CHANGE & Dobson’s comparative analysis of the process models of Kotter, Lewin & Ulrich.

by Barbara Dobson, Caribbean Wesleyan College.

Section of Chapter 2 of her book– “Transformational and Strategic Leadership: Its Impact on the Capacity for Organizational Effectiveness”

Processes Involved in Effecting Organizational Change

The process of effecting organizational change over thecenturies has undergone major shifts that impacted greatly on the organization. Models after models have been developed, each playing its part, as leaders try to find what might be considered a suitable model. Organizations can employ different models as they examine the process of change.

Change process models. Several different models show how to approach change. According to Gilley, Godek and Gilley, “[E]arly models of change advocated a three-step process that involved first diagnosing and preparing the organization for change, secondly engaging in the change, and thirdly anchoring new ways into the culture” (4). In reviewing the literature, I discovered that the change models themselves have seen an evolutionary shift as theorists build on each other’s work due to the movement occurring in the leadership arena. 

The shift that has taken place in organizational leadership has seen more involvement of employees and other stakeholders in decision making. To accommodate this shift therefore, theorists (Kotter, Leading Change59-67) have included more dimensions within the process of leading change that allows for a wider involvement of other persons within the organization instead of top management only. 

Illustratively, an examination of K. Lewin’s change model reveals a disparity with the terminology used to describe each step in the process, even though the actions are the same in other models. Additionally, Lewin’s model does not reflect the shift that has taken place, and understandably so, because during the birth of this model, the shift had not yet occurred. Lewin’s three stages consist of Unfreezing, Movement, and Refreezing. The actions within the unfreezing stage are a conditioning of individuals and organizations for change, an assessment of the readiness for change, and an establishing of ownership (Kotter and Ulrich’s first stage). The momentum during this time is dependent on the leaders and how aligned they are to introduce change and plan to execute that change. In the movement stage, individuals engage in change initiatives (Kotter and Ulrich’s second stage) and in the refreezing stage, individuals’ daily routine now reflects the change, new behaviors are crystallized and have become the norm of the organization (Kotter and Ulrich’s third stage). 

Kotter suggests eight stages in the process of effecting organizational change, these include “establishing a sense of urgency, creating the guiding coalition, developing a vision and strategy, communicating the change vision, empowering employees to broad-based action, generating short-term wins, consolidating gains and producing more change, anchoring new approaches in the culture” (Leading Change366).D. Ulrich suggests seven stages outlined as follows: “lead change, create a shared need, shape a vision, mobilize commitment, change systems and structures, monitor progress and making change last”(Gilley, Ann, Marisha Godek and Jerry W. Gilley 5).Table 2.1 is a conceptual, comparison table of the three models discussed.


Table 2.1. Comparison of Change Model

Source: Gilley, Ann, Marisha Godek and Jerry W. Gilley (5). 

A review of the Ulrich and J. P. Kotter processes of change reveals some measure of difference. This difference is translated in the sense that Kotter’s model provides an understanding of the how to of Ulrich’s model. For example, Ulrich’s first step suggests that leaders of change lead change. Kotter’s first stage went a bit further by stating how to lead this change, establishing a sense of urgency. Interestingly, all the succeeding steps follow the same trend. 

An evaluation of these models will not yield a comparative model in the sense of which is the best one of the three to use. However, they do lend themselves to a better understanding of the change process. I believe that an integration of those steps allows the church as an organization to produce a culture inclined for change within the organization, and thus creates a fertile soil for the implementation of strategic leadership. The LUK’s integrative Change Model is an integration of Lewin’s, Ulrich’s, and Kotter’s change models. The integrative approach describes a model that will adequately lead the change necessary within the church. The diagram represents the different actions that develop a culture of change within the organization. The different colors indicate the varying steps within the process, with each step connecting to the other, and the arrows show the progression to follow. The model also suggests that the change process continues and commitment must be garnered until all the steps are duly followed (see Figure 2.1).

Figure 2.1. LUK’s integrative change model. (Actions that develop a culture of change)

Kotter foresees a challenge for leaders pertaining to leading the change necessary for effectiveness, he purports: 

[T]he primary purpose of the first six phases of the transformation process is to build up sufficient momentum to blast through the dysfunctional “granite walls found in so many organizations; to ignore these steps is to put all efforts made at risk.” (Leading Change 1967)

As a result, stages seven and eight are even more critical, and will be the determining factor in whether or not a cultural change has happened. He further states, “Culture changes only after you have successfully altered people’s actions, after the new behavior produces some group benefit for a period of time, and after people see the connection between the new actions and the performance improvement” (2368-69), all of which occur during the seventh and eighth stages.

Organizations that are as old as the church can be a challenge for change, especially where persons perceive that the suggested movement will impact the traditions of the church. In churches where traditions are like granite walls, leaders of change will need to tread gingerly and judiciously assess what can change. Scriptures indicate the implications of “sewing old garments unto new ones” (Matthew 9:16) or “putting new wine in old wine skins” (Matthew 9:17). This consideration necessitates a shattering of the old culture before trying to introduce the new, especially where the former is one that is not congruent with the change that needs to takes place. 

The church as an organization embraces two types of traditions. One is human-made tradition, that is, those rules, principles, and unwritten codes laid down by founders of the organization that have become its core culture. These are to be examined and changed. Second are biblical traditions embedded in what is known as the apostolic tradition. These traditions are very critical to the formation of core values of the church. I believe these traditions should not be compromised as they define the difference between the church and secular organizations.

The examination—with a view to shatter those human-made traditions—becomes necessary for change to happen. Chand posits that the church “must re-dream the dream to discover a new and compelling vision for its existence” (emphasis mine; 2368). If the church is not willing to be open to the idea of transformation, then the ability to re-dream will be greatly hindered, if not impossible. The result is a lapse into a maintenance mode of leadership. During the re-dreaming process, the organization will realize its greatest potential and the need for change in order to adapt to the new and compelling vision developed during this process. The leader as change agent needs to find a way to communicate this change….