Process models of change

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Process models of change


The research paper aimed to analyze process models of change applied in organizations. As such, it has improved our understanding of the steps organizations must take to ensure successful implementation of change efforts. In this paper, five popular models of the process of change have been considered. The first model is Lewin’s three-step change model which constitutes of unfreezing, moving and refreezing. The second one is Harris’s five-phase model of change management. This involves five phases which are planning and initiation, momentum, problems, turning point, and termination. The third process model of change examined in this paper is Kotter’s eight-step plan which involves increase urgency, build guiding team, develop the vision, communicate for buy-in, empower action, create short term wins, don’t let up, and make change stick. The fourth model considered in this paper is Greiner’s six-phase process. Greiner developed six phases of managing change in organizations and these include pressure and arousal, intervention and reorientation, diagnosis and recognition, invention and commitment, experimentation and search, and reinforcement and acceptance. Lastly, the paper examined Fullan’s change themes set which must be contemplated together during the change process to make it successful. The paper concludes that organizations must understand process models of change to ensure that initiated changes are successful implemented and have a lasting impact.


Change is an act of moving from a state of understanding to the state that is not known. In an organizational context, change causes a shift in the perception of employees and it could either be negative or positive. Change continues to be a feature of organizational being at operational and strategic level (Gilley, Gilley and McMillan 2009). Alternatively, change management is a process an organization initiates to renew its structures, direction and capabilities to meet the continuous changing needs of its stakeholders (Todnem By 2005). The success of a change process depends significantly not just on the contribution of employees to the change effort but also to the understanding of the change process. Therefore, there is need to cognize what we make out about successful change prior to and during the process of change (Lunenburg 2010). In this regard, this paper will analyze five well known process models of change which include Lewin’s three-step change model, Harris’s five-phase model, Kotter’s eight-step plan, Greiner’s six-phase process, and Fullan’s change themes set.

Lewin’s three-step change model

The planned approach to organization change was introduced by Kurt Lewin in 1951 (D’Ortenzio 2012). The approach relates to making decision as a group, implementation and social change. Lewin’s major concern was the problem of group conduct and he noted that individuals’ behaviour differs from one group to another (D’Ortenzio 2012). Therefore, in attempt to understand why some groups were uniform compared to others, he concluded that a group may comprise of people with different thoughts, but sharing a common objective makes people to act together to achieve this objective (Hashim 2014). To this regard, Lewin’s model is based of the fact that planned change enables people to understand and remain committed to the change process (D’Ortenzio 2012). Lewin’s model views that change involves a three-step procedure: unfreezing, moving, and refreezing (Lunenburg 2010; D’Ortenzio 2012; Hashim 2014; Boohene and Williams, 2012), as illustrated in the figure below.

Figure 1: Lewin’s Three-Step Model of Change

Process models of changeSource: D’Ortenzio 2012 adopted from Lewin 1951.


This is the first step of change process and involves employees breaking away from the normal way of doing things. For effective change to take place in an organization, it is important for employees to embrace new practices of work with some sense of urgency (Lunenburg 2010). This is achieved by encouraging or forcing employees to leave their comfort zones and get used to new work practices, irrespective of being uncertain about their future (Boohene and Williams, 2012). However, D’Ortenzio (2012) connoted that existence of anxiety and fears of uncertainty at this process may lead to unconstructive behavior among employees and therefore must be controlled to ensure a smooth change process.

Once unfreezing has occurred, the organization can be changed by moving. Moving entails the development of new attitudes, values, and behaviours through the processes of identification, internalization, or change in structure (Lunenburg 2010). It involves getting employees accept the new and desired state by allowing them to engage in activities that help to identify and implement new practices and procedures (Hashim 2014). According to Susanto (2008) employees who are involved in the change process are likely to embrace change and commit themselves to making change a success.


Refreezing is the last step in the process of change and entails making the change stable at a new quasi-stationary balance in the organization (Hashim 2014). In this step, the reinforcement of new tasks and processes by the employer is emphasized. D’Ortenzio (2012) argued that employees must be acknowledged, preferably through rewards, to make this step successful. Additionally, Boohene and Williams (2012) acknowledged refreezing as being a very significant step for change managers and agents to reach in order to successfully overcome the state of inertia and achieve organizational change.

Harris’s five-phase model

In 1975, Ben Harris developed a five-stage model of change management. The model comprise of phases which occur in a sequential order, but normally overlap one another. The phases include planning and initiation, momentum, problems, turning point, and termination (Lunenburg 2010), and are discussed briefly.

Planning and Initiation

Planning and initiation is the first phase of managing change in regard to Harris’s five-phase model. At this phase the change managers and agents consider the purpose of the change program, clarify goals, select activities, and also consider resources needed (Lunenburg 2010). The interest of individuals involved in planning and initiating change increases as they come to understand the relationship between the change and its goals and their individual needs (Palmer, Dunford and Akin 2009).


During the momentum phase goal-directed activities are commenced and the organization begins to use its resources. As interest continues to increase, employees start to develop feelings of personal worth and involvement (Lunenburg 2010). Additionally, they begin to recognize activities as potentially satisfying. To make this phase successful, Spector (2010) argued that the processes of leading and organizing must be heavily applied by the change agents.


The third phase is known as problems phase which often arise due to increase in activities of change. At this phase, plans become more complex, initial activities result to additional activities, and some resources become limited (Lunenburg 2010). Additionally, differences in views among members of the group are increasingly evident and the need for additional responsibilities potentially causes conflicts. As goals appear more difficult to achieve than before, individuals become unable to live up to expectations making them lose interest (Susanto 2008). This is a challenging phase of change processes as Lunenburg (2010) connoted and therefore investment in leadership is very important during this period.

Turning point

During the turning point phase, the trends of problem that occur in the third phase may continue to increase or may be overcome and therefore reduced (D’Ortenzio 2012). This depends on the effectiveness of initial planning, the momentum of the change initiative, and the collaboration of individuals in the operation (Todnem By 2005; Lunenburg 2010). Still, effective leadership is required at this phase to help drive forward the change process.


Termination is the last phase of change process. The efforts for change may be terminated if unexpected problems arise, such as lack of resources, persistence in lack of goal consensus, and too complex task (Lunenburg 2010). Alternatively, if problems are handled promptly, the interests increase and goal-directed activities are carried on at a tremendous pace. In this case, Lunenburg (2010) postulated that interest will now be based on a feeling of anticipated personal growth and accomplishment.

Kotter’s eight-step plan

Kotter’s change management model also known as eight-step plan is a more detailed approach to managing change which builds on Lewin’s three-step change model (D’Ortenzio 2012). When developing this model, Kotter first listed common errors made by leaders when they try to initiate change in the organization. These included failures to create coalition, failure to develop a vision for change, inability to create a sense of urgency, poor communication of the vision for change and failure eliminate things inhibit the achievement of that vision (Lunenburg 2010; Susanto 2008). Others included declaring victory very fast, failure to make clear short-term achievable goals, and inability to attach the changes into the culture of the organization (D’Ortenzio 2012). Based on these mistakes, Kotter believed that organizational change can be effectively managed by use of a dynamic and nonlinear eight-step process (Campbell 2008). These include increase urgency, build guiding team, develop the vision, communicate for buy-in, empower action, create short term wins, don’t let up, and make change stick (Campbell 2008; Hashim 2014; D’Ortenzio 2012; Lunenburg 2010).

Each of these steps in organized into three distinct phases. Creating a climate for change is the first phase and it includes increase urgency, build guiding teams, and developing the vision steps (Campbell 2008). Engaging and enabling the entire organization is the second phase and it constitutes of communicate for buy-in, empower action, and create short-term wins steps. The last phase is called change implementation and sustenance which encompasses the do not let up and make change stick steps (Campbell 2008). According to Lunenburg (2010) Kotter’s eight-step planis based on the assumption that change is not just a continuous process, but also an open-minded and unpredictable process of making an organization adapt to its changing environment. This emergent approach to change is increasingly applied by organizations today because it acknowledges the fact that there is need for organizations to adapt their internal behaviours and practices to meet the changing conditions outside the organization (D’Ortenzio 2012). Nevertheless, as Hashim (2014) argued, to successfully implement this process model of change, all the eight steps must be worked through systematically and to full completion.

Greiner’s six-phase process

Geiner’s process model of change accentuates the role of the change agent in a change process. A change agent is a person who acts a leader in initiating the process of change in an organization. This model recognizes change as a sequential process and not a sudden alteration. Based in this understanding, Greiner developed a six phase model through which change is likely to occur in organization. The phases include pressure and arousal, intervention and reorientation, diagnosis and recognition, invention and commitment, experimentation and search, and reinforcement and acceptance (Lunenburg 2010).

Pressure and arousal

According to Greiner’s six-phase process the change process begins when the administration experiences pressure or feels a need for change. The pressure could be caused by either internal factors, such as significant decline is productivity, or by external factors such as economic changes or increased competition (Lunenburg 2010). However, in situations where both internal and external pressures exist and do not offset each other, the need for change is often readily apparent (Gilley et al 2009).

Intervention and reorientation

Despite having noticed the need for change, leaders may find it challenging to analyze its problems accurately in order to make the right changes, especially when they are under severe pressure (Lunenburg 2010). To effectively manage the change process, though, change leaders must be trusted and perceived as experts (Spector 2010). Otherwise, the organization may use forced to use an outside change agent or consultant to help lead through the change process.

Diagnosis and recognition

This is the third phase of change process that engages the whole organization in determining the real causes of issues that need change. At this stage, leaders and staff work as a team to gather relevant information, recognize tough problems and to diagnose the problems areas (Lunenburg 2010). However, in efforts that involve unsuccessful change, this step is likely to be avoided (Lunenburg 2010).

Invention and commitment

Upon recognizing the problem, it is necessary for the organization to establish creative solutions to the problems (Palmer et al 2009). To achieve this, the shared approach is crucial (Lunenburg 2010). As Susanto (2008) argued, if employees are motivated to contribute in this process, they are more likely to become committed to finding solutions.

Experimentation and search

This is the fifth phase and it involves testing the solutions developed in the previous phase in small-scale pilot programs. The results produced are then analyzed (Lunenburg 2010). According to Susanto (2008) the change leader uses control mechanisms to determine the level to which the planned change is being successful in solving the problem, how employees receive it, and how to improve its implementation.

Reinforcement and acceptance

Lastly, the course of action is accepted willingly in the organization if it has been tested and established to be desirable. Besides, individuals are reinforced for contributing to the success of the change (Lunenburg 2010). Ideally, the positive feedback from the fifth phase adds reinforcement to the process of change. The organization may also reinforce acceptance through promotion, praise, salary increase, recognition, and persistent participation in the process of change (D’Ortenzio 2012).

Fullan’s change themes set

Another model of an effective change process is provided by Fullan (2011). Fullan developed seven basic themes which must be contemplated together during the change process. One of the themes is change is learning. This theme explains that all change involves as aspect of learning and all learning entails developing an understanding of something new (Lunenburg 2010). Therefore, supportive conditions for learning must be incorporated in any change effort to make it successful. Another theme for change is that change is not a blueprint but a journey (Lunenburg 2010). The perspective to change is based on the assumption that the organizational environment, both inside and outside, is often chaotic. The third change theme developed by Fullan is that problems are our friends (Fullan 2011). To develop effective responses to situations that are complex, the organization must actively seek and deal with real problems. Therefore, problems create avenue for profound change and satisfaction (Spector 2010). Change as resource-hungry is another change theme proposed by Fullan (2011). According to Fullan (2011) change often needs more resources for new materials, space, training and time. It represents learning new skills, developing solutions to real problems and arriving at new insights in a social setting.

The fifth theme is that power is needed to manage change (Fullan 2011). According to (Lunenburg 2010) more effort must be devoted to tasks such as communication, identifying problems, linking various projects for change, and monitoring implementation in order to successful run change initiatives. Fullan (2011) acknowledged change as systematic and hence his sixth theme. As such, organizations must focus change on the development and interrelationships of all major mechanisms of the entire organization in a simultaneous manner (Lunenburg 2010). Additionally, the focal point of change must be on policy, structure, regulations, and issues of organizational culture to be more effective (Lunenburg 2010). Lastly, Fullan (2011) recognized that all change is implemented locally within an organization. All the previous ideas about change represent the fact that change happens only when organization stakeholders locally implement the change.


Conclusively, the paper has examined much about change and different process models of change. On the basis of this research, we now understand better the steps and processes that organizations must take to ensure that the changes they initiate are successful and have a lasting impact. In this paper, five well known models of change process have been analyzed in detail. These include Lewin’s three-step change model, Harris’s five-phase model, Kotter’s eight-step plan, Greiner’s six-phase process, and Fullan’s change themes set. Generally, these process models of change provide a potent and useful understanding of how organizations can ensure effective change efforts.

Reference List

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D’Ortenzio, C., 2012. Understanding Change And Change Management Processes: A Case Study. University of Canberra.

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