Research notes

Typical change management needs for our roles

  • Need to shift culture to embracing student success, quality online course design, quality online teaching and learning analytics campuswide which involves shifting the individual cultures that exist in each of the colleges on campus.
  • Strategy development, policy implementation, Key stakeholder interaction.
  • Organization expects one leader to arise, and another supersedes; a group has an impasse on how a project goes due to perceptions on career development.
  • Policy implementation, interinstitutional program/technology pilots, stakeholder participation

Available means of managing change from our roles

  • Social capital with some units, incentive funding, access to senior leadership (occasionally), relevant experience as a former faculty member, facilitation skills from project management work, professional development curriculum.
  • University Executive Management, Senior Director (Learning and Teaching), Faculty Management, Higher Education Blended Learning Advisors.
  • Can articulate around non-events that are often overlooked or not approaches (people don’t say – how about the inability to launch that special  technology resource tool for students on time? Or can I talk to you about the promotion I didn’t get)
  • State-level convening power, relevant experience as faculty, relevant experience in middle-management at institutions, established/active statewide communities of practice, extra-institutional funds, direct access to institution leaders, direct access to Board Members, near-direct access to the governor

Running Review of Change Management Models

Concerns Based Adoption Model


Key Features: The Concerns Based Adoption Model has 3 components. The stages of concern concept and validated instrument allows you to assess where people are at individually so you can help them progress to the final stages of collaboration and refocusing.

The Stages of Concern consists of and describes seven categories of possible concerns related to an innovation. People who are in the earlier stages of a change process will likely have more self-focused concerns, such as worries about whether they can learn a new program or how it will affect their job performance. As individuals become more comfortable with and skilled in using an innovation, their concerns shift to focus on broader impacts, such as how the initiative will affect their students or their working relationships with colleagues.


Relevant Audience(s): Deans, unit heads, project managers

Possible applications: Very helpful when moving to a new LMS or launching a new ed tech initiative.

Other notes: In conversations with one of the original creators of the model, he made it clear that hallway conversations are an important component of helping people progress through the stages.

Switch Framework


Key Features: Presents the psychological construct of an analytical mind (the rider) and an emotional mind (the elephant) to illustrate that change management involves developing strategies that speak to both.

The framework has three key components:

  1. Direct the rider – Provide clear directions and/or explain the why so the analytical mind understands.
  2. Motivate the elephant – The emotional brain needs to feel the need for change and not feel overwhelmed to prevent the rider from getting tired pulling on the reigns.. A compelling story, breaking the change down into small pieces to minimize feeling overwhelmed and encouraging a growth mindset help motivate the elephant.
  3. Shape the path – Changing the environment can help change behavior as can providing examples of the desired behavior throughout the environment.

Relevant Audience(s): Institutional leaders, unit heads,

Possible applications: Helpful for projects that involve changing physical behaviors

Other notes: The elephant and rider analogy comes from Jonathon Haidt’s book The Happiness Hypothesis.

ACOT Stages of Technology Adoption

URL: Teaching with Technology: Creating Student-Centered Classrooms

Key Features: Based on a study of how the early Apple computers were introduced into classrooms, the authors present five stages that tech adoption goes through: entry, adoption, adaptation, appropriation, and invention. The stages seem to be playing out during the pandemic as some faculty are using technology to replicate their classroom teaching (entry) while others have begun adapting their teaching techniques to capitalize on the strengths of web-based delivery.

Relevant Audience(s): IT managers, instructional designers,

Possible applications: These stages could be used to track the progress of teaching with technology at a university or department level. An assessment of courses could be done on a routine basis and the percentage in each stage could be tracked to monitor progress of teaching with technology.

Other notes: The Chronicle of Higher Education carried a story that referenced the stages. Reich, J. (2020) Ed Tech Mania is Back. September 14. A good review of the book is also located at:

Self Determination Theory


Key Features: A theory of motivation that posits that people’s experience of autonomy, competence and relatedness influence their motivation and engagement. In his application of the theory to the business world, Pink (2011) translates this into autonomy, mastery and purpose. If any of these needs are unmet, people will be unhappy. When people are unhappy, they are more likely to resist change.

Relevant Audience(s): Supervisors, unit heads

Possible applications: This is a useful theory to consider when there’s a need to motivate individuals during a change effort.

Other notes: Deci and Ryan were the first to propose the theory. Daniel Pink’s book Drive is a very accessible guide to applying the theory in a work setting.

Kotter’s 8 step process for leading change


Key Features: The 8 steps are:

  1. Create a sense of urgency
  2. Build a coalition
  3. Form a strategic vision
  4. Enlist a volunteer army
  5. Enable action by removing barriers
  6. Generate short term wins
  7. Sustain acceleration
  8. Institute change

Relevant Audience(s): Institutional leaders, unit heads,

Possible applications: This process provides a framework for leaders to map out their strategies for each step. While it could be used on small scale projects like developing an online program in a department, it seems most applicable to large scale change initiatives like instituting quality standards in university online courses.

Other notes: Kotter has created a consulting company based on his model. The Kotter model is very popular in the business world.

Stakeholder Analysis Model


Key Features: Identify key stakeholders in your organization who can enable change

Relevant Audience(s): Leaders, Academics, Support staff

Possible applications: During change the concept to identify who can assist you with change, which group (champions, helpers, checkers, antagonists)

Other notes: It is very important to start with Helpers before they become antagonists.

Gleicher’s Formula for Change

URL: Link

Key Features: Dissatisfaction with the status quo leads to a new Vision about the perfect future, which leads to first steps towards the vision which is stronger than resistance.

Relevant Audience(s): Institutional leadership

Possible applications: Leadership must be dissatisfied with the status of eLearning so they can create a new digital learning strategy and consult with key stakeholders so as to mitigate resistance.

Other notes:

Lewin’s 3 step model


Key Features: Unfreeze, Freeze and Refreeze

Relevant Audience(s): Academics and support staff

Possible applications: consult, inform and include every stakeholders involved with change; implement change, then solidify the new normal.

Other notes:

The ADKAR Model


Key Features: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement

Relevant Audience(s): Academics and Support staff

Possible applications: This model can be used make awareness about change, get staff members to want change, be knowledgeable about change, have an ability to change, then apply change.

Other notes:

Theory of Change Model


Key Features: what is long term outcome; what is the intermediate goal; what will be the impact; what are assumptions influencing this change; what will determine the end result of this change; what interventions will be implemented to ensure progress; is there clear defined change road-map; how will it be known that change is taking the correct decision.

Relevant Audience(s): leadership, academics, support staff

Possible applications:This model can be used as a monitoring framework by change agents to ensure that every stakeholder is on the right path towards change.

Other notes:

Schlossberg’s Transition Theory


Key Features: Focuses on events and non events that occur; also takes into consideration  perceptions around these as well as type, context and impact of the transition.

Relevant Audience(s): Individuals, groups, organizations, leadership /executive coaching/ life role design and management

Possible applications: This approach can have particularly efficacy when looking at intersectionality and diversity factors in individuals, groups or organizations

Other notes: Schlossberg talking through this model of transition

Transtheoretical Model of Change


Key Features: The stages-of-change in the Transtheoretical model can be applied by leaders to reduce resistance, increase participation amongst staff/faculty (others), reduce dropout (retention of students), and increase change progress among employees at multiple levels.

Relevant Audience(s): students, staff, faculty, administrators, leaders initiating systemic projects

Possible applications: helping the “working retired”; Employee retention; increase participation in change

Other notes: caveat, model assumes rationality in decision making; see Positive Uncertainty below for a model that moves with rational and imagining posture (both)

Diffusion of Innovation Theory


Key Features: How ideas or products gain momentum and diffuse through a social system. Theory has five adopter categories to understand: 1) Innovators 2)Early Adopters, 3)Early  Majority 4) Late Majority and 5)Laggards. There are five main factors that influence adoption of an innovation: 1)Relative advantage 2) Compatibility 3)Complexity 4)Triability and 5) Observability.

Relevant Audience(s): students, staff, faculty, administrators, leadership, community constituents

Possible applications: To adoption of new learning systems, tools, processes in the university setting; an example might be adopting a new LMS, integrating new technology tools in the courseroom;

Other notes:

A new decision making framework: Positive Uncertainty


Gelatt, H. B. (1989). Positive uncertainty: A new decision-making framework for counseling. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 36(2), 252. Retrieved from

Key Features:  Beliefs become behavior;Becomes as capable of change as the environment;Keep your mind’s eye on what you don’t see; Acknowledge the benefit of doubt

Relevant Audience(s): students, staff, faculty, administrators, working groups can benefit from this decision making framework. While noted for counseling it has broader applications.

Possible applications: work projects that need flexibility in the approach; Processes that need invention/development from its origin; where attitudes need to be changed to possibility, the future.

Other notes: Manta “Process Guideline: Know What You Want and Believe but Do Not Be Sure

Transformational Organizational Change


Key Features:  “a radical shift of strategy, structure, systems, processes or technology” (Anderson & Ackerman-Anderson, 2010, p. 6) ; outcome of change not fully known by the leaders

Relevant Audience(s): staff, faculty, administrators, leaders

Possible applications: changing leadership outlay/hierarchy; mediating a business crisis or challenge of the marketplace; re-configuring program offerings

Other notes:

Anderson, D., & Ackerman-Anderson, L. (2010). Beyond change management: How to achieve breakthrough results through conscious change leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Mersmann, F., Olsen, K. H., Wehnert, T., Boodoo, Z., & Fenhann, J. V. (Ed.) (2014). From theory to practice:Understanding transformational change in NAMAs. UNEP DTU Partnership

Bridges’ Transition Model


Key Features: highlights three stages of transition, not change—change being an external factor and transition being internal process:

  1. Ending, Losing, and Letting Go – marked by “resistance and emotional upheaval”
  2. The Neutral Zone – marked by a reconciliation of the old with the new; attachment to the old can breed resentment, low morale, low productivity, anxiety, and skepticism about the new
  3. The New Beginning – marked by energy, openness to learning, and a renewed commitment to role and organization

Transition can take much longer than change, and people progress through these stages at their own pace.

Relevant Audience(s):

Middle managers, institution leaders, state leaders, support/technical staff

Possible applications:

Implementing a change with stakeholders who were not part of the decision-making process, rallying the support of people with deep institutional knowledge, or understanding resistance or strong emotions while implementing a seemingly simple/logical change.

Other notes:

This model is intended to complement change management models toward sustaining change through implementation.

The McKinsey 7-S Model


Key Features: Not a step-by-step approach but a list of 7 key traits of organizations that may successfully implement change:

  1. Shared values across the organization
  2. A staff that understands their roles and maintains a positive attitude
  3. Skills that align with company needs and objectives
  4. A style that consists of favorable behaviors in every department/job role
  5. A strategy that reflects your true purpose and how you’ll stay ahead of the competition
  6. Systems that clearly outline resource allocation, evaluation criteria, and employee incentives
  7. A structure that maps out the infrastructure and division of work duties


Relevant Audience(s): institution leaders, state leaders, middle managers

Possible applications: Inventorying potential for change in an institution, department, and/or university system; curriculum (re)development

Other notes: Once an organization assessed, change management needs will arise in pursuit of establishing these traits where they are missing. Also, evaluation is meant to be continual, so it is necessary to schedule regular review.

Deming Cycle Model


Key Features: A continuous feedback loop (specifically for business practices) Consisting of four components:

  1. Plan
  2. Do
  3. Check
  4. Act

Strategic management is also considered by applying the same loop to each of the four components.

Relevant Audience(s): Departments, institution, and state leaders

Possible applications: Situations where business/strategy practices need to be organized in broadly adaptable ways

Other notes: This is a fairly vague model

Kubler-Ross Change Curve Model


Key Features: Five stages that were meant to be applied to those coping with loss or grief (it is probably safe to say that there is a lot of this is our current pandemic-related teaching/learning contexts):

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Relevant Audience(s): Faculty, Supervisors, Academic Leaders

Possible applications: Prioritizing specific elements of an initiative that provide additional support to those most impacted by prospective changes

Other notes: Change is often perceived as loss because folks must let go of established habits, expectations, and familiar comforts. People arrive at these stages at different times.

Spectrum(s) of Instructional Choice


Key Features: A descriptive model of educators’ willingness to pursue instructional changes:

  • Those who are prone to reactive/adaptive decision-making exhibit high-interest practices (i.e., pursuing change in private)
  • Those who are prone to adaptive/proactive decision-making exhibit high-effort practices (i.e., pursuing change publically)
  • Those who are prone to proactive/maladaptive decision-making exhibit low-interest practices practices (i.e., likely to pursue change when it become beneficial)
  • Those who are prone to reactive/maladaptive decision-making exhibit low-effort practices (i.e., unlikely to pursue change)

Relevant Audience(s): Support staff, Academic leaders

Possible applications: Those who work with faculty, those who work with stakeholders who are protective of norms

Other notes: I feel a little guilty using my own model, but it seems just as relevant (and maybe more empirically sound) than some of these others. I have definitely found relevant applications in working with registrars over recent months since they are often the protectors of as-is operations.


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Change: An Online Leadership Field Guide Copyright © 2020 by Elizabeth Barrie; Jonathan Lashley; Fezile Mlungu; and Heather Zeng is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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