A Model for Managing Change

Credit for this model belongs to Dr. Mary Lippitt – http://www.mudamasters.com/en/lean-production-theory/5-elements-succesful-change

The Change Model Matrix

This Change Model Matrix is genius both for planning complex change but also to diagnose “at risk” initiatives by matching the result (far left box) to the missing element. Try it! Reflect on any change initiative that was at risk or failed and you will quickly see the correlation between the result and a missing element. Based on the Knoster Model for Managing Complex Change, this matrix identifies five elements—vision, skills, incentives, resources, and action plan—which are necessary for effective and sustainable change implementation.

Realistically, the causes for failed or minimally effective changes are more complex than one simple element but is a very good starting point. Let’s take a look at each element and how it contributes to a successful change implementation.


This is the “Why.” It explains the reason for the change. Organizations who are facing the need to constantly change face the danger of “change fatigue.” Your people can only manage a certain amount of change. The more change that is asked of them, the more important this element becomes.

But even more, vision establishes a target state that the organization or team needs to achieve. The gap between the current state and the target state shows the amount of change required but first knowing why the target state is necessary and how to get alignment with the rest of the team is the beginning of the change process.

Reflect back on Kotters’ book Leading Change where he talks about creating urgency

But sooner or later, no matter how hard they push, no matter how much they threaten, if many others don’t feel the same sense of urgency, the momentum for change will probably die far short of the finish line. People will find a thousand ingenious ways to withhold cooperation from a process that they sincerely think is unnecessary or wrongheaded.

Kotter, John P.. Leading Change . Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition.

Reflection Question – Is there a lot of effort to make change happen but also a lot of confusion? Perhaps the vision element needs some work. Make sure you have a good business case to answer the questions “what is the vision or end state and why is this change necessary?”


This element answers the question “How?” Not in the sense of creating plans but refers to the knowledge or expertise required by team members to implement change plans. Do the people charged with implementing the changes have the new skill set required to operate in or towards the target condition.

Anxiety is the result of lacking skills. You are told to do something but are unsure or lack confidence on your ability to meet the expectation.

Looking to the 4 Key Drivers of the Empowerment Model we see that being “Able” is key to team members being empowered to meet change expectations.

Able refers to an aptitude that is coupled with skill and knowledge relevant to the task at hand. Skills training will take three forms:

Work skills encompass all the technical knowledge and other skills that employees need in order to be successful in their work.

Team and interactive skills include the interpersonal, communication and social skills that people need in order to be effective. They need to be aware of the difference between constructive and destructive conflict, be able to give and receive feedback, and have general skills in communicating and taking part in effective meetings.

Problem-solving skills – The discipline of continuously improving current operating practices needs to become second nature. Also needed is the knowledge of how to investigate and establish the root causes of problems, and how to find appropriate countermeasures. The ability to gather and interpret data is crucial to this process.

Reflection Question – Is there a lot of anxiety in your change team?


One of the biggest sources of resistance to change is the answer to the individual’s question “what’s in it for me?” Referring to the element mentioned above – vision which answers why, this element describes the value proposition to the team members. It doesn’t necessarily have to be monetized incentives. Sometimes they can be more intangible incentives such as a sense of accomplishment, belonging, or contribution to a greater cause.

What is important though, is to recognize that without team members receiving some type of incentive to support and sustain the change it will eventually slide back into the status quo.

Reflection Question – Have you evaluated if this change will really add value to the people affected? Can you define the benefit they will receive by adopting to a new way of doing things? If not, perhaps a little attention is needed here to reduce or eliminate the chance of resistance to change.


For this element I would like to again refer to the “Allowed” key driver of the empowerment model mentioned above.

Allowed “has to do with authorization of both the formal and informal kind. People need to be freed from organizational constraints and bureaucratic procedures that inhibit their willingness to take proactive action, and do the right things. For management to hand over this responsibility, it has to have a fundamental belief that employees can do the work.” – TRACC Solutions

Access to support and information is also an important part of authorization. A climate needs to be created where employees know that they can draw on the support of their leaders to eliminate obstacles that hinder them in implementing the new practices and in discarding the old. Employees also need to be comfortable that they can make mistakes while in search of better ways to improve their own performance, and that of the organisation.

Have you ever been frustrated like this yourself? You are asked to do something but don’t have access to the spreadsheets, the server locations, historic files, etc.

Reflection Question – Does your team have access to all the necessary resources to be successful in the change? Remember that resources include tools, information, and access to leadership.

Action Plan

This is where attention to detail is necessary to define specific actions with target dates and owners to drive the change to completion. Along with the actions areplanned intervals for process reviews to guage whether the action plan is working.

You can tell you are lacking a specific action plan when you are experience “resets” or “reboots” of the change process.

Reflection Question – Does it feel as if you are on a treadmill and the change just doesn’t seem to stick? Perhaps a review of the change plan needs to be performed with the intent to add a more granular level of detail with time frames, owners, and process reviews.


Change is hard for everyone. Changes fail for a variety of reasons. To effectively implement a sustainable change plan one must take into account each of the five elements. Though this seems simple, I can attest to the effectiveness of the elements as I review on how I would do things different had I reviewed this tool prior to implementing changes in the past.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

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