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Theories, models and tools of change management

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

NOTE: Although this page has been marked as complete, it has not yet been peer-reviewed or quality-assured, therefore it should be considered a ‘first draft’ and any information should be fact-checked independently.

For this assessment criterion, you will be required to research and evaluate change management theories/models and how they relate to your current leadership and management practice. A number of change management theories and models are briefly discussed below:

Change Management Model (K. Lewin)

Lewin’s Change Management Model posits three stages of change:

  1. Unfreeze
  2. Change
  3. Refreeze

The Unfreeze stage involves making a compelling argument for why change is needed by challenging preconceptions about the current way of doing things. For example, you may have evidence that current processes do not achieve the best outcomes for service users.

This creates uncertainty about the existing process, which leads to the Change stage, where people are motivated to find a better solution. The leader will be called upon to reassure others, invite feedback, answer questions and give people time to accept that there will be a new process.

Finally, during the Refreeze stage, individuals have accepted the change and new processes are being used. The result should be celebrated and individuals should feel comfortable and established about the new way of working.

Lewin’s model is easy to understand, however, some critics have said it over-simplifies the change management process, lacks detail and is outdated.

The Learning Cycle (D. Kolb)

Kolb’s learning cycle is discussed here.

Although developed for self-reflection, this cycle may also be used in change management. For example, current processes are analysed and reflected on leading to insights about how they could be improved. Changes to processes are proposed and implemented and the learning cycle begins again.

Theory X  vs Y (D. McGregor)

McGregor’s Theory X/Y is based on Lewin’s Leadership Styles. Theory X managers/organisations are authoritarian and decisions are made centrally whereas Theory Y managers/organisations value input from their workers and decentralize decisions.

In relation to change management, a Theory X organisation would decide on what changes need to be made and dictate the new plans to the staff. A Theory Y organisation would discuss proposed changes and allow staff to be part of the process, including shared decision-making. The main advantage of Theory X is that decisions can be made swifter. Although Theory Y may result in a longer decision-making process, staff are more likely to ‘buy in’ to the decision and feel valued in their job.

Two-factor Theory (F. Herzberg)

Herzberg’s two-factor theory is a motivational theory that posits there are two factors that can affect the job satisfaction of employees:

  • Motivators – increase the performance of employees if they are present
  • Hygiene – decrease the performance of employees if they are not present

Motivators may include things like being able to make difference, being recognised, being valued, responsibility and opportunities to develop. Hygiene factors include things like salary, a safe working environment and clear and accessible policies and procedures.

By understanding what motivates team members, leaders are better able to help them understand the need for change. For example, if team members are motivated by being able to make a positive difference to the life of others, a leader would communicate how the changes are aligned with better outcomes for service users. Similarly, ensuring that team members have their basic needs met (hygiene factors) means that they are more likely to be motivated, positive and open to change.

5-Stage Model (Kubler-Ross)

The Kubler-Ross 5-Stage Model is sometimes referred to as the 5 stages of grief:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Although developed to explain human reactions to bereavement, they can also be associated with other forms of loss and change. This model can be used in the context of change management to help explain the attitudes and behaviours of team members in reaction to change. It may also make a leader mindful that individuals may need time to accept change.