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What is Change Management?

Technological advancements, shifting customer demands, and fluctuating economic conditions are the norm rather than the exception in business. The ability to adapt and evolve has become a critical determinant of success. Change management has emerged as a necessity in this context, serving as the linchpin enabling organizations to navigate these tumultuous waters with agility and resilience.

As technologies evolve at an unprecedented pace, customer preferences shift with increasing speed, and global economic factors present new challenges and opportunities, businesses are constantly in flux. The need to respond to these changes and proactively manage them, ensuring that the organization not only survives but thrives, underscores the importance of effective change management.

Change management provides a structured approach for supporting individuals, teams, and organizations through transformation, ensuring that changes are implemented smoothly and that the long-term benefits are realized. It is about preparing, equipping, and supporting people to successfully adopt change to drive organizational success and outcomes. In sales and marketing, this becomes particularly pertinent as changes in technology, customer behavior, and market dynamics directly impact these areas. Effective change management in these fields ensures that strategies are continuously aligned with the external environment, empowering businesses to maintain a competitive edge.

Adopting a comprehensive change management strategy enables organizations to reduce the resistance to change, improve stakeholder engagement, and enhance the overall capacity for new initiatives. It fosters a culture of adaptability, where innovation is embraced, and challenges are viewed as opportunities for growth. In essence, change management acts as the bridge between the old and the new, guiding organizations through the process of transformation to enhance their agility, competitiveness, and sustainability in the face of ever-changing external pressures.

Change Management Frameworks

Several frameworks and best practices can guide the implementation of a change management strategy, including:


The ADKAR model, developed by Jeff Hiatt, the founder of Prosci Research, is a goal-oriented change management model that guides individual and organizational change. It was created in the late 1990s due to Hiatt’s research on business and government organizations undergoing various change processes. The model emerged from Hiatt’s realization that successful change in an organization occurs at the individual level; how people individually come to understand, commit to, and work through changes determines the success or failure of an organizational change initiative.

ADKAR is an acronym for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. These five elements represent the sequential steps individuals need to go through for change to be effectively implemented and sustained over time:

  1. Awareness of the need for change.
  2. Desire to support and participate in the change.
  3. Knowledge of how to change.
  4. Ability to implement required skills and behaviors.
  5. Reinforcement to sustain the change.

The development of the ADKAR model was based on Hiatt’s observations and analyses of countless change initiatives, identifying why some changes succeeded where others failed. His research highlighted the importance of addressing change at the individual level, providing a simple yet effective framework for ensuring that all stakeholders are ready, willing, and able to embrace new ways of working.

The ADKAR model’s strength lies in its simplicity and focus on the human side of change. It provides a clear framework that everyone within an organization can easily understand and apply, from top management to individual team members. This makes it particularly valuable in sales and marketing, where teams often face rapid strategy, tools, and market conditions changes. The ADKAR model helps ensure everyone is aligned and equipped to drive successful outcomes by focusing on the individual components of change.

Since its inception, organizations worldwide have widely adopted the ADKAR model as part of their change management strategies. Its effectiveness in various contexts, from small-scale changes to large organizational overhauls, has made it a popular choice for businesses seeking to navigate the complexities of change in today’s dynamic environment.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model is a comprehensive framework for implementing effective organizational change. Developed by Dr. John Kotter, a professor at Harvard Business School and a renowned change management expert, the model outlines a step-by-step approach to achieving sustainable transformations. Kotter introduced this model in his 1996 book, Leading Change, based on his observations and research into why change initiatives fail to achieve their desired outcomes.

The genesis of Kotter’s model was his realization that most change efforts fail because they do not address the complex and multifaceted nature of change in organizations. Through extensive research and experience, Kotter identified eight common errors organizations make when attempting to change. These errors include failing to create a sense of urgency around the need for change, not creating a powerful coalition to guide the initiative, lacking a clear vision, under-communicating the vision, not removing obstacles to the new vision, not systematically planning for and creating short-term wins, declaring victory too soon, and not anchoring changes in the corporate culture.

To counteract these errors, Kotter proposed the 8-Step Change Model, which consists of the following steps:

  1. Create Urgency: Help others see the need for change and the importance of acting immediately.
  2. Form a Powerful Coalition: Assemble a group with enough power to lead the change effort and encourage them to work as a team.
  3. Create a Vision for Change: Develop a vision and strategies to help direct the change effort and communicate the vision effectively.
  4. Communicate the Vision: Use every vehicle possible to communicate the new vision and strategies and teach new behaviors by the example of the Guiding Coalition.
  5. Remove Obstacles: Remove barriers to change, change systems or structures undermining the change vision, and encourage risk-taking and nontraditional ideas, activities, and actions.
  6. Create Short-term Wins: Plan for easily visible achievements, follow through with those achievements and recognize and reward employees involved.
  7. Build on the Change: Analyze what went right and what needs improving, and set goals to continue building on the momentum achieved.
  8. Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture: Reinforce the changes by demonstrating the relationship between new behaviors and organizational success, and develop the means to ensure leadership development and succession.

Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model is predicated on the idea that change is not a linear process but a complex journey that requires careful planning, execution, and reinforcement. The model emphasizes the importance of attending to the human elements of change, including the need to motivate and engage people throughout the process.

Since its development, Kotter’s model has been widely used by organizations across various industries to guide their change initiatives. Its practical, step-by-step approach makes it a valuable tool for leaders looking to drive successful change in their organizations, particularly in areas like sales and marketing, where adapting to market trends, consumer behaviors, and technological advancements is crucial for success.

Lewin’s Change Management Model

Lewin’s Change Management Model, developed by Kurt Lewin in the 1940s, is one of the foundational theories of change management and organizational development. Kurt Lewin, a psychologist, is often recognized as the pioneer of social, organizational, and applied psychology in the United States. His model introduces the concept of change as a three-stage process: Unfreeze, Change (or Transition), and Refreeze.

The development of Lewin’s model was influenced by his work and research in the field of social psychology, where he explored group dynamics, the motivations behind individual and group behaviors, and how to implement successful change within various groups. Lewin’s interest in the dynamics of group behavior led him to conceptualize change as a process that involves moving from a fixed state (status quo), through a transition to a new state. His model is grounded in the understanding that change requires a break from existing equilibriums to allow for new ways of doing things before stabilizing into a new equilibrium.

The three stages of Lewin’s model are:

  1. Unfreeze: This stage involves preparing for change. It’s about recognizing the need for change and getting ready to move away from the current comfort zone. The unfreeze stage is critical for dismantling the existing mindsets and behaviors, making it easier to accept new ways of working. This may involve challenging and dismantling the existing beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors to overcome resistance to change.
  2. Change (or Transition): Once the unfreeze stage has made the organization or individuals receptive to change, the transition stage involves moving towards the new way of doing things. This is often the most challenging and uncertain period, where people are learning and adapting to new behaviors, processes, and ways of thinking. Effective communication, support, and leadership are crucial in this phase to navigate the uncertainties and build the momentum of change.
  3. Refreeze: The final stage involves stabilizing the organization after the change to ensure that the new ways of working are embedded into the organization’s culture and practices. This stage is about establishing stability once the changes have been made, with the new processes, mindsets, and behaviors becoming the standard operating procedure. Reinforcement, support, and training are key to ensuring that the changes stick.

Lewin’s Change Management Model is praised for its simplicity and clear framework, which has made it a popular and enduring tool in change management. It emphasizes the importance of seeing change as a process that requires preparation, actual change implementation, and solidification of that change to ensure long-lasting transformation.

The model’s relevance extends across various fields, including organizational change, education, healthcare, and social change initiatives. It highlights the importance of understanding and managing the human aspects of change, making it particularly valuable in sectors like sales and marketing, where adapting to new market conditions, technologies, and customer behaviors is essential for success.

Best Practices for Implementing a Change Management Strategy:

  • Communicate Effectively: Transparent and frequent communication is key to managing any change. It helps in setting expectations, reducing uncertainties, and building trust.
  • Engage Stakeholders: Identify and involve key stakeholders in the change process from the start. Their input and buy-in can significantly influence the success of the change initiative.
  • Assess Readiness and Impact: Conduct readiness assessments to understand the impact of the change and prepare the organization accordingly.
  • Provide Training and Support: Equip your team with the necessary skills and knowledge to adapt to the change. Support mechanisms can include training sessions, workshops, and mentoring.
  • Monitor Progress and Adjust: Implement a framework for measuring the success of the change initiative. Be prepared to make adjustments based on feedback and outcomes.

Effective change management in sales and marketing involves not just implementing new tools or processes, but also aligning the organizational culture, values, and behaviors with the desired change. By following structured frameworks and best practices, businesses can ensure smoother transitions and better adoption of changes leading to improved performance and growth.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is CMO of OpenINSIGHTS and the founder of the Martech Zone. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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