What’s Needed in an Organizational Change Management Model?

This post looks at how you can leverage what you need from 10 different organizational change management models to effect change. The Change Life Cycle Framework is covered for the first time among of these frameworks in this blog. It imports pieces from the other models and provides a framework for building a strategic agility competency.

Approaches to Organizational Change Management Models

Organizational Change Management ModelsThere are many change models, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.

Some are strong on the individual side, where people need to advance through the change process. These change models have a strong emotional component, acknowledging that change is, in part, and emotional journey.

Others are strong on the rational side. These models provide steps to follow to bring the organization through the change process – from the current state to a new desired end state.

In addition, there are what I call ‘change tools or techniques‘ which help in the change process.

The following is a summary of these change models – individual, organization, and tools and techniques:

Individual Change:

  • ADKAR Model of Individual Change – Focuses on the individual working through the change process based on 5 elements: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.
  • Satir Model for Change – A personal growth model that focuses on the individual coping with change through 5 stages: Late status quo, Resistance, Chaos, Practice and Integration, and New status quo.
  • Kubler-Ross Change Model – Also known as ‘the change curve’, it models what people predictably experience in the change process into 7 phases: 1. Shock, 2. Denial, 3. Frustration, 4. Depression, 5. Experimentation, 6. Decision, and 7. Integration.
  • William Bridges Transitions Model – Distinguishes ‘transitions’ as an individual’s response to ‘change’, which, by contrast, is situational. Three ‘zones’ of the transition are Endings, Neutral Zone (where change takes place), and New Beginnings.

Team and organizational change:

  • John Kotter Change Management Model – An 8-step change management model for executing change in an organization: 1. Create urgency, 2. Build coalition, 3. Create vision, 4. Communicate vision, 5. Empower others, 6. Create quick wins, 7. Build on the change, and 8. Embed the change.
  • Kurt Lewin Change Management Model – Boils the change process down to 3 simple steps: Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze. The idea is to know where you are and to ensure you are thorough with each step.

Change facilitation techniques:

  • Rick Maurer 3 Levels of Resistance – Deals with the resistance portion of change management by defining three levels of resistance: 1. “I don’t get it”, 2. “I don’t like it”, and 3. “I don’t like you”.
  • Nudge Theory and Cognitive Bias for Change Management – Formalizes the practice of ‘nudging’ – not forcing – people in a particular direction. This plays on people’s tendency to take the easy way out, making decisions without much thinking – almost automatically. The alternative is hard: reasoning, thinking, and applying rationality. Nudging is very helpful for managing change.
  • W. Edwards Deming and the PDCA Cycle – Provides a framework or method for effecting continuous change for the better through a repeating 4-step process: 1. Plan, 2. Do, 3. Check, and 4. Act. ‘Study’ is sometimes used instead of ‘Check’ in #3 for a more thoughtful approach – making it the PDSA cycle.

The question is, which model(s) do you use?

As with project management methodologies, there is no single best answer that applies to every situation. You need to choose, tailor, and combine to build your own fit-for-purpose approach.

In an increasingly project-centric world, the Project Management Institute (PMI) has developed its own unique framework. The PMI Change Life Cycle Framework incorporates elements of the various change techniques and models with processes for managing projects.

Let’s take a look.

The PMI Change Life Cycle Framework

Change Life Cycle FrameworkThe PMI’s Change Life Cycle Framework acknowledges some models listed above, and suggests using them as inputs to your process for orchestrating change.

The model goes further in also asserting that organizational change will not happen without people finding their own individual way through the change. There are parallel paths for working through the change process for people as well as the organization. These parallel paths – for individuals and organizations – are supported by the various change models above.

I constructed the diagram at right based upon the five activities of the PMI Change Life Cycle Framework. It shows that the process is not linear or sequential, but rather is agile and feedback oriented.

The following is a list of the activities, with some commentary for each sub-activity or process. My comments focus on relating them back to the other change models.

  1. Formulate the change
    • Identify/clarify need for the change – This goes a long way in helping to get individuals to buy in and accept the inevitability – and benefits – of the change. Its creates urgency as well as awareness and desire. It also helps people get through any shock or denial about the change. This can help prepare for some – but not all – types of resistance.
    • Assess readiness for the change – On the personal side, people will transition at different times in their readiness for change. In addition, organizational elements such as org structure, process, and physical environment need to be in place by a certain point. When do people and organizational readiness reach a critical mass?
    • Delineate the scope of the change – This relates to creating the vision – creating the to-be picture. The scoping is disaggregated into projects and programs.
  2. Plan the change
    • Define the change approach – The change approach is defined not only in creating the vision but in building knowledge that will be needed across the team.
    • Plan stakeholder engagement – This involves communicating the vision and helping people through the chaos of the change process.
    • Plan transition and integration – People will need time to practice as they gradually integrate changes into a new way of doing business.
  3. Implement the change
  4. Manage the transition
  5. Sustain the change
    • Ongoing communication, consultation, and representation of stakeholdersReinforcement is required until the change process reaches the ‘Refreeze‘ point.
    • Conduct sensemaking activities – There will still be people lagging in their transition to a New Beginning. How can you nudge them in some way to help them through the transition?
    • Measure benefits realization – Knowledge and practice need to transition into ability. Measure not only the benefits realization, but the leading indicators such as demonstrated abilities of people.

The above delineates the Change Life Cycle Framework as supported by inputs from the various change models.


All of this about an Organizational Change Management Model has a significant impact on strategy. It builds a unique competency for the organization – a strategic agility competency.

Strategic agility provides the capability to identify, manage, and absorb change within the organization. This is relevant in times of rapid change – and in particular in markets and situations characterized by extreme change

Indeed, strategic agility can be a core capability and source of strategic advantage.

As a result, the anticipation of change can be – and needs to be – a big part of the strategy. In assessing the strategy, key considerations are:

  • External drivers of change – What are the most likely external factors that could change and have an effect on the strategy?
  • Strategic agility competency – How strong is it in the organization? How can you measure it, assess progress, and compare it to what is needed?
  • Sponsors and change – How committed are sponsors to the change? Will they be steadfast when certain conditions change?


I recommend these strategy resources on FlevyPro (paid links):

Change Management Frameworks Reference Guide
402-slide PowerPoint deck
Change Management Models
136-slide PowerPoint deck
flevy Change Management Frameworks Reference Guide


flevy Change Management Models


10 Principles in Leading Change Management
17-slide PowerPoint deck
Lean Change Management
21-slide PowerPoint deck
flevy 10 Principles in Leading Change Management flevy Lean Change Management


The capacity or capability for change is a strategic advantage. In fact, “Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide (2013)” by the Project Management Institute (PMI), has a whole section on “Change as a Strategy”!

The practice guide further states that the capacity or capability for change is “iterative, emergent, and continually evolving”. Furthermore, it states that organizations can build this capability by becoming “strategically agile and more effective at delivering change through portfolio, program, and project management”.

Project Management

In “Managing Change in Organizations: A Practice Guide” the following three ideas are emphasized:

  1. Strategic agility though project, program, and project management – Competency in project management provides the foundation for building this strategic agility core competency.
  2. Developing an organizational project management competency – Change capability of the organization is directly related to the organizations ability to consistently deliver successful projects in a well-coordinated way across the organization.
  3. Aligning the processes for portfolio, program, and project management with those for change management – The processes for each of these areas are unique – but there are overlaps, and the overall processes can and need to be aligned.


I recommend these PM templates (paid link):

Method123 PM templates


I plan to dig deeper into this relationship between project/program/portfolio management and change management in another post.


This post looked at 10 different organizational change management models – and mapped them to the activities in the PMI’s Change Life Cycle Framework. It talked about how organizations can combine the various change methods, approaches, and techniques to build a unique strategic advantage – a strategic agility competency.

For a quick 3-minute video – it will put you in the right frame of mind for the structured work that change entails – I recommend, “Dealing With Change Management Inside Of Organizations – Jacob Morgan”


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