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Galpin’s change wheel is a 9-step process that blends iterative approaches with traditional refinement.  Rather than cycling through the steps for each iteration of the change, you go through the process and stay in step 9 until you feel like the change is complete.

The Steps

The steps for Galpin’s wheel are:

  • Establish the Need for Change – Much like Kotter’s first step to create urgency, establishing the need to change provides the energy to get through the rest of the steps.
  • Develop and Disseminate the Vision for the Change – Here, the goal is to create buy-in. Much like Kotter’s step to communicate the vision, if people don’t know what the change means, they won’t be able to support it.
  • Diagnose/Analyze the Current Situation – Here, the model focuses on the current state, so that a plan can be developed to get from the current state to the future state.
  • Generate Recommendations – Here, the model proposes that you identify potential paths from the current state to the future state.
  • Detail Recommendations – With a list of options, the model proposes providing details for each option so that they can be tested.
  • Pilot Test Recommendations – In this step, you attempt the change in a small way. These tests allow you to learn and refine the recommendations.
  • Prepare Recommendations for Rollout – With the learnings from the pilot, you prepare to scale up and roll out the changes more broadly.
  • Rollout Changes – During this step, you implement the recommendations and roll out the change broadly.
  • Measure, Reinforce, and Refine Changes – Here, the model monitors, adapts, and reinforces the changes until the old behaviors are extinguished.

Limitations and Criticisms

The model doesn’t allow for the repeated iteration of the whole model.  By the improvements and measurements in step 9, it limits the ability to use the model for the kinds of continuous change that we see in organizations today.

Since much of the model relies on enumerating and detailing recommendations, it presumes that the scale of the change can be done in one iteration – without multiple steps along the roadmap.  This limits its applicability to situations that can be described as wicked problems, as they invariably require iteration and adaptation.

Coming on the heels of the mergers and acquisitions of the 1980s and early 1990s, the model is very focused on how to address large-scale changes but does so from a command-and-control approach that may not be appropriate for today’s organizations.


Timothy Galpin’s The Human Side of Change: A Practical Guide to Organization Redesign