1.1 3 Change Management Models Compared Header

Change Management Models: Lewin, Kotter and ADKAR Compared

Managing change effectively has become a cornerstone of leadership in the 21st century. The right change management model can act as a compass, guiding organizations through the complexities of transformation. This article explores three seminal models: Lewin's Change Management Model, Kotter's 8-Step Change Model and the ADKAR Model by Prosci and offers in-depth insights into their applications, benefits, and potential limitations.

Understanding Change Management Models

Change management models serve as essential blueprints for organizations undergoing transition. They are not merely theoretical constructs but practical guides that help steer the complex process of change—from conception through to execution and beyond. By outlining a series of steps or stages, these models provide a structured approach to managing change, ensuring that it is approached in a strategic, organized manner. 

As we have already covered in this article, change is inherently disruptive and can be met with resistance from those it affects. A well-designed change management model considers the psychological and emotional responses to change, facilitating a smoother transition by engaging with and supporting individuals through the process. This emphasis on the human aspect is crucial, as the success of any change initiative largely depends on the buy-in and cooperation of the people involved. 

1.2  Change Management Models Compared team climbWhy adopting a change management model? 

Choosing a codified model offers many advantages: 

  1. Framework for Analysis: Change management models provide a framework for analyzing the current state, identifying the need for change, and envisioning the desired outcome. 
  2. Guidance for Implementation: By breaking down the change process into manageable steps or stages, these models offer clear guidance on what needs to be done, when, and by whom. This structured approach helps to minimize disruption and maximize efficiency. 
  3. Tool for Communication: Effective communication is pivotal during periods of change. These models act as a tool for communicating the change process to all stakeholders, ensuring everyone is aligned and understands their role in the journey. 
  4. Support for Sustaining Change: Finally, change management models recognize that implementing change is not the end of the journey. They provide mechanisms for reinforcing and sustaining change, ensuring that new practices are embedded into the organizational culture and do not regress to previous states. 

1. What Is Lewin’s Change Management Model? 

Kurt Lewin's model, introduced in the mid-20th century, remains a cornerstone in change management. Its enduring appeal lies in its simplicity and clarity, breaking down the change process into three distinct stages:  

  • Unfreeze 
  • Change (or Transition) 
  • Refreeze.  

This model not only outlines the steps necessary for effective change but also integrates the psychological aspects involved in moving an organization or individual from a state of inertia to action and finally to a new norm. 


Advantages of Lewin's Model 

  • A Foundational Approach: Lewin's model lays the groundwork for many subsequent theories and models in change management. Its basic principles are applicable across a wide range of change initiatives, making it a versatile tool in the change manager's toolkit. 
  • Ease of Application: The clarity and simplicity of the model make it easily adaptable to various contexts. Organizations can use it to guide the planning and implementation of change initiatives, offering a step-by-step structure that is easy to follow and execute. 

2.1  Change Management Models Compared Lewin MondelLimitations of Lewin's Model 

  • Potential for Oversimplification: Lewin’s model simplified approach can also be its’ shortcoming. Modern organizations face complex, ever-evolving landscapes that may require more iterative and flexible approaches to change. The linear progression suggested by Lewin might not fully capture the nuances of implementing change in today’s dynamic environments. 
  • Need for More Emphasis on Sustaining Change: While Lewin’s model effectively addresses the need to solidify changes through its Refreeze stage, it could offer more in terms of strategies for maintaining and reinforcing these changes over the long term. The modern business environment, characterized by continuous change, challenges the notion of refreezing, suggesting that a more fluid approach to embedding and sustaining change might be necessary.  

Enhancing Lewin's Model for Today's Use 

Despite these limitations, Lewin's model continues to be highly relevant. It offers a solid foundation upon which to build more nuanced change management strategies. Organizations can adapt and extend the model to suit their specific needs, incorporating elements such as continuous learning and adaptation, to address the challenges of today's fast-paced and ever-changing business environment.   

By integrating Lewin's foundational insights with a more flexible and iterative approach to change, organizations can navigate the complexities of transformation more effectively, ensuring not only the implementation of change but also its endurance and integration into the organizational culture.  

2. What Is Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

John Kotter's 8-Step Change Model, introduced in his 1996 book "Leading Change," provides a detailed framework for implementing successful change initiatives.

51qNmYiy1mL._AC_UF894,1000_QL80_Recognized for its thoroughness, the model guides organizations through the intricacies of managing change, from the initial stages of preparation and planning to the final stages of execution and integration into the company culture. 

What Are The 8 Steps to Kotter’s Model? 


John Kotter's 8-Step Change Model, as outlined in his seminal work on leadership and change, includes the following steps designed to facilitate effective change management within organizations: 

  1. Create a Sense of Urgency:
    Help others see the need for change through a high level of honest dialogue. Create a compelling reason for why change must happen soon. 
  2. Build a Guiding Coalition: Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort. Encourage the group to work as a team. 
  3. Form a Strategic Vision and Initiatives: Create a vision to help direct the change effort and develop strategic initiatives to achieve that vision. 
  4. Enlist a Volunteer Army: Large numbers of people are needed to make change happen. Mobilize them by appealing to the human need for purpose. 
  5. Enable Action by Removing Barriers: Reduce barriers to change by changing systems or structures that seriously undermine the vision. Encourage risk-taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions. 
  6. Generate Short-term Wins: Plan for achievements that can easily be made visible, follow through with those achievements, and recognize and reward employees involved. 
  7. Sustain Acceleration: Use increased credibility from early wins to change systems, structures, and policies that don't fit the vision. Hire, promote, and develop employees who can implement the vision. Reinvigorate the process with new projects, themes, and change agents. 
  8. Institute Change: Articulate the connections between the new behaviours and organizational success and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession. 

Advantages of Kotter's Model 

  • Detailed Roadmap: By breaking down the change process into eight distinct steps, Kotter provides leaders with a detailed roadmap that guides them through the complexities of planning, initiating, and sustaining change. 
  • Flexibility: Despite its detailed structure, Kotter’s model is designed with flexibility in mind. It recognizes that each organization and each change scenario is unique and allows for the steps to be adapted to meet the specific needs and circumstances of different organizations. 

3.2  Change Management Models Compared Kotler modelLimitations of Kotter's Model 

  • Complexity: The detail that makes Kotter’s model so valuable can also present challenges. For some organizations, particularly smaller ones with limited resources, the model’s comprehensive nature might seem overwhelming. This perceived complexity can potentially slow the momentum of change initiatives. 
  • Resource-Intensive: Implementing Kotter’s 8 steps can require a significant investment of time, effort, and resources. Each stage of the model demands careful attention and action, which might strain the capacities of organizations without ample resources or dedicated change management teams. 

Crowdsourcing employee ideas involves collecting, evaluating, and implementing ideas from a wide range of employees across the organization. This approach can help support continuous improvement efforts by leveraging the diverse knowledge and experience of the entire workforce. 

Enhancing Kotter's Model for Practical Application 

Despite these challenges, Kotter's 8-Step Change Model remains a powerful tool for effecting lasting change within organizations. To overcome its limitations, organizations might consider the following approaches: 

  • Phased Implementation: Breaking down the model into smaller, more manageable phases can help reduce its complexity and make it more approachable for teams. 
  • Resource Allocation Planning: Proactively planning for the resource investment required at each step of the model can help organizations prepare and budget for the necessary time and effort, mitigating the model’s resource-intensive nature. 
  • Customization: Adapting the steps to fit the unique culture, size, and structure of the organization can help make the model more relevant and actionable, increasing the likelihood of successful change implementation. 

3. What Is the ADKAR Model by Prosci?

The ADKAR Model, developed by Prosci, offers a fresh perspective on change management by emphasizing the journey of change at the individual level. This person-centric approach underpins the belief that the success of organizational change is the sum of individual changes. ADKAR stands for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement, representing a sequential framework that supports individuals through the change process. 


Advantages of the ADKAR Model 

  • Personalized Approach: The strength of the ADKAR Model lies in its ability to address the unique responses to change of everyone, fostering an environment where personal barriers to change are acknowledged and managed. This tailored approach enhances the likelihood of each person reaching their change milestones successfully. 
  • Comprehensive Coverage: By covering the full spectrum of the change process, from awareness to reinforcement, the ADKAR Model ensures no aspect of the individual's journey is overlooked. This thoroughness helps in building a solid foundation for sustained change. 

4.1 Change Management Models ImageLimitations of the ADKAR Model 

  • Demands Significant Resources: Implementing a personalized change management strategy can be resource intensive. Organizations may find the requirement for individual assessments, tailored communication, and support strategies challenging, particularly for large-scale change initiatives. 
  • Potential for Oversight: While focusing on individual change is crucial, there's a risk that the broader organizational context might be under emphasized. Successful organizational change also requires attention to systemic factors, cultural dynamics, and structural adjustments that might not be fully addressed by concentrating on individual change alone. 

Enhancing the Application of the ADKAR Model 

To maximize the effectiveness of the ADKAR Model and mitigate its limitations, organizations can adopt a balanced approach that combines individual-focused strategies with systemic change management practices.  

For instance, while implementing the ADKAR framework at the individual level, parallel efforts could be made to align organizational structures, processes, and culture with the desired change. Moreover, leveraging technology and tools can help manage the resource-intensive nature of personalized change strategies, making it more feasible to scale the approach across larger groups. 

Comparing Lewin, Kotter, and ADKAR 

When compared to one another, each model highlights different areas of the change management spectrum.  

Lewin's model offers a foundational framework, Kotter's adds complexity and detail, while ADKAR provides a lens on the individual's experience.  

Depending on your organization's needs, size, and change objectives, one model may be more suitable than another, or a hybrid approach could be most effective. 

How Idea Management Software Complements Change Models 

Sideways 6's idea management software stands as a pivotal tool in the arsenal of change management, enhancing the application and impact of these models. By facilitating open communication, encouraging collaboration, and nurturing a culture of innovation, the software ensures that change is not just implemented but embraced and sustained over the long term. Idea management software transforms the theoretical aspects of change models into practical, actionable insights by providing a platform where ideas can be shared, developed, and implemented effectively. 

5.3 change managment Model

Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice 

Change management models provide the framework for organizational change, but the integration of idea management software enables these theories to be applied in a dynamic, interactive environment. Here’s how this software complements various aspects of change models: 

  • Enhances Engagement and Participation: By providing a platform for all employees to voice their ideas and concerns, the software ensures that the change process is inclusive. This aligns with Kotter’s emphasis on building a broad base of support for change initiatives and the ADKAR model’s focus on individual engagement and empowerment. 
  • Facilitates the Unfreeze Phase in Lewin’s Model: Idea management software can play a critical role in the Unfreeze stage by collecting and disseminating information that highlights the need for change and unveil topics that are trending among employees, thus preparing the organisation for transition. 
  • Supports Kotter’s Steps for Vision Creation and Communication: The platform can be used to share the strategic vision for change, allowing for clearer communication and alignment across the organization. It also provides a space for feedback and collaboration on ideas, ensuring that the vision resonates with and is understood by everyone. 
  • Empowers the ADKAR Ability and Knowledge Steps: By offering resources and ideas sharing enabling peer-to-peer collaboration and learning, idea management software supports the development of the necessary skills and knowledge for change. 
  • Reinforces Change: The software aids in the Refreeze phase of Lewin’s model and the Reinforcement step of the ADKAR model by providing a repository of successful change initiatives, lessons learned, and recognizing contributions, which helps to solidify new behaviors and processes. 


Each model offers unique insights and strategies, from Lewin's structured simplicity to Kotter's detailed roadmap and ADKAR's individual-focused approach. However, the true potential of these models is unlocked when combined with the innovative power of employee ideas. Sideways 6 (and other idea management platforms) stand at the crossroads of theory and practice, enabling organizations to harness ideas and create the right environment to drive sustainable change.

Learn more about our product or book a free demo today to ensure successful change and transformation.  


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