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Change Management

Change Management (Part 2) – Step Models of Change

Change Management is critical to the success of any business alteration, particularly IT projects, and must be carefully planned to achieve the desired results. This is the second article in a series of three which takes a look at the circumstances for success and compares step models for implementing change.

The first article in this series, Change Management (Part 1) – Cracking the Code of Change focused on some key theories and concluded that a change that tries to involve employees and alleviate their fears and concerns is far more likely to be successful. One that goes further and starts with a Top-down change then follows that with a Bottom-up approach to embed the change in the culture has a very real chance of delivering lasting results.

Building on those conclusions, it is important to ensure that a structured and coherent programme is implemented that includes strong leadership, appropriate actions to ensure staff are properly involved and attention to changing internal policies to align with the new reality.

Pettigrew & Whipp (1991) summarise this in their “Receptive Contexts for Change”:

  • Coherent change program
  • Clear environment assessment and definition of the needed change
  • Consistent, coherent, committed approach to leading change across the whole organisation
  • Linked strategic and operational change
  • Close attention to the HR side of change

Step Models of Change

Any successful change needs to undertake a variety of key steps in order to change the organisation, what Lewin (1951) termed Unfreeze-Move-Refreeze.

Unfreeze – convince the organisation that it needs to change.

Move – move the organisation toward the new vision.

Refreeze – embed the new reality into the organisation and its culture.

There has been considerable literature written around what are often referred to as step models of change, some of the key models are shown below. At a high level the models all follow Lewin’s three phases. Which model you choose to follow will depend on circumstances and personal preference. The important thing is that a structured and coherent change architecture is in place.

Step models of change

Kotter’s 8 Step Model of Change

Probably one of the most well known and respected change models is from the Harvard Business School article and later book by John Kotter – “Leading Change”. He later followed this with “The Heart of Change” and lastly his modern fable “Our Iceberg is Melting” which uses a group of penguins to illustrate the change process.

Many have written about the Kotter model, including a very good series of three articles on Martin Webster’s blog. Another good reference to this model can be found on the Change Management Blog.

To summarise the key aspects of Kotter’s model:

Creating a Climate for Change – helping the organisation to see the reasons for change, painting the picture of the “burning platform”, developing a sense of urgency, gaining commitment from senior leadership and key players, and finally developing a shared vision for the future.

Engaging and Enabling the Whole Organisation – moving the whole organisation towards the new reality, communicating the vision and empowering action. Creating opportunities for short term wins along the way will help the organisation to visualize progress and maintain momentum.

Implementing and Sustaining Change – keep pushing the change forward, not letting up and finally anchoring the change into the organisation, including changing HR policies.


Critical to change management success is a structured and coherent programme that includes strong leadership from senior management, painting a clear picture of the reason for change and creating a sense of urgency. This then enables you to lead the impacted staff towards a new vision and then work towards anchoring that new reality in the organisational culture. As discussed in the first article of this series, key to this success is involving the impacted people throughout and helping them to understand how they are impacted, in order to remove the fear of the unknown.

This is especially true for IT projects where staff may not understand a new technology and working practices, which leads to increased anxiety and fear. Therefore it is imperative to help them make the transition and to feel they are part of the decision process, not just a victim of the end result.

The third article in this series, “Change Management (Part 3a) – Change Capability” takes a look at an improved model for implementing organisational change management that builds on Kotter’s model.

What are your views on Change Management, especially related to IT projects?


Related articles:

Change Management (Part 1) – Cracking the Code of Change
Change Management (Part 3a) – Change Capability
Change Management (Part 3b) – Success with IT Change
Change Management – What’s in a Name?
Why are IT projects Change Management time bombs?
The Importance of Change Leadership – Beyond “Step Models of Change”


33 thoughts on “Change Management (Part 2) – Step Models of Change

  1. This article can also be found on the Enterprise CIO forum at http://www.enterprisecioforum.com/en/blogs/mdavis10/change-management-part-2-step-models-cha


    Posted by Martin | March 6, 2012, 7:18 am
  2. Great post! I have used the Kotter model frequently on large scale changes. There is a toolkit available in Heart of Change Field Guide that provides templates and tools that help you bring the 8 steps to life on a change project. I also really like the Phases of Concen model that is part of the Blanchard toolset for change. This model addresses what happens to people, on the inside, when they are asked to change.


    Posted by Melissa Lanier | April 4, 2012, 8:08 pm
    • Glad you liked it, I will have to review the Blanchard model, not heard of that one before. The loss or bereavement curve is another one that covers similar ground. Have you read the post that follows this is the series on the Change Capability Framework? It builds on Kotter and takes into account the wider perspective.


      Posted by Martin | April 4, 2012, 8:34 pm
  3. If you enjoyed this post you might also like some of the associated ones listed below and especially this one that goes beyond step models of change and discusses the importance of change leadership:



    Posted by Martin | August 6, 2012, 8:52 am
  4. A colleague of mine and I are writing a book about organizational change. We really like your version of the Kotter 8 Step Change Model. Would you mind if we used your diagram if we gave you credit for it?


    Posted by Anil Saxena | September 24, 2015, 1:31 pm


  1. Pingback: Change Management (Part 1) – Cracking the Code of Change « Martin Davis' Blog - March 11, 2012

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