Two Change Management Models & Strategies: A Comprehensive Guide

April 2, 2024by Jeremy Pollack

Contemporary organizations must rapidly evolve to succeed. The micro and macro environments in which organizations operate today are extremely volatile, and factors such as communication, technology, regulations, and society are changing unprecedentedly.

In this era, where change occurs more swiftly than ever, the organizations that stand out are those adept at managing change. Adherence to change management best practices fuels both transformational and adaptive change processes, which are integral to organizational success. The right change management model can offer numerous advantages, including enhanced communication, better decision-making, and increased productivity, all of which contribute to superior overall performance.

This blog post will explore how organizations can capitalize on change management. There are various change management models, including the Adkar change management model and the Bridges transition model. However, for this blog post, we will examine how organizations can utilize popular change management models such as Lewin’s and the Kübler-Ross change models to seamlessly guide their employees through change.

Continue reading for insightful strategies on implementing these change management models to propel your organization toward achieving its strategic vision.

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The Need for Change Management

According to Forbes, change does not happen in isolation and affects the entire organization in various ways. Despite the existence of change management processes, many organizations struggle with change, often because these processes are not correctly followed or employees are not prepared for it.

However, a well-structured change management model can empower all employees to embrace change positively. Having an experienced change management agent is crucial for successfully developing and deploying an effective change management framework. Pollack Peacebuilding Systems, a renowned consulting firm, offers expert change management consulting to help organizations navigate change more smoothly.

One of the primary challenges in implementing change is the resistance from employees. The Journal of Change Management highlights that change is disruptive and perceived as threatening the status quo, often eliciting emotional resistance from employees. Effective change managers do not condemn the status quo but strive to convince employees of the benefits of the future state over the present.

Introduction to Two Change Management Models

Lewin’s change model, developed by social psychologist Kurt Lewin, applies the force field theory to organizational change. This theory posits that driving and restraining forces influence organizational behavior and the outcome of change.

The driving forces promote a transition toward a new state, whereas restraining forces hinder change. Lewin’s model is favored for its simplicity and straightforward three-stage approach, which we will explore in depth in the next section.

The Kübler-Ross change curve, devised in 1969 by Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, is another model that guides organizational change processes. It is based on the principle that change induces emotional responses in employees, which can be categorized into five stages.

Understanding these stages helps change agents manage the emotional turmoil that can lead to resistance to change. We will delve into these stages in the following section.

Model 1: Kurt Lewin’s Change Model—Key Principles and Application

According to this change management framework, change progresses through three straightforward steps: unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. Nokia effectively illustrates how Lewin’s model can be applied to enhance change management within a business.

Nokia was an industry leader in the 1990s, maintaining its market dominance until the mid-2000s. The tech giant reached a milestone by selling its billionth phone, a Nokia 1100, in Nigeria in 2005. However, a combination of poor strategy and fierce competition nearly drove Nokia out of business in the late 2000s.

In 2008, the company’s profits plummeted by 30%, and in 2009, it reduced its workforce by more than 1,700 positions. In an attempt to salvage the situation, the company appointed Stephen Elop, a former Microsoft executive, as CEO. Internal conflicts and resistance to change brought the company to its knees, leading to its acquisition by Microsoft in 2013.

Surprisingly, Nokia has managed to rebound into profitability and today stands as a dominant figure in telecommunications.

Let us explore how Lewin’s change management model applies to Nokia’s transformation.

Stage 1: Unfreezing

Unfreezing involves all the preparations required for the desired change. During this stage, organizational leadership, with the assistance of change agents, fosters a need for change.

They may engage in the following activities:

  • Conduct a business process analysis to pinpoint areas requiring change.
  • Communicate the necessity for change to stakeholders compellingly.
  • Generate a sense of urgency to secure organizational support for the change process.
  • Develop and share a new strategic vision and change management strategy.
  • Address stakeholder concerns with honesty and transparency.

The change in question pertains to an overall strategy and organizational structure shift, which were Nokia’s principal issues. Executive management exhibited a lack of innovation and a significant disconnect between management and employees.

For instance, Elop’s appointment faced considerable resistance simply because he was not Finnish. Moreover, innovative ideas like software upgrades encountered substantial employee resistance.

In this unfreezing stage of Lewin’s change management model, Nokia’s change leaders made it clear to the employees that unless they collaborated to ensure the swift implementation of the CEO’s revolutionary ideas, including the Symbian OS, the company would be overtaken by competition.

This period spans from 2010 to 2014. Although Apple and Huawei had already capitalized on earlier opportunities, Nokia made a comeback and introduced the Nokia Lumia, the first Windows-based phone.

Stage 2: Changing

This second stage of the model is characterized by disrupting the status quo through implementing change. Business leaders and change agents are required to undertake the following activities during this implementation phase:

  • Enhance communication flow to continue support and minimize employee resistance.
  • Provide adequate training through change management workshops to enable employees to adapt to organizational changes.
  • Empower all stakeholders to effectively manage change.

Between 2015 and 2020, we observed a transformative Nokia committed to reclaiming its position of industry leadership. Significant changes occurred at the executive level, with the company transitioning from a Finnish entity to a global one, boasting multi-cultural leadership. Innovation became the norm, and internal disputes significantly diminished.

Stage 3: Refreezing

In this phase, employees transition to the new status quo. Here, the change team should focus on stabilizing the changes. If this stabilization does not occur, there is a risk that employees will revert to their previous behaviors and culture.

Some change initiatives to consider include:

  • Identifying and rewarding short-term wins and change champions.
  • Collecting and integrating employee feedback.
  • Continuing with on-demand training and support for stakeholders.

This describes the Nokia of today, which continues to demonstrate the potential for success in its software ventures despite numerous setbacks. The company persists in innovating and investing in performance management, with a new vision to ascend to the top, drawing lessons from the past.

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Model 2: The Kübler-Ross Change Curve—Navigating Organizational Transitions

This change management model outlines five stages of grief, which corporate leaders can utilize to mitigate the negative impacts of change and thereby expedite its implementation. The stages include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

It is important to note that businesses, too, undergo grief due to disruptions or challenges such as the loss of customers, decline in revenue, or cash flow constraints, making these five stages applicable to them. Let’s examine how these stages manifest in a business context.

Stage 1: Denial

In the denial stage, the entity experiences shock and disbelief as it grapples with the occurring change. Manifested through a “What!??” expression, the entity activates defense mechanisms to cling to the past.

For instance, when facing a slump in revenue, a business owner in denial might try to create an alternative reality to avoid the issue. They might, for example, hire consultants in an attempt to mask the problem.

Stage 2: Anger

As reality sets in, the entity enters the anger stage. This is expressed through seething rage toward whoever is perceived to be the cause of the decline in revenue. It’s common for the business owner to engage in blame games and possibly dismiss a few employees during this phase.

Stage 3: Bargaining

In the bargaining stage, the entity moves past anger and focuses on salvaging or rationalizing the situation. Here, the business owner may reach out to third parties, such as creditors and employees, to negotiate more favorable terms, like extensions on payment schedules.

Stage 4: Depression

The fourth stage, depression, sees the individual succumbing to despair, often after bargaining fails to resolve the crisis. The business faces significant uncertainty during this stage, where many fail. The business owner, unsure of what to do next, is overwhelmed by the situation.

Stage 5: Acceptance

In the final stage, acceptance, the individual comes to terms with the change. Having accepted the new reality, the individual, or in this case, the business owner, starts to eliminate ineffective elements and develop a new grand strategy, focusing on exploring new opportunities and adapting to the new status quo.

Pollack Peacebuilding Systems boasts expertise in applying these change management models practically. We have assisted numerous clients in overcoming change management challenges by skillfully applying concepts from these two models.

We adopt what we call a peaceful change management approach. This unique, industry-leading approach merges conflict management with change management to bolster employee engagement during the implementation of change.

Comparative Analysis of Models

Pollack Peacebuilding Systems is a highly innovative consultancy firm. We recognize that management models vary, highlighting that there is no one-size-fits-all change management strategy.

Our services extend beyond merely helping you select the appropriate change management model; we also assist in troubleshooting the model should it encounter future challenges.

Without continuous monitoring, even the most well-structured change initiatives are prone to failure. Lewin’s change management model and the Kübler-Ross change curve are among the popular and highly effective change management models.

We believe that each of these models possesses its strengths and weaknesses, making them suitable for different contexts. Depending on the situation, Lewin’s model may yield better results than the Kübler-Ross change curve and vice versa.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Lewin’s Change Management Model

The main strength of Lewin’s change management model lies in its simplicity. A change agent employing this strategy needs to consider only three stages, making the model less cumbersome to prepare for and easier to implement.

This model’s straightforwardness is also beneficial because employees can easily understand their progression from the preparation stage through the change stage and into the after-change phase.

However, the model’s primary drawback is its rigidity. The dynamic nature of organizational environments casts doubt on the advisability of refreezing change. The behaviors and strategies solidified in the third stage will inevitably require unfreezing to accommodate new changes.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Kübler-Ross Change Management Model

Unlike other change management models, the Kübler-Ross change management model’s main strength is its focus on the human aspect of change, prioritizing employees and their emotional responses over the mechanical aspects of business processes. Utilizing grief to conceptualize resistance offers an intuitive and relatable framework for understanding and applying the model, given that grief is a powerful emotional response.

Nevertheless, the model’s downside is its logistical complexity. Because employees adapt to change at varying rates, they will invariably find themselves at different stages of the curve, making it challenging to synchronize the change process across an organization.

Case Studies—Successful Implementations

Organizations need not wait for adversity to strike. Change management models can preemptively guide organizations to navigate potential challenges and maintain industry leadership. Once an organization has honed the ability to finely adjust its change management processes, change becomes an integral part of its culture.

Microsoft is a prime example of an entity that has adopted a structured and continuous approach to change management. Operating within the highly competitive software technology industry, Microsoft continually faces the necessity of adapting its vision and strategy to keep pace with technological advancements and shifting market trends.

Impressively, the company has developed a highly resilient business model that enables it to remain responsive to market dynamics. Key elements of Microsoft’s strategy that other organizations might consider adopting include:

Strategic Shift

To maintain a competitive edge, a company must meticulously analyze industry trends and strive to effectively meet customer needs. In response to the surging demand for cloud computing, Microsoft transitioned from focusing on software licensing to emphasizing cloud solutions like MS 365 and Azure. This strategic pivot has helped the company maintain its market leadership.

Cultural Transformation

Another critical aspect of Microsoft’s strategy is its emphasis on cultural transformation. The company fosters a dynamic culture that champions innovation, collaboration, and risk-taking. This culture underpins the agility observed in Microsoft’s operations.

Openness and Coopetition

Microsoft adopts a strategy of working closely with its competitors, not solely focusing on promoting its proprietary systems but embracing a more inclusive approach. This strategy has enabled the company to bolster its innovation capabilities by drawing insights from its competitors.

With the assistance of a proficient change management consulting firm, navigating change management can become significantly more manageable. Pollack Peacebuilding Systems offers guidance to make strategic management a continuous endeavor rather than a reactive measure to imminent challenges.

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Interactive Workshops by Pollack Peacebuilding

At Pollack Peacebuilding Systems, we understand that approach is paramount in change management consulting. As seasoned change management consultants, we aim to maximize the positive outcomes of change for our clients while minimizing resistance.

Key elements of change management models we address with our clients include:

  • Assessing readiness for change
  • Tailoring communication strategies
  • Building buy-in across the organization
  • Providing contextual onsite or remote employee training
  • Monitoring and adjusting change processes as necessary

Our innovative peace change management model merges conflict management with change management, a method we refer to as peaceful change management. This approach is grounded in the understanding that change invariably introduces disruption and conflict. Change processes can be worrisome and demoralizing for employees, often leading to turbulence.

For instance, significant downsizing and layoffs are not uncommon during periods of organizational change. By integrating conflict management with change management models, we are better equipped to enhance employee engagement toward change, preempt resistance, and avert disputes.

We offer both onsite and remote training and coaching for individuals and groups. Our training programs are meticulously customized to meet each organization’s specific change management needs and objectives.

Our workshops are designed to ensure improved engagement, morale, and mental-emotional health amidst change. Ultimately, the most significant outcome of our services is enhanced organizational effectiveness. Additionally, we provide tailored training focused on conflict management and employee motivation.

Navigating Resistance and Overcoming Challenges

The question we pose here is why organizational change initiatives often fail. What obstacles render change management daunting, and how can we circumvent these issues?

Employee Change Resistance

The principal obstacle in change management is the absence of complete cooperation and support from employees. Our research in change management indicates that employee resistance typically stems from organizations overlooking the human aspect of change management.

Most organizations initiate change with only CEOs, managers, and supervisors involved, neglecting the inclusion of lower-level and contractual employees. Pollack Peacebuilding Systems proposes a solution to this challenge: Maintaining open communication and striving for organization-wide buy-in before implementing change.

Poor Communication

Communication facilitates the flow of information throughout an organization. Resistance emerges when information and feedback about impending change fail to circulate efficiently across all levels.

Pollack Peacebuilding Systems identifies ineffective communication as a self-inflicted hurdle. Implementing a comprehensive communication plan and promptly addressing feedback is crucial to enhancing communication effectiveness.

Budgetary Constraints

As mentioned earlier, change is inherently disruptive and resource-intensive. Initiatives that exceed their budgets are often doomed to failure. Managers may begin to seek cost-cutting measures, which can compromise the completion of the project.

The solution to this challenge lies in drafting realistic budgets and adhering to the established timeframe. Budget overruns are more likely when change activities are delayed.

Insufficient Stakeholder Empowerment

The change process often requires comprehensive training and coaching to guarantee comprehensive support for all involved parties. However, numerous organizations neglect to provide adequate time, resources, and expert guidance for effective stakeholder training, thereby inciting resistance to change initiatives. This lack of investment in empowering stakeholders can undermine the success of change efforts, making the transition more difficult and less effective.

Pollack Peacebuilding Systems emphasizes the critical need to craft realistic budgets and practical training schedules as a strategic approach to overcoming this challenge. By prioritizing and investing in stakeholder empowerment, organizations can significantly enhance the likelihood of successful change implementation, ensuring that all stakeholders are well-prepared and fully supported throughout the change process.

Wrapping Up and Moving Forward

Organizational change is an unavoidable reality. In today’s highly volatile environment, organizations must constantly adjust and adapt to remain competitive. Staying abreast of industry trends is crucial for achieving success. Effective change management empowers organizations to transition through changes with minimal challenges.

Pollack Peacebuilding Systems provides expert change management consultancy services to overcome employee resistance and improve communication throughout periods of change. Opt for a change management solution from Pollack Peacebuilding Systems to enhance your organization’s ability to manage change efficiently.

We offer specialized change management training and coaching for both small and large organizations. Engage us today, and let us lead your change management initiatives toward achieving positive outcomes.

Jeremy Pollack

Jeremy Pollack is the Founder and CEO of Pollack Peacebuilding Systems.

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