy for change
  • Communicate the vision 
  • Enable action by removing barriers
  • Generate short-term goals 
  • Sustain acceleration 
  • Institute change.

Broadly speaking, this model encourages the creation of a sense of urgency, building a strategy and effectively communicating it, setting goals, and capitalizing on them – so that change can become part of an organization’s culture. 

Kotter's 8-Step Model of Change
Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change

Model of Change 5: Kübler-Ross Five Stage Change Management Model

We have mentioned some models in the list that have some kind of focus on the employees. Different from all other models, the Kübler-Ross Model has a full employee oriented focus. This model helps organizations to understand employee’s feelings and perspectives on the changes, through these 5 stages: 

  • Denial: Just like in real life, organizational changes can be hard to understand/accept as well. This way, the first stage of this model illustrates that employees can be in denial of the changes happening. 
  • Anger: Once the employees understand the changes are happening, supposedly the angel will be a follow-up. 
  • Bargaining: In order to avoid ending up negatively, bargaining takes place. In this stage, the employees try to deal with the best possible scenario and solution out of the change. 
  • Depression: In really bad cases, once employees understand that bargaining isn’t working, depression may follow. Among others, this can be negatively shown with low commitment and energy. 
  • Acceptance: The final stage has some positive remarks to it. The final stage is when the employees understand that there is no reason to fight change and finally accept it.  

Organizations that understand the above stages tend to show deeper empathy to their employees, and change processes are more effective. Not only in organizations, but this model also serves for personal changes – job changing, job loss, and more. 

Kubler Ross Model of Change

Model of Change 6: The Satir Change Methodology

Designed by Virginia Satir, a family therapist, this model finds its base on the family changes she recognized throughout her work. Basically, this model find an application to businesses and organizational changes through below main points:

  • Late Status Quo: Your position before starting.
  • Resistance: Just like in personal lives, resistance is a natural response to change.
  • Chaos: If the resistance is still present, chaos can be a follow-up.
  • Integration: If changes have been accepted, productivity will begin leveling up. 
  • New Status Quo: The new reality of the workplace with all the new changes.
Satir Model of Change

Model of Change 7: Bridges Transition Model

This model finds its best usage on big organizational changes – as it focuses not so much on the results, but rather on how employees accept the new changes and let go of the old ones. Also focused on the people, it has three main stages:

  • Ending, losing, and letting go:  The first stage in the transition model starts with the ending of a certain situation – as it is frequently the most difficult for employees. It is crucial to effectively express the goal and benefits of the change to employees because failing to take into account their feelings may lead to their rejection of the changes.
  • Neutral zone: Employees adjust to the change and become familiar with new procedures. If any problem encounters, communicate immediately and plainly to prevent confusion and annoyance.
  • New beginnings: Acceptance is the last phase of the transformation. Employees are aware of their purpose and comprehend the necessity of the changes. To show the concrete outcomes of the employees’ hard effort, emphasizing the success of the modifications.
Bridges Transition Model of Change

Which model should I choose?

Each of these models for change management stresses the significance of putting your people at the center of how you plan and carry out a change. Consider their feelings and make having a productive conversation with them a high priority.

There isn’t a single approach to change management that works best everywhere. Instead, by comprehending them all, you can choose the one that best suits your company’s requirements or combine different models for different results. 


To successfully change an organization, you must put in a lot of effort. Implementing change can be made much easier and your chances of success will increase if you plan carefully and lay the right foundation. Accordingly, your plans for change are more likely to fail if you are too eager and demand too many outcomes too quickly. Analyse the above models and identify what will best work for your company and teams, and don’t hesitate to combine models for better results. 

Further Reading:

Digital Employee Experience: The Complete Guide
Inappropriate Jokes in the Workplace
Employee Handbooks: Non-Compete Clause
Strategic Performance Management

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About author
Fatjona Gërguri is the content writer for Employee Experience Magazine, covering the relevant topics about employee experience, organizational culture and general HR topics.
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