The Art of Positive Change

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5 Theories, Frameworks & Models

Before introducing several influential theories, frameworks, and models of change, it is helpful to identify six factors that combine to make up positive change (Dhiman & Marques, 2020):

  • Showing up – Trust that your presence is vital to successful change.
  • Speaking up – Speak out, ask questions, offer new perspectives, and shape the agenda.
  • Looking up – Maintain a higher vision, out of the weeds, while bringing value.
  • Teaming up – Work in partnership while going it alone.
  • Never giving up – Persistence is vital, yet so is flexibility.
  • Lifting others up – Share credit and celebrate success.

Prochaska stages of change

Next, we turn to Prochaska and DiClemente’s (1982) transtheoretical model of change to understand the stages an individual passes through during change (Dhiman & Marques, 2020; Prochaska & Velicer, 1997).

  1. Precontemplation
    Employees fail to recognize the need for change.

Leaders should raise the employees’ awareness of the issues and solutions while listening to their fears.

  1. Contemplation
    Employees are unaware that the problem’s solution may benefit them.

Leaders can share the positive impact on them and their organization.

  1. Preparation
    Employees are ready to begin planning for the change.

Leaders can support them in setting personal goals.

  1. Action
    Employees take the required actions.

Leaders can provide the support and resources required while appropriately restructuring the environment.

  1. Maintenance
    Employees maintain their new behavior and a positive outlook.

Leaders continue to provide resources, support, and autonomy.

The sixth stage is termination, which sometimes seems more of a destination than an end state (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997).

Kotter’s eight-step process

John Kotter’s eight-step process forms the basis of many successful changes and is briefly described below (Dhiman & Marques, 2020; Cadle et al., 2018).

Set the stage

  1. Create a sense of urgency.
  2. Form a powerful coalition by creating a guiding team.

Decide what to do

  1. Create a vision and a strategy for change.

Make it happen

  1. Communicate the vision, supporting buy-in and understanding.
  2. Remove obstacles and encourage further buy-in.
  3. Create short-term wins.
  4. Build on the change.

Make it stick

  1. Embed the changes in corporate culture or create a new culture.

Lewin’s change management model

Kurt Lewin (1947) proposed a three-step process for successfully implementing planned change that considers the softer, more behavioral aspects (Cadle et al., 2018).

  1. Unfreeze
    It involves preparing employees for the changes about to happen and helping staff understand why changes are essential.
  2. Transition
    This is where the change happens, typically involving times of uncertainty and confusion. The old ways are being replaced, yet the new approaches may lack clarity.
  3. Freeze
    As the new ways begin to solidify, a new balance is achieved, and comfort levels return to normal. Employees find a new place of stability, and the changes are accepted.

Some suggest that we should not encourage a complete freeze, as there are always further changes close by (Cadle et al., 2018).

ADKAR model

According to the ADKAR model, to ensure change success, we must address each of the following five knowledge-sharing goals (Prosci, n.d.; MindTools, n.d.):

  1. Awareness (of the need for change)
    Communicate the need for change to stakeholders.
  2. Desire (to participate in and support the change)
    Translate the awareness of change into a desire to be involved.
  3. Knowledge (of how to change)
    Recognize what the stakeholders need to do to make the change happen.
  4. Ability (to change)
    Skill the staff to make the project successful.
  5. Reinforcement (to sustain the change)
    Reinforce appropriate behaviors to ensure the project continues to be successful.

The SARAH Model

The SARAH model provides insight into the stages that people pass through, having learned that things are about to change (Cadle et al., 2018).

  • Shock
    Employees may not realize the need for change and have become used to existing working methods.
  • Anger
    They may become angry when they understand what the changes mean.
  • Rejection
    They may wish to reject the whole idea of change, preferring to be left alone.
  • Acceptance
    Even if they are not ready to embrace the changes ahead, they begin to accept them.
  • Hope
    They recognize the benefits and see hope ahead.

Prerequisites for an Effective Change Management Process

Change management processChange management processTo survive and flourish, organizations must adopt a culture of continuous change management where readiness involves the following prerequisites (Abudi, 2017; Englund & Bucero, 2019):

  • Leaders and employees must understand the critical need for change, have a clear change management definition, and recognize its potential benefits.
  • Leaders must be present, committed, and actively lead the change effort.
  • Open communication, where employees feel psychologically safe to speak up and ask questions, must be encouraged.
  • A clear, shared, and higher vision must align with the organization’s goals and values and be supported by an achievable change management plan.
  • A culture of partnership and teamwork is vital, rather than one of isolation and individuality.
  • Credit must be shared and successes celebrated to motivate initial and ongoing progress.
  • The organization should be culturally ready for change, flexible, and adaptable to new working methods.
  • Risks should be known and actively managed as part of change management strategies.
  • Training and development opportunities should be identified and planned to enhance appropriate skills.
  • All relevant stakeholders must be engaged to ensure broad-based support and buy-in.

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