5 Main Change Management Models: ADKAR vs Kubler Ross vs McKinsey 7S vs Lewin’s vs Kotter’s 8 Step

Change management models help companies organize solutions, plan for potential pitfalls, and keep the team informed about the progress of the transition. There are a number of ways leaders can go about facilitating change, but there are 5 standard methods that have been used by many organizations.

Leaders need to take a lot of factors into account when selecting a change model. The size of the company, existing cultures, the amount of preparation, cost, and other things play a role in which change management model company should undertake.


Part 1

5 Main Change Management Models: Pros and Cons

Compared are five of the most popular:

  1. Change Model 1: Lewin’s Change Management Model

    Psychologist, Kurt Lewin developed this three-step management model process in the 1940s. It was created with the idea of helping leaders facilitate and understand transitions.

    1. First, leaders “unfreeze” the status quo by creating a compelling message to encourage employees to let go of the way things have always been done to open up to something new. Leaders should lead people to accept a new “core” belief system involving the new changes. Emphasizing the “why” is critical here.
    2. Then, leaders can focus on change by often communicating, destroying any rumors, and involving people in the process.
    3. The last step is to then refreeze by adding the transition to the culture and developing ways to sustain it long term.

    The Lewin’s Change Management Model is easy to understand and provides visual language that excellently displays the actions leaders should take. This also allows leaders to think past quantitative analysis, and take into account qualitative means of working through change.
    This model does not discuss ways that leaders can deal with people who are resistant to changes and are reluctant to change their positioning. It assumes that through enough motivation and encouragement everyone will come around, and this is not always the case. This model is rational and sounds great, but implementation may not mirror this, and it does not list ways to overcome that.

  2. Change Model 2: The McKinsey 7S Model

    The McKinsey model was created in the 1980s by consultants who worked for McKinsey and Company. This model emphasizes the importance of leaders assessing every component of their organization before jumping into the action of change. It is characterized by seven primary factors:

    1. Strategy
      The first step in the plan is the identification of problems that need to be addressed and creating a plan to meet goals and objectives associated with them.
    2. Structure
      Leaders then acknowledge the unique challenges and opportunities the structure of their organization brings to change, as well as the way that different departments interact with one another.
    3. Systems
      Assessing the day-to-day activities and the effect the transition would have on them.
    4. Shared Values
      The core values by which the organization runs.
    5. Style
      The way in which leaders adopt and implement changes, and the overall cultural feel of the group.
    6. Staff
      The makeup of the workforce and their capabilities and roles within the company.
    7. Skills
      The core competencies and skills of workers operating within the company.

    This model is meant to take all of the above factors into account when creating a change management plan.


    The McKinsey 7S Model is holistic and requires leaders to take an in-depth look at all parts of an organization that can have a positive or negative effect on transitions. It offers a lot of different ways and perspectives on how companies can view change. Each factor (strategy, structure, systems, etc.) are a lens through which leaders can assess the differences. Another helpful part of this model is that each component is given equal weight in importance to the transition.
    One of the most significant disadvantages of this model is one that is also an asset. The fact that seven different factors are considered makes them interrelated. This means that if a part of the plan fails in one, other areas can also become impacted. Because of this, the model brings complexity to leaders.

  3. Change Model 3: Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model

    John Kotter, professor of leadership at Harvard University, developed his eight-step change model after analyzing 100 transitions in organizations. Instead of primarily focusing on the change, Kotter addresses the people affected by it. His model incorporates a sequential list of steps leaders can follow to be successful:

    1. Creating a Sense of Urgency
      Leaders need to show employees in the organization why this change matters. Managers can start the conversation by including colleagues and workers into discussions about problems in the company, and how their involvement can help push the organization to where it needs to go.
    2. Building a Core Coalition
      Leaders should then form a coalition of stakeholders from various parts of the company to commit to helping promote the changes.
    3. Developing a Strategic Vision
      The act of defining change and developing a complete vision to make it come to fruition.
    4. Involving Everyone in the Plan
      Convincing the whole organization that changes are necessary and being open to feedback from everyone about how to move forward.
    5. Reducing Obstacles
      Change managers should then analyze processes and the overall structure of the organization to preempt any problems that could occur.
    6. Focusing on Short-term Wins
      There will be tough times in an organization, this makes it imperative for leaders to develop milestones for employees to celebrate to keep them motivated.
    7. Keeping the Momentum Going
      Leaders should create a plan for continuing to set new goals for work teams to meet, and keep everyone up-to-date on failures and success.
    8. Add Some Stability
      Times of transition can be rough and uncomfortable on the work team as a whole. Changes need to be solidified in documentation and company culture, and the coalition who helped to bring it about should be recognized.

    This model is great for leaders who know they will have a rough time getting employees on board who are resistant. It has essential elements for creating an effective communication plan and preparing employees to cope with the changes.
    At its heart, the Kotter model is a top-down strategic approach. This is not necessarily a problem, but it will require leaders who utilize this method to take have to find ways to include times for feedback. While feedback is included as a part of step four, there would be more attention paid to creating a level that heavily refers to addressing frontline employees and allowing time for feedback.

  4. Change Model 4: The Kubler Ross Change Curve

    The Kubler Ross Change Curve has a unique origin. The framework was initially created by psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and was originally the five stages of grief; emotions people go through while dealing with the death of a loved one. Over the years, researchers have begun to see its use in the business world and the five steps have translated it to helping employees deal with change. Below are feelings employees will likely deal with and ways for leaders to coach them through to the next phase.

    1. Denial
      Leaders should hear employees out about what their concerns are and make face-to-face communication a priority. Changes should be discussed and rolled out gradually so as not to overwhelm.
    2. Anger
      Pre-planning for how to deal with this emotion from employees will help them to be led to the next phase.
    3. Bargaining
      Leaders should be open to feedback and opinions, but they should also set clear expectations so employees know what is expected of them regardless of if the input can be used.
    4. Depression
      Moving into any training lets employees know the change is inevitable, this may make many feel depressed about changes. Positive feedback and reminders that make them feel secure will help them move through this emotion.
    5. Acceptance
      Managers need to keep acknowledging successes and encouraging employees to continue to contribute to the changes and provide feedback.

    This model is all about employee resistance and helping to ease the potentially damaging impact initial bad feelings can have on the team. It helps managers prepare for how to deal with every emotion workers will feel about the change, and they can even connect this process to effects on productivity.
    Leaders can feel this framework will help them guide every employee through the emotional rollercoaster that arises as a result of the change. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Some employees could feel these emotions out of order, or some may not follow this pattern at all. It is a one-size-fits all for walking through the process of coaching employees through what they are feeling.

  5. Change Model 5: The ADKAR Model

    Former engineer and change manager, Jeff Hiatt developed the ADKAR Model. The primary purpose of this model is not to focus on a set of steps, but is instead a group of goals that leaders should try to hit:

    1. Awareness
      Like many other models, this one starts off with creating a line of communication with employees to spread the word of the change and why it is needed. Justification is key here.
    2. Desire
      Leaders have to appeal to the emotional and logical side of employees and convey how the change directly relates to their current position. The overall goal is to inspire desire.
    3. Knowledge
      Tell employees what they need to know. Instead of rattling off a list of changes, each employee that is a part of a larger team should be given step-by-step instructions on how they need to implement the transition.
    4. Ability
      Knowing something and carrying it out are two different things. Leaders need to assess an employee’s ability to carry out their job and provide extra education if needed.
    5. Reinforcement
      Identify any fundamental mistakes to keep them from happening again, but for leaders to keep the momentum going, they should instill incentives and rewards for exemplary work.

    This model focuses on how leaders can help employees understand, interact with, and carry out changes. Since the model is focused on goals, it is easy for leaders to take it and adapt it to its company structure and culture. It focuses on people, and in turn, will make employees feel like employers care.
    This model is built for incremental change and has a narrow focus. If leaders wanted to make a macro-level change or were not exactly sure of how deep they needed to go with transitions, this method would probably not get the job done.

Part 2

How to Select the Best Change Management Model

Choosing a model can be daunting, but leaders have a lot to work with:

  • If leaders have a concern about how employees will take a change or if there has been a long-standing company culture, managers need to look into methods like The Kubler-Ross or Lewin’s Change models to help people move through their emotions.
  • If leaders want to make a large-scale change that needs to start at the top the Kotter or McKinsey model would be acceptable alternatives to make this happen.
  • For managers who know exactly what they want to do, the ADKAR model shines.

Leaders need to take into account:

  • The size of the organization
  • How connected stakeholders are to the culture
  • How long changes will take
  • The overall goals associated with the future of the company.

If leaders assess and analyze their company’s needs and culture, then they can find a model that works effectively and efficiently for them. is a cloud solution for effective communication during organizational change. It brings a more light-hearted tone to messaging making it easily digestible, and makes it easy for leaders to provide and receive updates regularly, as well as to have open door policies to address any issues.

How to use during organizational change:

  1. Downward communication:
    a) Build trust and improve leadership communication by sharing regular updates and reasoning behind your decisions.
    b) Share information about company announcements, new hires, etc.
    c) Share company goals and objectives regularly.
  2. Upward communication:
    a) Easily implement weekly status updates for your team members by creating a status feed “How did you contribute to the team’s goals this week?”.
    b) Create automated scheduled questionnaires with questions like “How can we improve?”. allows you to configure granular access permissions to set up who can view the answers (optional).
  3. Increase workplace satisfaction by improving transparency:
    Each status update has a separate section for comments, which is used by team members to clarify information, and by leaders to provide feedback and coordinate better without micromanagement, post congratulations and acknowledge job well done.
  4. For recurrent questionnaires: no one forgets to answer because sends automated reminders according to the recurrence schedule you chose.
  5. Use status updates for future reference and decrease time and efforts spent on monthly, quarterly, and yearly reporting thanks to powerful filtering and export features.
  6. Optionally, enrich reports with the latest updates automatically added from web apps your team uses (such as project management tools, version control systems, support systems, financial applications, CRM, etc.) by connecting these apps to your status feed.
  7. Spend less time on meetings by making them more productive because everyone is on the same page at all times.
  8. Sharing: Status updates can be either— exported to files and printed, or sent by email;
    — shared with manager online; or
    — shared online as company-wide or team-wide status reports, i.e., all team members share their progress with each other.


How to configure status updates:

Step 1:

  • Create a “Status Update” feed and set up a recurrence.
  • Configure who will write and read status updates by choosing the “Participants” tab and then clicking the “Cog” button near “Feed Participants” title.
how to create status updates status feed


  • Set the status feed as “Team-wide” if you want all team members to view each other’s status updates.
  • Alternatively, you can allow access to status updates for certain participants only (such as yourself if you’re a team lead). In this case, turn “Team-wide” mode OFF and restrict viewing by unchecking “View” properties for other participants. Team members with the “View” checkbox unchecked will only be able to view their own status updates.
  • If you’re a manager and you don’t plan to share your status updates with your team, uncheck “Update” for yourself – in this case, you won’t receive reminders.
  • The Recurrence setting configures how often participants receive email reminders to fill in their status updates. This feature is optional and can be turned off.
  • You can add, remove, and assign new team members at any time.

Step 2: The text of the status update should be added to the “Update” field of status feed.

how to add an update to status report

As soon as a new status update is added, participants with “View” rights can view it in real time when they log in to their accounts. They will also automatically receive emails with the full text of status updates.


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