6 Change Management Models

Mixed group of business men and women of various ages.

Initiating an organizationwide change in a company or even a teamwide change at a more local level can be challenging for the best of managers. These six change management models can help leaders effect change in a lasting, positive way.


Sales management training company Richardson uses a change management model called ADKAR with its clients. ADKAR is an acronym that stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement.


To make a change, people must be aware of why the change is necessary. Explaining the stakes and possible consequences of not changing is part of this, as is ensuring people know what the benefit of making a change is.


Once employees know why a change is coming, get them onboard with it. Address their concerns and make sure they’re clear on the benefits. Leaders set an example for employees to foster a positive attitude around the change.


Training, education programs, classes, meetings and other tools can be used to give employees the knowledge they need to make the change correctly and effectively.


Hand in hand with knowledge is ability: imparting to employees the skills they need to be successful throughout and after the process. Employee training not only builds the skills and abilities necessary to navigate a new environment but also fosters confidence among employees.


People must be rewarded for engaging with the process of making a change. By following the ADKAR model, you’ve already talked to them about the benefits of making a change; ensure that they actually get to see those benefits.

Bridges Transition Model

The Bridges Transition Model focuses on transition rather than change as well as the mental and emotional states people go through during transitions and upheavals. Detailed in Managing Transitions by William Bridges, the model gives guidance on how to help people through these different stages of transition.

Ending, Losing and Letting Go

In the early stages of a transitional period, people are often confused, frustrated, afraid, uncertain and even angry or sad. People in this stage of transition haven’t yet accepted the change as inevitable or likely and are still fighting it. The Bridges Transition Model recommends allowing people space and time to process their emotions and emphasizing how they’ll be able to use their skills and knowledge effectively after the change has taken place. Because people often fear what they don’t understand, helping them understand the change is the first step.

The Neutral Zone

During this stage, acceptance still hasn’t come, and employees might be going through the growing pains of the change process. Anger, confusion and resentment are likely still present, and workloads might be higher than normal because adjustment hasn’t occurred yet. This stage can also spark great creativity and innovation, though. A leader’s role during this period is to provide solid direction for those who feel lost. Frequent feedback is important, not only because it helps people understand what they’re doing right and what they must change, but also because it can help boost morale during this uncertain period.

The New Beginning

At this point, employees have started to accept the change, though not everyone progresses through the stages at the same pace. When employees reach this stage, they might experience heightened energy and focus, openness to learning and a renewed commitment to the job. Make sure you do everything you can to sustain these attitudes. Reward your team, link their long-term goals to the health of the company and highlight success stories regularly.

GE’s Change Acceleration Process (CAP)

When instating a change within the company, leaders at GE use a model known as the Change Acceleration Process (CAP).

Create a Shared Need

GE’s change philosophy states that “change is life” and that only those who adapt and change regularly thrive. The goal of this step is to create a compelling reason to make a change, one that outweighs resistance to the change itself. By focusing on how the change benefits both the company and the employees, GE creates an atmosphere of teamwork and a shared goal.

Shape a Vision

Any change starts with a clear goal or endpoint. It’s the responsibility of leaders to determine what that endpoint is and to articulate it clearly to all of the stakeholders.

Mobilize Commitment

Once the vision and shared purpose have been communicated, look for the areas in the company where resistance is low and identify the early adopters. Mobilize these people to be agents of change; they can help you convert those who might offer more resistance.

Make Change Last

By taking advantage of early wins and learning from pilot programs, leaders can use the knowledge they gain during the adoption of a change to make lasting improvements to the company, correct what needs to be corrected and ensure that the change integrates well with other initiatives within the company.

Monitor the Process

Know how you’ll measure your progress. Track and monitor those metrics. This will help you know when to celebrate and when to make improvements.

Kotter’s 8-Step Model

Kotter International, an organizational transformation firm, uses an eight-step model to facilitate change within an organization.

Create a Sense of Urgency

People need to want to change. Communicate your vision clearly, in a way that makes them want to act now.

Build a Guiding Coalition

Every change needs people to lead it and guide it. Build your coalition from the ranks of the people your change will most directly affect to maximize buy-in.

Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives

Communicate how the future will differ from the past, and link that difference directly to your vision for the change.

Enlist a Volunteer Army

Any large-scale change needs many people to do the work, and recruiting volunteers — those most invested in seeing the change come to fruition — affords you the greatest opportunity for success.

Enable Actions by Removing Barriers

If procedures or hierarchies are getting in the way of effective and necessary change, then eliminate them whenever possible.

Generate Short-Term Wins

Short-term wins help those in your volunteer army see that their efforts are making a difference. Wins raise morale and act as metrics to help you track success.

Sustain Acceleration

Use your early wins to build momentum. Press harder. Leverage your new credibility to make the changes that must be made.

Institute Change

Demonstrate the relationship between your successes and the new behaviors being exhibited. Use those relationships to build habits.

Lewin’s 3-Stage Model

In the 1950s, physicist Kurt Lewin proposed a three-stage organizational change management model based on the process of changing the shape of ice: unfreeze, change, refreeze.


To unfreeze an organization’s current state, create motivation for change. Communicate to employees why the change is necessary and how it will benefit them and the organization. Generate buy-in for the change.


Promote new ways of working and communicating, new value systems and new forms of corporate culture. Institute new processes. Encourage problem-solving and flexibility among employees. Identify the things that need to be changed and change them.


Once necessary changes have been made, reintroduce a sense of stability to the organization. Reinforce and reward the positive changes that have been made. Provide feedback. Once your change has been incorporated into the company’s culture, you can consider it refrozen.

People-Centered Implementation (PCI)

Changefirst uses a model called People-Centered Implementation (PCI), which is based on the idea that in order to implement real change, the people affected by that change must be involved and onboard. PCI uses six change factors; the first three change factors target management, while the second three target the leaders of local teams.

Shared Change Purpose

Leaders start the change by creating a statement that is short and easy to share and that communicates the reason for the change clearly. This shared change purpose consists of three parts: an imperative, which communicates the urgency of the change; the future state, which conveys positively what the organization will look like after the change; and a solution, which gives people an idea of how the change will come about.

Effective Change Leadership

Creating a leadership team for the change is crucial. PCI does this by: targeting people in leadership positions within the organization to become sponsors of the initiative, recruiting change agents within the organization to accomplish specific tasks and recruiting influencers with a significant amount of informal sway within the organization.

Powerful Engagement Process

Instituting organizational change requires a plan, and PCI uses four. The involvement plan details how different individuals will be involved within the change. A learning plan sets a roadmap for training and education. The reward plan specifies how people will be rewarded for their involvement. And a communication plan details how information will be communicated throughout the process.

Committed Local Sponsors

By seeking out committed local sponsors, you recruit local managers and leaders to support the change plan and to model the behavior you want to see under the change. Local sponsors give other employees a clear example of what’s expected and can help build support with their commitment.

Strong Personal Connection

Local sponsors have three important jobs. First, they provide individual employees with a personal imperative, or an understanding of the consequences of resisting the change at this point. Second, they help employees see the solution as viable by providing opportunities for them to try out the change for themselves. Finally, they provide feedback on ways for individual employees to be successful under the change.

Sustained Personal Performance

Because local sponsors have frequent, direct contact with the employees on their teams, they’re able to address questions about job security, financial impact, changes in responsibility, changes in working relationships, the learning curve for adopting the change and any other specific concerns employees might have. This direct contact and ability to help employees understand the impact of the change on their personal situations allow for greater long-term success for the change as a whole.

A Career in Business Management

An online degree in management and leadership from Campbellsville University can help you become an effective change agent within your organization. Learn the skills you need in a flexible, challenging environment.