Change Management Models:

choosing the right guide for your organizational transformation


From sustainability ambitions and technological advancements (hello AI), to new ways of working. It’s been quite a turbulent couple of years for companies.

In fact, I bet you won’t be able to find a Top 100 organization that hasn’t been through at least one big transformation in the past decade.

As companies are getting familiar with change management, they are increasingly hiring (fixed or interim) change managers to guide this process. But what ables them to support the organization and all the stakeholders through the transformation? How do they do this? With change management models!

Yes, almost 70% of change managers make use of formal change management methodologies. Why? While organizations are different, people – and the ways in which people respond to change – are actually quite predictable.

So why reinvent the wheel, when there are a handful of proven change management models that tell you exactly which steps to take in order to be successful? Especially when the stakes are high and the risks of skipping a step are ever-present.

This page serves as an introduction into the 6 change management models every change expert should know. But first, let’s start with the basics!

What are Change Management Models?

In order to define Change Management Models, we have to go back to the mid-20th century. The time when scholars and practitioners began to recognize the importance of managing change in a structured manner.

In the 1940s, Kurt Lewin introduced the “unfreeze-change-refreeze” model (which we will discuss at more length). Lewin’s model received positive responses from scholars and practitioners at the time, as it provided a structured approach to managing change.

It highlighted the need to create a sense of urgency and overcome resistance to change by addressing the existing status quo.

Since then, various change management models have emerged, each offering its own unique perspective and approach. At their core, change management models aim to facilitate successful change by providing a roadmap of sequential steps or phases.

But, which one should you choose?

6 Change Management Models you should consider

All of the change management models below aim to facilitate successful change initiatives by addressing resistance, aligning stakeholders, and supporting individuals through the process.  

But each model has its unique focus and methodology. And will have different outcomes depending on the organization and the specific transformation that needs to take place.

So, if you are new to change management models or not sure which one to choose, you’ve come to the right place! At SPRING TODAY, we have over 20 years of experience, working with different organizations and matching them to passionate change experts.

These are what we consider the 6 must-have change management models that every change expert should have in their toolbox:

Lewin’s Change Management Model 

The ADKAR Change Management Model


Kübler-Ross Change Curve

McKinsey 7-S

The Six Batteries of Change

Below, we will give you a clear and concise introduction on each of these AND a recommendation as to which change management model to choose depending on your situation.

Choosing the right Change Model
depends on your organization and the change initiative

Lewin’s Change Management Model: unfreeze, change, refreeze

Sorry to disappoint you, but we are not talking about ice cream in the summer.
Instead, Lewin’s model emphasizes the importance of unfreezing existing behaviors, implementing desired changes, and then refreezing the new behaviors. Let’s explain how this works:


Create awareness of the need for change and overcome resistance. It is crucial to focus on the “why” of the change initiative. And don’t forget to listen to your employees about their concerns and fears by using a stakeholder analysis.

Implementing change

Introduce and integrate new practices or systems. Whilst doing so, it is important to keep the communication channels open. So employees will not be intimidated by the change.


Solidify the changes to make them the new norm. To succeed in this stage, it is important that the change is visible, stable and incorporated in everyday life. This can be manifested through an organizational chart or by providing regular personal feedback. 

Now that we know what Lewin’s model is all about, let’s discuss when to use it. 

Choose Lewin’s Model if:  

→ The change heavily depends on overcoming resistance and creating lasting behavioral change within the organization. This model is effective for changes such as restructuring, process improvements, or implementing new policies or procedures.

ADKAR Model: individualizing change management

ADKAR stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement and focuses on individual change. So, by using this model, you address the barriers individuals face during the change process:


Create an understanding among individuals about the need for change. This involves communicating the reasons, benefits, and consequences of the proposed change.


Encourage employees to develop a personal motivation or desire to support the change. Address any resistance, fears, or concerns that individuals may have.


Focus on providing individuals with the necessary information and skills to support the change. This includes education and training programs, and will help individuals acquire the knowledge and capabilities required to adapt to the change.


Ensure that individuals can effectively apply their knowledge in practical situations. Create opportunities for practice, offering coaching and support.


Sustain the change and prevent individuals from reverting to old habits or practices by creating mechanisms that reinforce the change. Think of recognition, rewards, and feedback systems.

Let’s see if the ADKAR model fits your change initiative.

Choose the ADKAR Model if:

The change requires individuals to acquire new skills and behaviors. Think about software implementations, but also new ways of working and process changes. 

If you want to teach 20.000 employees to work agile, it makes sense to choose the ADKAR model. Because you’re not only trying to overcome resistance. You’re also instilling new behaviors into the everyday work-life of employees.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model: from creating urgency to celebrating wins

Kotter’s model provides a step-by-step approach for successful change implementation.  These steps include:

Creating a sense of urgency

Highlight the need for change by emphasizing the risks and opportunities that exist. By doing so, you’re helping all stakeholders to understand and support the change.

Forming a powerful guiding coalition

Assemble a diverse group of individuals who have the necessary skills and authority to drive the change forward. As such, creating a strong leadership team.

Developing a vision and strategy

Articulate a clear and compelling vision for the future. Along with a well-defined strategy that outlines the path to achieve that vision.

Communicating the change

Communicate effectively, as it involves conveying the vision and strategy to all stakeholders. Make sure they understand the purpose, benefits, and expectations associated with the change.

Empowering employees

Remove obstacles, provide resources, and foster a supportive environment. This empowers employees to contribute to the change effort, encouraging ownership and collaboration.

Generating short-term wins

Celebrate and showcase quick wins to build confidence in the change process.

Consolidating gains

Build on the momentum created by the short-term wins and make further improvements.

Anchoring the changes in the culture

Embed the changes in the organization’s culture and systems. Also, reinforce the new behaviors, processes, and norms to sustain the change in the long term.

Let’s examine if your organization should opt for these eight steps.

Choose Kotter’s Model if:  

→ You tackle large-scale organizational transformations and major strategic initiatives. This model provides a comprehensive approach to managing change and is often used when the change requires significant buy-in and support from stakeholders.

Think of scenarios such as mergers and acquisitions, cultural transformations, or when organizations need to adapt to disruptive market forces.

The Kübler-Ross Change Curve: tapping into emotions

The Kübler-Ross Change Curve – also known as the Change Curve or the Transition Curve – describes the emotional stages individuals typically experience during a major change or transition.

You might have heard of this model before, since it was originally developed to understand the stages of grief! Now it has been applied to organizational change as well.

Initially, when life gets disrupted, people may deny or resist the change and feel a sense of loss. As they gradually explore and understand the change, they can move towards acceptance and commitment, embracing the new reality.

This curve consists of five stages:


Individuals may find it difficult to accept or believe the reality of the change. So make sure employees receive time to process its implications.


As the reality of the change sets in, people may feel a range of emotions, including frustration, resentment, and anger.


Employees may attempt to negotiate or make compromises to avoid or minimize the impact of the change.


As the change becomes more apparent and resistance becomes less effective, people may experience feelings of sadness, loss, and hopelessness.


In the final stage, employees begin to come to terms with the change and its implications. They start to embrace the new reality and find ways to adapt and move forward.

In short, by using this model, you acknowledge and address the emotional journey of individuals during change. And provide support and communication to facilitate the transition. You can do so by using clear communication, avoiding roadblocks or creating a safe space for people to verbalize their feelings, for example.  

Choose Kubler-Ross’ Model if:

You want to understand and manage emotional reactions during significant organizational changes. It is beneficial when the change involves a high level of disruption on mainly individual and emotional levels. Think about mergers, restructurings, or large-scale process or technology implementations.

McKinsey 7-S Model: using the company’s internal design as a framework

The McKinsey 7-S Model is a framework that helps organizations assess and align seven interdependent elements to improve overall performance. It highlights the importance of considering multiple dimensions of an organization when planning and managing change.

The seven elements to be found in your organization are:


Organization’s plan of action to achieve its goals and objectives.


The way the organization is organized. This includes its hierarchy, reporting lines, and departments.


Processes, procedures, and routines that are in place to guide the organization’s activities.

Shared values

Core beliefs, values, and corporate culture of the organization.


Capabilities and competencies of the organization’s employees.


The organization’s workforce, including its size, composition, and capabilities.


Leadership style and management practices within the organization.

The model emphasizes that all these elements should be interconnected and aligned to achieve organizational effectiveness. For example, a change in strategy may require a corresponding change in structure, systems, ánd skills!

Choose McKinsey’s Model if:

The change involves and affects multiple dimensions of the organization. It is useful for strategic changes, such as shifts in business models, entering new markets, or major reorganizations. This model helps leaders assess and align the seven interconnected elements. And ensure they are harmonized to support the desired change.

The Six Batteries of Change: fuel up your organization

The Six Batteries of Change (De Prins, Letens & Verweire) is a change management model that focuses on the key drivers of successful change within organizations.

This model identifies six “batteries” that need to be fully charged and addressed to enable change and transformation in organizations.

These batteries represent the areas where resistance to change can emerge. By addressing them appropriately, change leaders can increase the likelihood of successful outcomes:

Clear strategic direction

Having a clear strategy that your organization can contribute to.

Ambitious top team

Senior leadership is able to inspire the workforce and lead the way.

Powerful management structure

Having the right processes in place to help managers run the business.

Healthy culture

A healthy culture is open, collaborative and receptive to new ideas.

Action planning and implementation

Being able to execute change with the right project management practices.

Strong connection with employees

Managing resistance and building commitment for the change.

So, does your organization need to recharge its batteries?  

Choose the Six Batteries of Change Model if:  

→ If you are going to start a transformative journey, but feel like your organization is not aligned and ready, you might want to take a closer look at all the energy gainers and energy drainers. If all the batteries are charged, your change initiative will have a success rate of 95%!

How do you know if the Change Management Model was successful?

Congratulations! You have chosen and implemented a change management model. But how do you know if it was successful? Determining the success of a change management model depends on several factors as well as the type of transformation.

Here are three common ways you can estimate the success of a change initiative:

Do not be afraid to gather stakeholder feedback

Collecting feedback from key stakeholders, including employees, managers, and customers, is crucial. Surveys, interviews, focus groups, or informal discussions can provide insights into their perceptions of the change and its impact. Positive feedback, increased satisfaction levels, and supportive sentiments are indications of successful change implementation.

Measure the adoption and sustained use

The successful adoption and sustained use of new processes, systems, or behaviors by employees are strong indicators of success. Monitoring whether employees have embraced and integrated the changes into their daily routines and work practices, can help determine the effectiveness of the implemented model.

Calculate the financial impact of the transformation

Organizations can evaluate the financial impact of the change by analyzing relevant indicators. This may include cost savings, increased revenue, improved profitability, or other financial metrics tied to the change objectives. In the end, your board will always be looking for a positive ROI.

Beyond Change Management Models

Of course, change management is much more than just picking the right model and executing on it. In the end, these are just the tools in your toolbox. Yes, change models can provide direction, but you’ll still be steering the ship. 

This also includes leveraging the sensitivities of your organization and your personal skills  to successfully manage a change initiative. As well as working with models to enhance the organizational, team and individual development of your people. 

Using an integrated approach is a necessity for successful change. 

Not sure yet which model to choose for your change initiative? SPRING TODAY is here to help. Let’s connect and make your organization fit for the future!