Change Management Theories

There’s lots of talk at work these days about why innovations (best practices, evidence-based interventions) aren’t adopted or don’t sustain.  We examine topics such as inspiration – how to motivate people to do better – and standardization – how to require people to do better.  It caused me to reflect on the change management theories I’ve run across.

Diffusion of Innovations – Rogers

Famous.  Based on extensive “post-mortem” research on change initiatives.  Views change as resting in the decision of an autonomous “agent” to adopt an innovation.  Examples of Rogers’ research include the adoption of hybrid seed corn by farmers in Iowa, and use of tetracycline antibiotics by physicians in rural communities.


More on Rogers’ theories.

Human Performance Technology Model

There are several versions of this one.  It’s from the HR/instructional design literature and focuses on the categories of ways to facilitate performance from an individual.

Components of Performance

  1. Training – the manager must make sure the performer is adequately trained to do the thing
  2. Barriers – the manager must ensure that barriers to the performance are minimized
  3. Organizational changes – the manager must ensure that the proper organizational support and structure exists to facilitate the performance
  4. Motivation – the manager must find ways to motivate the performer to perform

Complex Adaptive Systems Change Model

There are many parts to this.  The important ones to me include the concept of strange attractors (from chaos theory) and the tendency of the system to revert toward these, the non-linear dynamics (relationships between action and change can’t necessarily be predicted), and the concept of a network of local autonomous agents that comprise the system and react to both internal and external events.


More about this in a healthcare context.

Ely’s Conditions of Change

These are eight conditions that should be considered (based, again, largely on post-mortem analysis of change projects) prior to any large change project.

Eight conditions of change:

  1. Dissatisfaction with the status quo
  2. Sufficient knowledge and skills
  3. Availability of sufficient resources
  4. Availability of sufficient time (for adopters to learn, reflect, adapt)
  5. Rewards or incentives
  6. Participation (key stakeholders must have a place in process)
  7. Commitment (all must “buy-in” to the change)
  8. Leadership (support from the top)

More on these.