What’s the minimum set of theoretical models for change makers?

There are dozens of candidates. For example: https://whatfix.com/blog/10-change-management-models/  and  https://www.frog-dog.com/magazine/how-behavior-change-happens-four-models

However I reckon we can thrive with just 6 models plus 3 concepts. [Tell me if I’m wrong.]

I’ve found ways to wrap them all into the Changeology workshop.

Unwrapped, the models are:

1) Human Centred Design [for practice]

A.k.a ‘design thinking‘. The universal step-by-step discipline for devising change efforts. It starts with the user. 

(And I recommend Design kit. Go on, have a browse – you’re sure to get some ideas. https://www.designkit.org/methods )

2) Program Logic [for planning]

The neat framework that creates order out of chaos when planning a change project. It’s fantastically useful for laying out the structure of a change effort. I make it compulsory. When done properly, it tells a story, encapsulates your total strategy, and forms the basis of evaluation.

3) The Diffusion of Innovations bell curve [for insights]

An oldy but a goody, full of insights about users and their needs. If you think it’s old hat you don’t understand it. It’s full of hidden depths.

Here’s how to use it (one page). Here’s a guide to its hidden depths (7 pages).

4) Risk Perception [for strategy]

To change, people must believe they can manage their risks. This simple model explains the logic of fears, and points the way to addressing them. Every change maker should have this engraved in their mind.

5) Made to Stick principles [for communication]

Can I seriously recommend reading Chip and Dan Heath’s Made To Stick? The best little book on communication ever written, changed the way I thought about communication forever. Here’s a summary.

A communication that travels by word of mouth tends to be:

A Story; that’s

Unexpected (surprising, breaks the boring norm, goes beyond); 

Concrete (has crisp word pictures with no abstract language); from a speaker who’s 

Credible to that audience; that causes an 

Emotional response; and is

Short enough to remember 


I really think they cracked it. It’s the ruler I measure all communication against. 

6) System thinking [for strategy]

The poverty of our own strategic options is one of our biggest enemies. It’s important to think at a system level and be alert to the full palette of interventions. This neat model, based on the work of legendary systems thinker, Donella Meadows, is an all-purpose checklist of strategies. It challenges us to shift interventions from the individual to the system.

And I’m looking forward to reading Upstream, Chip and Dan Health’s take on system thinking.


These three psychological concepts are really useful.


The confidence to act (closely related to risk perception, above). Most of the tactics in a change project are actually about building people’s self-efficacy! (Which we can do by creating familiarity with how to act, showing similar people actively doing it, making it enjoyable, making it easy, and providing role models.)

Social learning

We humans learn best from each other. The words and examples of similar peers have the greatest influence on our own choices and sense of what’s normal. Apply this insight to every aspect of delivery of a project.

Cognitive bandwidth

Change is mentally demanding. Matching your tactics to your actors’ cognitive bandwidth is easily forgotten, but vital. A great little book on this subject is Scarcity.