Best Practices

Ultimate Guide to an Effective Change Management Process

Jonathan Friedman
November 16, 2020
Ultimate Guide to an Effective Change Management Process

Change is a journey, and like all journeys, few go according to plan. That's because change is challenging, and there isn't one way to make sure it happens successfully. Part of the problem is that there is no agreement on what elements most influence successful change. If you do a search on Amazon books for "change management," you'll find more than 20,000 titles, each with a different approach to an effective change management process.

In this article, we at TrueNxus will not try to sell you on the goldilocks change management process because there isn't one. Every industry, and every organization, for that matter, requires some personalization. However, we will share everything you need to know about change management, what elements are essential for an effective change management process, and how TrueNxus can help you manage that process.

Below is everything we will cover. Feel free to skip ahead.


  1. What is change management?
  2. What is organizational change management?
  3. Change management examples
  4. 9 fundamental change management models for an effective change management process
  5. Challenges in managing complex change
  6. Change management best practices
  7. Effective change management tools and artifacts
  8. Why TrueNxus is the ultimate tool for an effective change management process

What is change management?

Change management is the method that helps guide you through preparing, equipping, and supporting individuals through the successful adoption of the change to drive organizational success and outcomes. Research has proven that every change and every individual is unique; however, there are ways in which we can influence people to change.

Through research, there has been a multitude of change management methodologies, models, and processes developed. Each provides a structured approach for supporting and influencing individuals in any organization to move from their current state to the ideal state.

What is organizational change management?

Organizational change management is the discipline of leveraging change to bring about a successful resolution. Organizational change management facilitates organizational change when a company or a business alters one of its organization's strategic elements. The organizational change could be pivoting to a new business model, changing the culture, or even undergoing a transformation where the technology and operations change.

Types of organizational change illustration

The required shift from the current state to the future state can be thought of across a spectrum. On one end, you'll find adaptive change, which is small, incremental changes. An example of adaptive change is switching email systems from Microsoft Outlook to Gmail. On the other end, you'll find transformational change, which are large, highly complex shifts that alter the company make-up entirely. Mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, or revolutionary new technology are a few of the causes of transformational change management.

Change management examples

There are numerous examples of when change management is necessary to undertake. Below are some of the most common change management examples when an organization needs to undertake either adaptive or transformational change.

9 fundamental change management models for an effective change management process

Change is not new, and as a result, change management models have been developed based on research and experience on how to manage organizational change best. You'll find that most change management models provide supporting processes and tools that you can use to help ensure success in your change initiatives.

Below are nine change management models that you should be aware of to ensure an effective change management process. While no one model will ensure success, having a basic understanding of each model should help you and your colleagues navigate the inevitable change ahead.

  1. Kubler-Ross Change Curve
  2. Lewin's Change Management Model
  3. Nudge Theory
  4. Prosci ADKAR Change Management Model
  5. McKinsey 7-S Model
  6. Kotter's Theory of Change Management
  7. Bridges’ Transition Model
  8. Deming Cycle (PDCA)
  9. Lamarsh Change Management Model

1. Kubler-Ross Change Curve

The Kubler-Ross Change Curve (a.k.a. Kubler-Ross Model) was first introduced in 1969 by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. The model states that those who experience change go through a standard set of stages.

Kubler-Ross Change Curve illustration
Kubler-Ross change curve

The relevance of the Kubler-Ross Change Curve in business

Change management inevitably impacts people. Understanding that people experience and process change in a predictable linear way can help management plan and execute the change they desire. Only when the workforce of an organization makes personal changes, or transitions can the company move ahead and reap the benefits.

2. Lewin's Change Management Model

Lewin's Change Management Model is a process that took form after its creator's Kurt Lewin's death. Lewin is frequently recognized as the "founder of social psychology." His model has three steps.

  1. Unfreezing: Dismantle the existing mindset. Discomfort begins to set in.
  2. Change: Transition period when the actual change occurs. High levels of anxiety and confusion.
  3. Refreeze: The new mindset takes hold—comfort level returns.

The relevance of Lewin's Change Management Model in business

While Lewin's Change Management Model is simple, it gets the heart of change management. Change management in business, as in life, requires one to open themselves up to a new way of thinking, allow themselves to change, and finally move forward with a new way of thinking.

3. Nudge Theory

The Nudge Theory was developed by Richard Thaler, a Nobel winning economist and professor at the University of Chicago. According to Thaler, by knowing how people think, we can make it easier for them to choose what is best for them, their families and society. Organizations can give subtle and yet indirect suggestions or "nudges" that are in their self-interest.

To learn more, you can read his book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

The relevance of Nudge Theory in business

The most common business example of this theory in practice is auto-enrolling employees in retirement plans. For example, a company may auto-enroll their employees in 401(k) retirement plans, which would, in turn, deduct a certain percentage from their pay to be allocated to retirement savings.

4. Prosci ADKAR change management model

Prosci ADKAR change management model illustration
Prosci ADKAR change management model

The ADKAR Change Management Model is apart of the Prosci change management methodology and was created by Jeff Hiatt. The Prosci ADKAR model is a goal-oriented change management model that guides individual and organizational change. ADKAR is an acronym with the below definitions.

The relevance of the Prosci ADKAR Change Management Model in business

While inevitable, change management is complicated because of the human element. Understanding how the change will impact the individual allows an organization to achieve success in their change initiatives.

5. McKinsey 7-S Model

McKinsey 7-S Model illustration
McKinsey 7-S Framework

The McKinsey 7-S Model (a.k.a. 7-S Framework) was first introduced in the 1970s. The model maps a constellation of interrelated factors that influence an organization's ability to change. Below are the seven elements.

  1. Strategy
  2. Style
  3. Skills
  4. Systems
  5. Structure
  6. Staff
  7. Shared values

The relevance of the McKinsey 7-S Model in business

Change requires an understanding of what makes up the organization. The McKinsey 7-S Model outlines what they believe are the seven factors to keep in mind when implementing the organizational change initiative. Furthermore, the framework suggests that it will be challenging to make a significant change in the broader organization without working on each of the seven factors.

6. Kotter's Theory of Change Management

Kotter's 8-step process for leading change illustration
Kotter's 8-step process for leading change

John Kotter is a leading author and professor. He developed an 8-step process for leading change after studying countless leaders and organizations through transformation. Below are the eight steps outlined by kotterinc.com.

  1. Create a sense of urgency. Help others see why change is necessary through an opportunity statement that communicates the importance of acting immediately.
  2. Build a guiding coalition. A volunteer army needs a team of influential people - born of its ranks - guide it, coordinate it, and communicate its activities.
  3. Form a strategic vision and initiatives. Clarify how the future state will be different from the current state and how you can help make the future a reality through change initiatives linked directly to the strategic vision.
  4. Enlist a volunteer army. Transformational change can only occur when the organization itself rallies around a shared opportunity.
  5. Enable action by removing barriers. Removing barriers such as can provide the freedom you need to work across silos and generate real change.
  6. Generate short-term wins. Wins are only molecules of results. They must be recognized, collected, and communicated -early and often - to track progress and energize the team to persist.
  7. Sustain acceleration. Continue to press forward after the first quick wins. Credibility will improve processes, hierarchies, and policies. At the same time, be relentless with initiating change after change until the vision is a reality.
  8. Institute change. Articulate how the new behaviors and organizational success are linked together, ensuring they continue until they become strong enough to replace old habits.

The relevance of Kotter's Theory of Change Management in business

Instituting change is one of the most challenging endeavors an organization can undertake. It is also a too long endeavor that doesn't happen overnight. However, a successful transition can occur in eight steps. Most critical in ensuring success is creating a sense of urgency, building and motivating a group who will undertake that change, and getting quick wins so you can continue your drive to real change.

7. Bridges’ Transition Model

Bridges’ Transition Model illustration
Bridges’ Transition Model

The Bridges' Transition Model is like the Kubler-Ross Change Curve in that it deals with emotional reactions as a result of the change. However, it is also similar to Lewin's Change Management Model in its simplicity. The Bridges' Transition Model has three phases.

  1. Endings: You begin to identify what you've lost.
  2. Neutral Zone: You let go of what you've lost.
  3. New Beginnings: A new path is born where you have a new purpose or direction.

Below is the transition model's six step change management process as outlined by wmbridges.com.

  1. Broadly communicate with the organization about why the change is necessary.
  2. Collect information from those that will be affected by the change to understand its downstream impacts. You'll want their buy-in if you're going to be successful in realizing the difference.
  3.  Perform a transition readiness assessment.
  4. Inform senior leaders about how the change will affect individuals in the organization.
  5. Monitor and report individuals' progress as they go through the three stages of transition: endings, neutral zone, and new beginnings.
  6. Assist individuals and help them understand how they can contribute to the change.

The relevance of Bridges’ Transition Model in business

The Bridges' Transition Model allows businesses to recognize that change happens to people, and the transition is the journey. By anticipating the change, the organization can help guide those experiencing change through a transition from an ending, through the neutral zone, and eventually to a new beginning. You can apply the model in any difference, but it is specifically helpful in transformational change.

8. Deming Cycle (PDCA)

PDCA illustration

Dr. William Deming developed the Deming Cycle based on the Japanese manufacturing concept, Kaizen. Kaizen is a continuous improvement methodology that aims at eliminating waste and redundancies in processes. The Deming Cycle is also known as the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, which is defined below.

  1. Plan: Set objectives and processes to achieve desired results.
  2. Do: Execute actions to achieve goals.
  3. Check: Analyze and measure the success of efforts against the defined objectives.
  4. Act: Implement an improved process.

The relevance of the Deming Cycle (PDCA) in business

Unlike some other earlier discussed change management models, the Deming Cycle (PDCA) aims at incremental process improvement rather than organizational change. However, you can leverage Kaizen for enterprise change management. With Kaizen, you should identify incremental problems or challenges, develop solutions, test and measure solutions, and adopt solutions if successful.

Lamarsh change management model

The Lamarsh change management model is an organized approach and methods to identify and reduce risk to adoption and acceptance of the change by the people affected. There are five steps.

  1. Identify the change. Document the current state, the desired state, and analyze the delta.
  2. Prepare the change. Get ready for change management and identify the different stakeholders that will be involved. Perform risk and readiness analysis.
  3. Plan the change. Develop the plan for how you're going to implement the change. Additionally, create a mitigation plan for resistance to the change.
  4. Implement the change. Communicate and execute the change. Measure success.
  5. Sustain performance. Continue down the journey for change.

The relevance of the Lamarsh change management model in business

Like the five phases of project management, the Lamarsh change management model outlines change management in five stages. You can enable change management with a defined process.

Challenges in managing complex change

Whether your change initiative is adaptive or transformational, you and your team will experience a wide variety of challenges as you oversee an effective change management process. However, we'd like to share with you some of the challenges you need to be sure to address as you undertake managing complex change, which more frequently presents themselves during transformational change. Harold L. Sirkin, Perry Keenan, and Alan Jackson address the below four factors in their Harvard Business Review article, The Hard Side of Change Management.

1. Duration

It's commonly believed that as change initiatives go on, the probability that they will succeed goes down. While this is true, if your change management process is poorly constructed, it can be disproven. We advise that senior leadership review change initiatives at least bimonthly to avoid this challenge. During the review, leadership should review the project status report, project timeline, and discuss any roadblocks. By doing so, the likelihood of failure goes down significantly.

2. Integrity

Successful change initiatives require the right teams of people to get the job done. You need star performers. As a result, you need to free up star performers from some of their daily responsibilities to work on the change programs. However, it's best to select change leaders that have problem-solving skills, are results-oriented, are methodical in their approach but tolerate ambiguity, are organizationally savvy, are willing to accept responsibility for decisions, and while being highly motivated, don't crave the limelight.

3. Commitment

In order to ensure you achieve the change you desire, it's necessary to have the commitment from the top of the organization (i.e., C-Suite, EVPs, SVPs) since this is the center of influence. Top-level support is vital, and there's no limit to the level of support that is too much. Additionally, when finding the right top-level support, it's necessary to consider their enthusiasm level, or more importantly, the lack thereof enthusiasm. The last thing you need is vocal critics of the change initiative. A lack of confidence will surely stall or cause the change initiative to fail.

4. Effort

Organizational change management is not only challenging, but it's also time-consuming. As a result, it is crucial to recognize that change management is a net new effort of work, and it will conflict with everybody's daily responsibilities. In most companies, employees are working more than 40 hours per week. If you try to add change initiatives, or any type of business transformation for that matter, without reducing the existing workload, you will find only resistance. Such resistance is especially true in matrix organizations because change management will require cross-functional teams, where resources have multiple supervisors. Therefore, no one's workload should increase more than 10%.

Change management best practices

As you now know, change management is a challenging endeavor but necessary. Therefore, you must have a change management process in place, and you should leverage it. Below are essential change management best practices to ensure an effective change management process.

1. Clearly define the change initiative

Change management is challenging to get up and running. As a result, it's essential to clearly define the change initiative's objectives, benefits, and risks. It's not only vital that you outline what's changing or who it's impacting, but you must outline what's in it for the organization and the individuals.

2. Pick a change management model, any model

There is an endless number of change management models to choose from, and while the model itself is not as important, you must select a model, even if it's a hybrid of existing models. Methodology and process are essential so that you have a framework to rally the team around and make progress.

3. Build the right team

Success in change management requires picking the right team from executive sponsors at the company's highest ranks to star performers that can get the job done. However, it's important to remember that the change management team should not be a team in name only; they should have the support and commitment to change through. There should be no lack of enthusiasm because change management requires perseverance. Additionally, the team members should be freed from some of their day-to-day responsibilities to get work done.

4. Over-communicate

There's never enough communication. Change management requires senior executives to set the change agenda from the very top. Buy-in from everyone is critical if you are to succeed in change management. Therefore, over-communicate and ensure everyone knows the change initiative is an absolute priority.

5. Monitor change management progress

The organizational change management process is a lengthy endeavor, which can take years to accomplish. During both planning and execution, it's necessary to monitor change management progress. Steering Committee (SteerCo) reviews should go no more than meeting every 6-8 weeks. However, workstreams should conduct weekly stand-ups. During the sessions, the teams should review timelines, status reports, deliverables, and KPIs.

Effective change management tools and artifacts

An effective change management process relies on supporting tools and artifacts. on supporting tools and artifacts. These tools are often developed and managed by team planning and executing the change management process. While not a complete list, below are several change management tools and artifacts.

Why TrueNxus is the ultimate tool for an effective change management process

TrueNxus is a cloud-based project management software that can help you oversee your change initiatives and support the change management process. With TrueNxus, you can align operations to the strategy with one change management tool. Additionally, the entire team can collaborate, plan, execute, and monitor and control the whole change management process.

TrueNxus will be your single source of truth where you can instill change management best practices. Not to mention, everyone will be aligned with real-time access to where things stand in each change initiative.

Below are several features on how TrueNxus can help you oversee an effective change management process.

1. Project charter

Project charter illustration

Leverage OKR and create a project charter. You can ensure the successful execution of change management by documenting and aligning the project's objectives, benefits, and risks from the very beginning.

2. Personalized views

Personalized views illustration

Every business function specializes in a specific domain and, as such, thinks about project management differently. To ensure change management's successful execution, you need a project management software that provides personalized views. These views need to be in sync as well.

TrueNxus provides you with the following views:

List

Project plan list screenshot

A list is a table that allows you to manage your project plan easily. Organize the work into groups such as workstreams or any logical way to categorize tasks.

Timeline

Project timeline, or gantt chart

Visualize the change initiative as a Timeline, a Gantt-chart like view that lets you understand how the entire project fits together. Make updates to the project plan through an interactive interface.

3. Automated project status reports

Project status report

We understand that each team member is busy balancing multiple priorities, from your day-to-day responsibilities to various change initiatives. Therefore, TrueNxus helps successfully execute change management by automatically analyzing the project health in real-time, giving senior leadership and the team the insights they need to make decisions and move the ball forward.

4. My Work

View all of your work in one place

Another essential thing in projects being executed is understanding what you're on the hook for delivering. With TrueNxus, you can view every task and every dependency that is important to you, across every change initiative, in one location, ensuring success.

5. Dependencies

Dependencies

Additionally, we know that you don't want to let your colleagues down or be let down. You can ensure the successful delivery of change initiatives even in matrix organizations through collaboration and documenting task dependencies. By doing so you, you can be accountable when others are reliant on you. You can understand dependent tasks, change implications, and adjust course as needed.

6. Automated notifications

Automated workflows - notifications

You can also successfully execute change management by using project management software to notify when changes occur. With TrueNxus's 20+ out-of-the-box automated notifications, you will have the transparency you need to stay in-the-know.

7. Comments

Cross-functional collaboration by comment

Lastly, the entire team can ensure your change management plans are successful by collaborating directly in the app. With TrueNxus, you can communicate with colleagues and third parties in tasks.

By aligning around an effective change management process, TrueNxus has everything you and your company need to plan and execute organizational change management successfully.

See for yourself, and sign up for a free trial today (no credit card needed).