3 Organizational Change Models and Their Applications

Change management can take many forms. When one organization merges with another, employees, managers, and executives often need time to adjust. Mergers, acquisitions, and other organizational changes can benefit from well-researched change models, which help all parties become more comfortable with transformation.

If you decide to pursue an online communications degree, you may take classes that explore many change models. Familiarize yourself with the following three change models and their applications that may help you lead organizations through significant changes in organizational structure:


Managing the change process.
Image via Flickr by ITU Pictures

Many organizational change models focus on specific desired results. For example, change management research group Prosci describes one of the most popular models, ADKAR, which stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. Prosci founder Jeff Hiatt developed the ADKAR model based on the outcomes he felt were necessary to sustain successful change.

According to Prosci, change often begins at the personal level. If employees support the change, the organization may create favorable results faster and more easily. Hiatt suggests that two sides to change exist: people and business. The ADKAR change model depends on both sides evolving simultaneously.

You can use the Prosci ADKAR change model for a variety of situations, but each follows the same structure:

  • Awareness: Understand the benefits and rewards associated with the change ahead. Expose yourself to literature and thought leadership about similar changes that can help reinforce your wish to change.
  • Desire: Develop the desire to not only accept the change ahead, but also to enjoy the resulting benefits.
  • Knowledge: Educate yourself on the pros and cons of the change as well as the potential obstacles you may face.
  • Ability: Create an environment that helps you, your colleagues, and your associates adopt the change efficiently in the workplace.
  • Reinforcement: Encourage employees to find accountability partners and other motivational tools during the change to keep everyone on track.

For example, during a merger or acquisition, an organization may want to use the ADKAR change model by following these similar steps:

  • Understand the ramifications of merging with another company and help employees to accept the benefits.
  • Inspire employees and management to embrace the merger and to want the merger to succeed.
  • Educate employees, management, and executives about the merger process and its outcome.
  • Create communication and organizational strategies to ease the merger.
  • Recognize positive change and find ways to overcome challenges as the merger progresses.

McKinsey Influence Model

Like the ADKAR change model, McKinsey's influence model focuses on important aims, although McKinsey built the influence model around the following four core building blocks:

  • Role modeling: Executives and managers model behaviors they want to see in their employees to ease change.
  • Fostering understanding and conviction: Organizational leaders explain what they expect from employees and help them understand the reasons behind those expectations.
  • Developing talent and skills: Management makes sure that all staff members have the tools and skills needed to follow through with change.
  • Reinforcing with formal mechanisms: Organizations can improve change management by providing strong foundations of support and resources.

The influence model, according to McKinsey, focuses heavily on the reason behind the change. When employees do not understand why they are asked to change, they may resist their managers' efforts to move forward with any type of transformation.

Organizations may use the influence model effectively during a serious upheaval, such as an acquisition. However, as McKinsey suggests, establishing reasons behind the change may not help reach the desired result unless the reasons offer direct benefits for everyone involved.

For example, a business could help show the reason behind an acquisition by pointing out that employees may lose their jobs or otherwise undergo steep pay cuts. Other potential employee benefits could include advancement opportunities, improved training initiatives, and chances to work with new people.

Switch Framework

In contrast to the influence and ADKAR change models, the Switch Framework focuses on processes instead of results. Writing for the Scrum Alliance, Renatus Consultants Director Srinath Ramakrishnan describes the Switch Framework as three processes working together toward the same goal:

1. Direct the logical mind:

Organizations may encourage more successful change management by appealing to employees' intellects. For example, the organization may list the reasons behind a transformational approach and describe its potential benefits.

2. Motivate the emotional mind:

Businesses can help employees cope with and embrace change by breaking down action steps into smaller components and helping create a growth mindset among employees so that they feel connected to the organization and its direction.

3. Shape the path:

Companies may see better change management results if they create solid transformational strategies, set personal and company-wide goals, and help leaders emerge from all departments.

Ramakrishnan uses an elephant to illustrate the Switch Framework. The elephant's rider represents the employee's intellect, the elephant represents emotional motivations, and the path represents the change management strategy. He notes that the Switch Framework may become more successful if the organization removes as much tension between the rational and emotional mind as possible.

Professionals may use the Switch Framework to help guide organizations and their workforces into alignment. For example, some employees may respond emotionally to change, while others take an intellectual approach. Additionally, a clear path may help all employees embrace the transformation and understand the stakes involved.

In a UNICEF white paper on organizational and change management, Capacity Development Manager Musonda Kasonde cited a case study that bears elements of the Switch Framework. Kasonde described employee resistance to change when U.K.-based Oti-Yeboah Complex Ltd. switched materials and created other cost-cutting strategies. However, she suggested that a participatory approach could improve change management. Two-way communication and employee involvement can help direct change in a positive way.

While change models differ in their language and approach, they can all help organizations work through transformations while keeping employees engaged. To learn more about organizational change models and advanced communications strategies, consider learning more about the Master of Communication Management Online degree program through the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. A master's-level education in communication management could lead to improving your job prospects and your efficiency at work.