The Fourth Dimension of Change Management

Earlier this week, James Lawther shared his story of researching change management models in order to expand his toolkit beyond the initial training he had received. As a result of his search, he discovered that change management models typically cover one of three different dimensions:  Process (how change happens), People (what people experience during change), and Environment (designing context to support change).

While James discovered that Enclaria’s Irresistible Change Model covers all three of these dimensions, it also includes a fourth dimension that is not as obvious.

The fourth dimension is YOU. The change practitioner.

Before starting Enclaria, I managed an “executive working group” program for Balanced Scorecard Collaborative. Clients came to us to learn and participate in research about how to develop an Office of Strategy Management within their organizations. Interestingly, the vast majority of participants were not executives at all, but instead were managers and senior managers who were responsible for implementing strategy and strategic initiatives, without direct authority. One day, one of our clients lamented, “All this stuff you’re teaching us is great, but I still need to figure out how to take it back to my organization and make it work.”

A light bulb went on for me that day, and the inspiration for Enclaria was kindled. The missing piece of the puzzle was the personal influence of individual change practitioners to make the whole thing happen.

The field of Change Management tends to focus on the system that is changing and how to objectively cause that change to happen. However, the process by which change is managed cannot be separated from the people who are trying to influence it. Each individual change agent has personal strengths, abilities, relationships, and backgrounds that inform their approach. And no two change practitioners will implement the same change the same way.

As change agents, we are inextricably connected to the organizations and the changes we implement (especially when you work inside the organization). Let’s not pretend that there is one objective, right way to manage, lead, or influence change. The best way to implement change (i.e. one that will work) considers the unique characteristics you bring to the equation, and helps you develop the ones you need to make it happen. The Irresistible Change Guide helps you figure out how to apply your unique personal influence to change an entire organization. YOU are what makes it irresistible.

Building on James’s guest blog, the four dimensions of change management are:

  • Process – How change happens
  • People – What people experience during change
  • Environment – Designing context to support change
  • Practitioner – Personal influence of change.

Do your go-to models of change cover all four dimensions?

Guest Post: Change Management Models

Have you been forcing all projects to fit a single methodology because it’s what you know? The following article shares one practitioner’s journey to uncover new models and expand his change management toolkit. Written by James Lawther for the Enclaria blog. Enjoy!


Change management models.

They are all wrong, but some are helpful.

model cars

I am a process guy by training, but I make my living from change management.

I work for a large organisation and I spend my life trying to fix things: processes, systems and policies – those sorts of things. Changing systems and processes is easy, but unless you can change people’s behaviour as well then your new process is worthless. So whilst I might be a process guy it is change management that pays my mortgage. Without it nothing sticks.

I’ve always found changing behaviour is where it gets a little messy, so I decided to get a little professional help. I booked myself onto a course. The ADKAR® change management course by Prosci.

The Prosci model:

The course was great and I found it really helpful. At its core is a clever model; ADKAR. The idea is that for people to change they have to pass through a series of steps in a predefined order. For those of you who don’t know it, the acronym stands for:

  • Awareness: Do people know about the change
  • Desire: Do people want to change
  • Knowledge: Do people know how to change
  • Ability: Have people practiced what they need to change
  • Reinforcement: Are there mechanisms in place to make the change stick?

The logic is compelling. There is little or no point in worrying about the later steps until you have taken care of the early ones. I can moan at my daughter to practice her flute all I like (ability). If she doesn’t want to play it (desire) then I am wasting my time.

As I said, I’m a process guy, this is nice and methodical, it makes sense to me. It is simple, logical and easy to remember. So I have been busy forcing all my change programs to follow the ADKAR method.

Until I had a conversation with Heather Stagl, founder of Enclaria; she explained that while the model was helpful it was not a complete panacea. There are lots of ways of looking at change.

What did I miss?

The conversation worried me – change pays the bills – what hadn’t I realised?

Reinforcing my process prejudice

I googled “change management models” and came up with other frameworks. At first, these confirmed my bias to use the ADKAR model.

Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze

First I found Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze model. A nice model, particularly as I could fit ADKAR beautifully within it.

  • Unfreeze (awareness, desire)
  • Change (knowledge and ability)
  • Refreeze (reinforcement)

So far so good.

Kotter’s 8 steps

The next model found was Kotter’s 8 steps:

  1. Increase the urgency for change
  2. Build a team dedicated to change
  3. Create the vision for change
  4. Communicate the need for change
  5. Empower staff with the ability to change
  6. Create short term goals
  7. Stay persistent
  8. Make the change permanent

Again I was feeling smug. I could force fit the 8 stages into the ADKAR model. Better still – as I only have 5 fingers – the ADKAR model is a whole lot easier to remember.

My change process may have 5 steps and not 3 or 8 but they are all heading in roughly the same direction.

The people element of change

Kubler-Ross stages of grief

I was about to stop researching when I came across the Kubler-Ross model:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

I guess you have seen this before; they are usually drawn along a change curve. The general idea is that our emotions alter as we move through a change. If you understand which stage people are in you can help them move on. Another great model, but as far as I can see it doesn’t tie in easily with my process led view.

Rogers diffusion of innovation curve

Like the Kubler-Ross model the innovation adoption curve categorises people. It asks how quickly do we take to innovations – another type of change. Some of us are “innovators” or “early adopters” whilst others are “laggards”. The vast majority of us sit in the middle of the population as “The early or late majority”.

Again this is a people led model of change. It got me thinking…

How does the Rogers adoption model link to the Kubler-Ross model? Did the early adopters move through the Kubler-Ross change curve faster? Or start earlier?

Either way they add a different perspective. My personal view of change management now has two axes: People and Process.

What about the environmental element?

Feeling satisfied, I made the fatal mistake of returning to my search results.

McKinsey’s 7S

This model helps you understand how well positioned your organisation is to meet its objectives. – Read that as change. The 7 S’s are:

  • Strategy: what is the plan, what is the change the organisation wants to make?
  • Structure: how is the organisation structured, who works for whom?
  • Systems: what are the processes and procedures staff members follow on a daily basis?
  • Shared values: what does the organisation stand for, what is its culture?
  • Style: what is the leadership style?
  • Staff: who works there?
  • Skills: what skills and competencies do the employees have?

I think it is reasonable to assume that all the above will have an impact on my change management efforts. They do in part line up with my people and process dimensions, but it is far from precise match.

Nudge theory

This was another model I found. This approach doesn’t rely on the typical carrots and sticks to “motivate” people. Instead nudge theory favours subtle “nudges” to make it easy for people to change.

A nice example is that in France the consent rate for organ donation is over 90% where as in the UK it is closer to 20%. The French are not more generous. The French government just assumes that everyone is happy to donate their organs if they are in an accident. If he is not, then a Frenchman has to “opt out” of organ donation. In the UK the reverse is true. We have to go to the effort of “opting in”.

By making it easy for the French people to “do the right thing” the government has changed many organ receivers lives.

The environment we create has a profound impact on our ability to manage change.

Maybe it is all 3: process, people and environment

Just as my head started to spin, I came across Heather’s own approach:

The Irresistible Change Model

Enclaria’s Irresistible Change model combines parts of many of the other models and adds a focus on personal influence. It has elements of process, people and environment:

  • Clarify the change – understand the gap between the current and desired state, assessing reality and defining the future
  • Uncover resistance – what are the forces that will prevent change from happening. Some resistance is inevitable, how will you overcome it?
  • Increase leadership – ensure the roles and responsibilities are clear and that leaders provide consistent visible support
  • Build structural influence – develop accountability and communication structures plus whatever is critical to your specific change
  • Build personal influence – use your own organisational power and build your own influence to support the change.

What had I missed?

So what has my surfing taught me?

It appears Heather was right, there are many approaches but none is a panacea. I suspect the real trick is to be flexible. Really understand your own context and then “pick and mix” what is relevant to your situation without being a slave to any one particular approach.

All models are wrong, but some are useful ~ George Box

About the Guest Author


James Lawther is a middle aged middle manager.

To reach this highly elevated position he has worked for numerous organisations; from supermarkets to tax collectors and has had lots of jobs, including running the night shift in a frozen pea packing plant and doing operational research for a credit card company.

He also writes about improving business operations at

As you can see from his C.V. he has either a wealth of experience, or is incapable of holding down a job. If the latter is true his blog isn’t worth a minute of your attention.

Unfortunately, the only way to find out is to read it and decide for yourself.

What other models and methodologies should James add to his list? Please share in the comments below.

You may also be interested in reading my follow up blog, The Fourth Dimension of Change Management.

Interview: Beware of Bad Change Management

There are a lot of change management experts and approaches to choose from. How can you tell the good ones from the bad ones? Beth Banks Cohn, President and Founder of ADRA Change Architects, joins the show to warn us of the red flags to watch out for, and share the hallmarks of good change management practice. Listen in to become a better consumer (and provider!) of change management methodologies and services. And don’t miss Beth’s 10 Tips for Choosing the Right Change Management Consultant.

Listen to the show here (30 minutes):

Five Ways to Equip People to Change

As change agents at work, we spend much of our effort on motivating people to change. However, even if someone is motivated to do something differently, they still need to be able to do it. Much of resistance is not a lack of motivation, but being daunted by the task ahead. It’s not that they won’t, but that they can’t. Our job as change agents is not just to convince people to change, but to enable them to do it. Consider these five ways you can equip people to change.

Develop Capability

The default way to equip people to change is to train them, whether in a classroom or on the job. To sustain individual development, coaching and mentoring are also good options. Provide opportunities to practice, develop new habits, and build confidence. Find ways to develop the skills and competencies they need to succeed, which may be technical, relational or personal in nature.

Make it Easy

Change can be hard. At least, it usually takes extra effort to break away from the usual way of doing things. Provide tools and procedures and helpful tips. Break the change into simple steps that seem less daunting. Avoid making the effort feel like more of a burden than it needs to be. Who else can share the load? Find ways to make it easier for people to change.

Empower Them to Change

People need the power within their organization to make the change. Ensure they have the level of authority and accountability to do their part. Work with controlling managers to let go. Give people room to fail and learn. Make sure they’re given adequate time to work on the change. Let them make the transition their own way without being labeled as resistant. Empower them to find a way to make it work for them.

Provide Support

People also need help to succeed in their transitions. Help them understand their own resistance. Listen and reframe their point of view so they can approach change from a more helpful perspective. For groups, facilitate difficult conversations so important issues are discussed and resolved. Manage conflict so it doesn’t hinder change. Look for ways to help people cope and, if necessary, to get out of their own way.

Remove Obstacles

Enabling people to change also includes helping them diminish obstacles that prevent them from changing. Remove status quo enablers that tempt people to continue old habits. Eliminate distractions and low-priority items. Keep negative team members from draining energy. When the source of resistance is something that can be addressed, work to fix the cause. Find ways to assist when the change gets stuck.

One of the fundamental levers of influence is enabling people to change, which goes beyond simply training them how to do things the new way. Equipping people to change means building their personal ability to change as well as removing anything that prevents them from changing.

Do you wish implementing change was not such an uphill battle?

Do you wish implementing change was not such an uphill battle?

I’ve worked with scores of people who have undertaken the challenge of implementing change in their organizations, and many felt the same way. My job is usually to help make sense of the task ahead, or to help them get unstuck in the middle of it.

As a result, I’ve developed a set of tools and approaches which have been used to overcome what can seem like endless obstacles to the adoption of change. The resulting methodology has its foundation in proven change management practices, combined with the essential element of influence that propels your ability to affect change.

Join me September 28-30 in Atlanta for the Fundamentals of Change Management workshop, and I’ll share these tools, exercises, and insights with you! Attend this open enrollment class for an in-depth look at techniques you can use to drive change at work. While there, you’ll apply these exercises and tools to your own initiative, making progress while you learn and share with other attendees.

smooth transition reduced

Fundamentals of Change Management

How to Design and Influence Change at Work
Three-Day Workshop

Atlanta, Georgia
September 28-30, 2015

Registration:  $1,795


Course Agenda

fundamentals of change management brochure
Download brochure
Day 1 Intro to Change Management
Define Your Change
Assess Change Impact
Uncover and Reduce Resistance
Day 2 Assign Roles and Relationships
Gain Leadership Support
Engage and Enable Stakeholders
Ensure Accountability
Day 3 Pinpoint Communication
Apply Your Personal Influence
Put It All Together
Sustain the Change


Roam Dunwoody
1155 Mt Vernon Hwy NE
Suite 800 (2nd Floor)
Atlanta, GA 30338
Breakfast and lunch will be provided each day.

Questions? Please contact me and I’ll be happy to help.