I recently delivered an MBA masterclass on Change at Galway NUI. I often talk about Change since it is such a central part of the work that I do. Yet, even though I might be asked to deliver the class each year, I am struck by the many different issues and angles that one can take when considering how to successfully land change in an organisation.
For this talk, I focused on the personal aspects of change. This is something that I have covered before, and I come back time and again to the classic models that help us to navigate change. The Change Curve, originally identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross as the five stages of grief in 1969, it was later adapted to business situations as the change curve.
After the initial shock of the change there is a brief, almost momentarily feeling of elation. This is counter-intuitive, but comes down to the source of concern being named. Redundancies being announced for example, or a diagnosis after a long series of tests. There is a sense that the waiting is over and something is out in the open.
Things quickly then descend into denial, anger and then at the bottom of the curve into depression and a feeling of hopelessness. These stages can be quickly progressed or they can take some time, depending on the size and nature of the change. The loss of a loved one might take months or even years, whereas a job change or a house move might be only a matter of weeks.
After depression, we move through to a period of reflection, where we are testing out our transformed circumstances, after which, when we have found a sense of ourselves, we move to acceptance. Of course for some people, progress through the curve may not be straightforward and in cases of deep trauma, there may be loops back to anger, or denial whilst the implications of the change are being processed. For most business change however, it is likely that we progress through the curve in a relatively straightforward manner.
What most people forget however, and where we spent a lot of our discussion in our masterclass is in the fact that everyone is going through the curve, but at different stages and speeds. Leaders in an organisation are not immune to the change curve. They have the benefit of often leading change, or at least instigating it through a decision they have made, but that does not inure them from the effects that the change brings.
The change curve can be used to frame constructive responses to transformation and help people to progress through the curve quicker or lessen its impact by making mindful and thoughtful interventions. Many of these come back to things such as clear, timely communication. Opportunities to talk about the change and its impact openly. Hearing from others who have experienced this or similar changes and how they coped. None of it is rocket science, but it’s amazing how much of it is missed during a major transformation.
What are you experiences of change? Can you recognise some of the emotions you felt before, during and after a signficant change in your life? Do you have experience of having helped people through the change curve, wittingly or unwittingly?
Do share your experiences below, or if you would like to hear more about how to navigate the transformation process email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org.