Relevant Models for Managing Change

Relevant Models for Online Leaders

We provide brief overviews of relevant change management models for online learning initiative leaders below. All are vetted recommendations that may emerge from the decision tree in the previous chapter.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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


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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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