In a world of constant change, good change management matters. But a question remains – what does good change management look like?
Over the past 25 years or so, two change management models have been centre-stage. These are Kotter’s 8 Step Process and Prosci’s ADKAR Model.
Kotter and ADKAR
These 2 models share much in common, although there are some differences. Kotter’s model is clearly aimed at organisational change, and Prosci’s model is described as an individual change management model. However, both are used in organisational change contexts.
What both these models do is set out a series of actionable steps the change leader/change management team/coach can take to guide a change project towards a successful outcome.
Although the 8 Step Process and the ADKAR model are both useful and should not be rejected, we believe they have limitations.
The first limitation relates to focus. They focus too much on change management processes and not enough on change fitness capacity. Sure, change management processes are important, but so is the capacity of people to engage in the change process and to use their internal strengths to help them succeed. Success results from more than good management.
A second limitation relates to the capacity of the change manager. Learning a set of processes and being aware of a set of needs is important but doing so does not guarantee the manager has the capacity to be an effective change leader. Change leaders need to be change fit themselves and know how to work with people as they engage in processes and attend to needs.
A third limitation relates to the ‘support contract’. What we mean is that change managers want support from stakeholders, but equally, stakeholders require support from managers. There is a responsibility for mutual support that is either lacking or not evident in the two change models.
While we agree that process is important and must be included in any change management model, we also believe a change management model should be shaped by the following 5 principles.
- Change management involves an exchange of support – change managers and the people they lead each have power, and each must offer their support to the other in pursuit of success
- Change management processes/strategies must align with the change process – this needs to be clearly understood and made explicit
- The change fitness of key stakeholders should be identified, and their change strengths strategically employed throughout the change process
- Change readiness should be developed and sustained throughout the change process, drawing upon 5 key messages
- The 5 key messages should be communicated often and in different ways and these messages should be nuanced by the 7 elements of change fitness
An alternative framework
We provide an alternative framework to guide change management. This framework is based on key elements rather than a set of processes, as shown below.
At the centre of this framework we find the change project being considered. This could be anything from process change, to technology change, to cultural change. The difficulty of the change project will depend, to some extent, upon its nature and complexity.
In orbit around the change project we see four key elements that influence the success or failure of the project.
First, we have the change process. Ultimately, the success of any change project depends upon just one thing – successfully navigating all 5 steps of the change process. If you fail in any step, or get stuck somewhere, you cannot succeed.
Second, we need strong change fitness. Change fitness refers to the psychological capacity of people to engage in the change process. This is needed by all change leaders and by everyone who is affected by the change or has the power to affect outcomes.
Third, we need sufficient change readiness. Change readiness is not about being prepared. Preparation is a part of the change process itself. Change readiness is about the messages that are communicated to people throughout the change process. Unless some key messages are heard and accepted, you will not get people to be fully invested.
Fourth, we need effective change management. Here we can turn to the likes of Kotter and Prosci for guidance.
It is only when these 4 elements work in harmony with each other that change projects are likely to succeed. When they don’t work in harmony you get disengagement and resistance.
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If you wish to check out Kotter and ADKAR for yourself, you can see the ADKAR model here and Kotter’s model here.