3 Change Management Models to Help Transform Your Business

Two colleagues discussing change management models

Change management models add structure and success. That’s because, over the last three years, organizations have gone through an average of five major changes. More than half of change-related projects fail. More importantly, 60% of their success depends on HR.

These figures are supported by studies and make one key thing clear: It is important that you know how change works. This article offers models that will be useful in times of change.

If you are perhaps more interested in learning more about the change management process, and examples to help illustrate how it works, click here to read our full guide to making change management a reality.

Ready to get started? Download our free Change Management Guide right now.


What Is Change Management?

Change management is largely the management of employees. It’s learning about what they need and how can you keep them motivated (or re-motivate them, in some cases). These are the kinds of questions that guide change managers, because changes can only be mastered when approached together.

Change Management Model Scenarios

If you are facing a change project, use change management models that help you guide and direct individual concerns and team dynamics toward achieving positive outcomes (click here to read more about organizational development and additional ways to manage change).

These are three concrete scenarios that each require different change management models:

What if Two Departments are Being Combined?

Let’s say that your organization goes through an internal restructuring. Now, two departments are being merged into one, marketing and communications.

A new organizational chart has already been made, the employees know each other, but have so far worked in different offices and only learned of each others’ projects sporadically. How can you, as the HR professional, help with this change?

By introducing team development initiatives in cooperation with management. Talk with the executives and define together where you see challenges in the cooperation and what projects are coming up first. Then, bring the employees together to work on one of the planned projects. Have them work together in a protected environment – without pressure, and more like an experiment. In this context, it helps to familiarize yourself with the following theory…

The Model: Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing

The team life cycle from psychologist Bruce Tuckman (1965) is helpful when new teams are being formed.

First, the team members find each other (Forming). Then, they define their goals, which is when tensions and power struggles occur (Storming) until the group agrees on rules (Norming) and focuses on the task (Performing).

Change Management Models: Team Life Cycle

When changes are happening, this means new constellations for staff almost all the time (like the forming of new teams). When you are training executives or building new teams, take the time to watch (with this model in the back of your mind) how the employees are coming together.

You may also intervene and ask what your colleagues need and how they are doing. This creates trust and is crucial during times of transition.

What if a Department is Moving to a New Location?

A department in your organization is relocating to a different office, e.g. from an attractive city location out to a town in the country, maybe 100 kilometers away.

A change like this will shake up your employees at first because it impacts their private life. They will wonder how to deal with this. Commute? Work remotely? Quit? They may have very negative feelings, feel unsure, and will ask some of the big questions first: What will my family say? What if I lose my job?

It is still too early to suggest concrete solutions. Therefore, what is required from you as the HR professional is empathy. Ask the employees about their concerns or even fears, and let the managers know. There is a well-known model to help with this…

The Model: Needs Pyramid

The Maslow model comprises five classical levels that motivate humans:

  • Physiological needs
  • Safety needs
  • Social needs
  • Individual needs
  • Self-actualization

These are each expandable and should always be seen within context (culture, socialization, etc.). They are relevant for change projects because safety, for example, is a central aspect that you need to consider when dealing with employees.

Extended needs, such as autonomy and appreciation, also play a significant role. Employees should know and feel that they are needed at all times.

Change Management Guide PreviewOur Guide to Change Management

People are only prepared to change if they understand its necessity and their contribution to it.

Read how you, as an HR professional, can integrate your managers in the right way, and what you should avoid doing on the way.


What if Your Sales Department is Changing Their Compensation Model?

Tough times: Competition has intensified, and sales are declining. The Sales management team believes it is necessary to change their incentive model. The acquisition of new orders should be rewarded more, while base salaries should be reduced.

You are asked to support the managers in presenting the new model. To do that, you should first have all of the details and the background of the decision explained to you, and then communicate with all of the right internal colleagues (in Legal, Communications, possibly Workers’ Council).

The more perspectives you learn, the more considerate you can be with what and how you communicate. This is important because otherwise, employees will hear only what they want to hear: That management wants to put them under pressure financially, thinks that they are not performing well enough, etc.

The following model provides a good description of how messages can be received in very different ways…

The Model: Four Sides of Communication

According to the four-sides model (fact, self-revealing, relationship, appeal) by Friedemann Schulz von Thun, messages work on a relationship level.

As such, they carry different information but ultimately should have a targeted effect. Keep this in mind when communicating with employees, but also with management.

Let’s assume, for example, that you say “The market requires…” The employee may then think “…and where am I in all of this?”, whereas a manager sees it as a neutral, legitimizing fact. And here we have it: your potential misunderstanding.

This is exactly what you need to avoid if you want to master a challenge together.

Change Management Models to Spark Real Change

When you advise your management team, feel free to refer to these change management models. In doing this, you will be emphasizing your competence (through a scientifically-backed approach) as well as providing assistance.

Communication or Stakeholder Management are often perceived as something obvious – but they are far from it. Poor communication and a lack of information are the most common points of criticism cited by employees when we talk about change implementation.

If you can act with tact and finesse, you have already completed a large part of it.

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