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  • Writer's pictureRoxanne Legaspi

A Critical Look at Change Management Models: What Works and What Doesn't

While traditional change management models have provided a framework for navigating change, a one-size-fits-all approach often falls short. This article explores the limitations of these models and the importance of considering the human element through the lens of organizational psychology. The goal is to assess some of the well known strategies for change implementation and understand how agility and data-driven decision-making can shape the future of change management.

Why Change Management Matters

Change management is the structured process, tools, and techniques used to manage the people-side of change initiatives. It ensures a smooth transition from the current state to a desired future state, minimising disruption and maximising the benefits of change.

Studies by Prosci reveal a disheartening truth: a staggering 70% of change initiatives fail to achieve their goals. This high failure rate can be counted on several factors, including poor communication, lack of employee engagement, and resistance to change. Effective change management tackles these challenges head-on, leading to significant improvements in the success rate of organisational transformations.

Here's a glimpse of the positive impact of successful change management:

  1. Increased employee buy-in and adoption: When employees understand the "why" and "how" of change, they're more likely to be supportive and willing to adapt.

  2. Reduced resistance to change: Change management helps address employee concerns and anxieties, leading to a smoother transition.

  3. Improved communication and collaboration: Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful change management. It fosters collaboration and ensures everyone is on the same page.

  4. Minimized disruption of operations: By planning and managing change effectively, organisations can minimise disruptions to their day-to-day operations.

  5. Enhanced ROI: When change initiatives are successful, organisations achieve their desired outcomes and see a positive return on investment.

The cost of ignoring change management can be significant. A Mckinsey & Company study found that only 37% of organisations succeeded in managing an implementation of change management.

The Price of Disruption: Consequences of Ignoring Proper Change Management

While change management may seem time-consuming or unnecessary, the consequences of neglecting it can be far more disruptive and costly in the long run. 72% of transformations fail due to inadequate management support and employee resistance.  Here's a closer look at the potential pitfalls organisations face when they ignore proper change management procedures:

1. Reduced Employee Buy-in and Resistance:

Employees who are left in the dark about upcoming changes are more likely to feel confused, anxious, and resistant. Without a clear understanding of the "why" and "how" behind the change, they may be less likely to embrace it or actively hinder its implementation.

2. Communication Silos and Misunderstandings:

Skipping clear and consistent communication channels leads to a breeding ground for misinformation and rumors. This can create confusion, frustration, and ultimately, hinder the effectiveness of the change initiative.

3. Decreased Productivity and Morale:

The stress and uncertainty associated with poorly managed change can significantly impact employee morale and productivity. Employees may become disengaged, leading to a decline in performance and quality of work.

4. Project Delays and Budget Overruns:

Resistance and confusion can lead to delays in the implementation process. Reworking plans due to unforeseen challenges or employee pushback can also significantly inflate project budgets.

5. Customer Dissatisfaction and Brand Damage:

Ineffective change management can lead to disruptions in customer service or product quality. This can negatively impact customer satisfaction and potentially damage the brand's reputation.

6. High Employee Turnover:

In a poorly managed change environment, employees may feel undervalued and unsupported. This can lead to increased employee turnover, resulting in additional costs associated with recruitment and training.

7. Failure to Achieve Desired Outcomes:

Ultimately, the most significant consequence of neglecting proper change management is the risk of the entire change initiative failing to achieve its desired goals. All the invested time, effort, and resources can be wasted without a successful implementation.

Investing in effective change management is not an expense, but an investment. By taking the time to plan, communicate, and address employee concerns, organisations can significantly increase the chances of a smooth transition and achieve lasting positive outcomes.

Change Management Models: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Applicability

Traditional change management models offer a roadmap for navigating change, but they're not without limitations. Let's explore some popular models:

Lewin's Change Model (Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze)

This simple model outlines three stages: unfreezing the status quo, implementing the change, and refreezing the new state. While easy to understand, this process may be considered too vague on the implementation process itself. This process focuses more on the format rather than method of implementation.

Kotter's 8-Step Change Model

Kotter provides a more structured approach with eight clear steps, such as creating a sense of urgency and building a guiding coalition. However, this structured approach can be time-consuming and may not be suitable for smaller or less complex changes.

ADKAR Model (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement)

This model focuses on the individual's needs for successful change. It highlights the importance of creating awareness of the need for change, fostering a desire to embrace it, equipping employees with the knowledge and ability to implement the change, and reinforcing the new behaviours. While valuable, the ADKAR model can be overly simplistic for complex organisational transformations.

These models offer valuable insights, but relying solely on theory can be a recipe for failure.

It's crucial to consider the specific context of your organisation, its culture, and the nature of the change itself. There is no one-size-fits-all method in implementing change, but the best thing you can do is understand different approaches and shape it the way our company would easily transition from most.

Organisational Psychology: Understanding the Human Side of Change

Understanding the Human Side of Change

Organisational psychology sheds light on why people resist change. It's a natural response to uncertainty and fear of the unknown. Concepts like psychological safety, an environment where employees feel comfortable raising concerns, are essential for open communication and collaboration during change initiatives.

Change management models can be adapted to address these psychological aspects. For example, incorporating strategies to build trust, address anxieties through open communication, and foster employee motivation can significantly increase the success rate of change initiatives.

A Study on Change in a Patient-Centered Care

A case study presented in the Organisational Development Journal (ODJ) describes a large healthcare organisation in Australia facing a challenge. The organisation, undergoing a traditional, hierarchical culture, aimed to shift towards a more patient-centred approach. This new model emphasised collaboration, open communication, and a focus on patient needs. However, the proposed change generated resistance from some employees accustomed to the existing structure.

Applying Organisational Psychology

Recognising the human dimension of change, the organisation partnered with a change management consultant well-versed in organisational psychology. The consultant implemented a multi-faceted approach that addressed core human factors influencing resistance to change:

●      Building Trust and Transparency: Open communication channels were established, with regular town hall meetings and leadership Q&A sessions. This fostered trust and ensured a clear understanding of the rationale behind the change.

●      Addressing Concerns and Anxieties: Psychological safety was emphasised by creating a safe space for employees to voice their concerns and ask questions. This open dialogue helped identify specific anxieties and develop targeted solutions.

●      Leadership Development: Senior leaders received training on the new patient-centred approach and its benefits. This empowered them to champion the change and provide clear direction to their teams.

●      Empowering Employees Through Participation: Employees were actively involved in the change process, participating in workshops and focus groups. This sense of ownership fostered greater buy-in and a feeling of being valued.

●      Tailored Training and Support: Comprehensive training programs were implemented to equip employees with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the new patient-centred environment. Ongoing support ensured a smooth transition and addressed any challenges that arose.

The Outcome: A More Engaged and Patient-Centric Organization

By addressing the human side of change through the lens of organisational psychology, the healthcare organisation achieved significant results:

●      Increased employee engagement and buy-in for the patient-centred approach.

●      Improved communication and collaboration across teams.

●      Enhanced patient satisfaction due to a more personalised and responsive care experience.

●      A more positive and supportive work environment for employees.

This case study exemplifies the power of organisational psychology in change management. Understanding employee concerns, building trust, and fostering a sense of ownership are crucial for navigating change successfully. By prioritising the human element, organisations can create a more engaged workforce and achieve lasting positive outcomes.

What Can You Avoid in Change Management


Several pitfalls can derail even the best-laid change management plans. Here are factors you can avoid:

Lack of commitment and communication

Without a committed leader championing the change and clear communication of the "why" behind it, employees lose trust and motivation. It is important to explain the cause of change to enable communication.


Vague change goals and unclear definitions

Ambiguous goals and unclear communication of the change process lead to confusion and resistance. They might often discourage them rather than motivate them to move forward.


Ignoring the human factor

Failing to address employee concerns and resistance through open communication and support mechanisms hinders adoption.


One-size-fits-all approach

Applying a generic model without tailoring it to the specific organisational context and culture creates a bumpy transition. Different organisational cultures require different approaches. For instance, a hierarchical structure might necessitate a more top-down approach, while a flatter structure might benefit from a more collaborative approach.


Lack of resources and training

Employees need the tools and support to navigate the change. Without proper training and resources, they may feel overwhelmed and unable to adapt.

What Works Overall? Effective Strategies for Change Management

If effectively executed through proper strategies, your chances of achieving a successful change increases your likelihood to 73%. Here are some key strategies for successful change implementation:

  • Engaging Leadership: Leaders who champion the vision, lead by example, and foster open communication create a strong foundation for change. Their active participation and clear communication are crucial for driving employee buy-in.

  • Employee Participation: Involving employees in the change process, soliciting feedback, and creating a sense of ownership increases their investment in the change. When employees feel heard and valued, they're more likely to embrace the transition.

  • Clear Communication: Transparent and consistent communication of goals, timelines, and benefits of the change reduces confusion and anxieties. Regular updates and open communication channels ensure everyone is on the same page.

  • Targeted Training and Support: Providing resources and training empowers employees with the skills needed to adapt to the change. This could involve workshops, online tutorials, or on-the-job mentoring.

  • Building Trust and Psychological Safety: Creating an environment where employees feel comfortable raising concerns fosters open communication and collaboration. Employees who feel safe to voice their opinions and ask questions are more likely to be engaged and supportive of the change.

  • Celebrating Successes: Recognizing and rewarding employees for embracing the change and achieving milestones reinforces positive behaviours and motivates continued engagement.

The Future of Change Management: Embracing Agility and Continuous Improvement

Change Management: Embracing Agility and Continuous Improvement

The business world is no longer a place for rigid, linear change processes. The rise of agile methodologies emphasises iterative change processes, allowing for adaptation based on ongoing feedback and data analysis.

Data analytics plays a vital role in measuring the impact of change initiatives. By tracking key metrics and monitoring employee sentiment, organisations can refine their strategies and ensure alignment with desired outcomes. In fact, 76% of CEOs stated that their companies have changed the entire operation of their business by implementing a range of minor to major changes which made their workplace more vibrant and dynamic.

The future of change management requires agility and a data-driven approach in a dynamic and uncertain business environment. Building a culture of continuous learning and adaptation is paramount for long-term success. Organisations that can foster a growth mindset and embrace change as an ongoing process will be best positioned to navigate the ever-changing tides of the business landscape.


BONUS Content: Tim Creasey (from Prosci) on The Truth about the Impact of Change Management Models




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