Change Models


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Change management is a responsibility of the program manager. It is a role that is underappreciated, underutilized, and not performed well by some program managers. Change management is complex, and there is no cookbook recipe to apply.

Our 9 part Guide to Change Management will focus on how to prepare the customer, stakeholders, and team for change.

Part 1 of 9: Change Management-What Is It?
Part 2 of 9: Fear
Part 3 of 9: Change Models
Part 4 of 9: Change Management – Evidentiary Strategy
Part 5 of 9: Change Management – Vision, Goals, and Objectives Strategy
Part 6 of 9: Change Management – Segmentation Strategy
Part 7 of 9: Communication
Part 8 of 9: Training
Part 9 of 9: Mentors

Part 3 of 9: Change Models

There are lots of change models. Not all of the change models work, nor are they correct for all situations. Nothing beats knowledge and judgment. You want to know the different change models and opinions because that allows you to adapt them to your situation.

The best-known emotional change management model is called the change curve. Dozens and dozens of variations of this model exist and typically consist of the following phases: surprise, denial, hostility/anger, negotiation, depression, trial, and acceptance. Variations of the model may have more or fewer phases and may describe the phases with different names.

A model that I do like and that is simple in structure is Kurt Lewin’s freeze phases. The three phases of Lewin’s change model are (1) unfreeze, (2) change/transition, and (3) refreeze.

Phases 1 and 3 imply stability. In the unfreeze state, you must move the organization and/or individual from a stable state to the changing and transitioning state. The unfreeze state is significant because the organization is composed of individuals who are invested in, locked into, or tied to their current condition; this is why change management involves wooing. To be unfrozen, the customers and stakeholders must understand and have the desire to make the change. As the program manager, you must either create this understanding for change or understand how it was or is planned to be created by someone else.

The changing/ transitioning phase is a journey from one state of stability to another. Thus, even if the change occurs as a step function from when a project starts to when it ends, the journey toward change begins. Often, project managers and organizations get in trouble by viewing the change management process as an afterthought and miss the opportunity to prepare stakeholders for change earlier in the project management life cycle.

The refreeze phase involves taking the organization to a stable state at the end of the change process.

There are many change models. Change can be boiled down to making change happen and making change stick. This is similar to Lewin’s unfreeze, transition, and freeze model if you put unfreeze and transition under the “making change happen” heading. Complicated sequences may exist, but as a program manager, you want to be aware of the emotional responses to changes you observe in the individual and the organization and respond with a good course of action.

Once your team has decided on their plan and process, PPM software can help you execute that process. WorkOtter helps you successfully execute your program process strategy for project success. Get a demo of WorkOtter and see how we can make your program management effective.

“The Handbook of Program Management: How to Facilitate Project Success with Optimal Program Management, Second Edition” by James T. Brown is a copyrighted work of McGraw-Hill and McGraw-Hill reserves all rights in and to the Content. ©2014 by McGraw-Hill Education. Purchase the book on Amazon.