The Change Curve
Published on 5 Dec, 2019
The Change Curve

The Change Curve is a concept developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who maps out the emotional stages that people go through during times of change.

It can be applied in a business setting and the following article highlights how you should communicate during in each phase.

Phase 1 – Denial

The comfortable, status quo is about to or has gone out of the window and has left employees feeling shocked or in denial.

When reality hits, they need information.

  • What is the change?
  • What are the goals of change?
  • How are they going to be impacted?
  • What is the timeframe?
  • Where do they go if they want help?

The lines of communication between leadership, middle management and teams must be wide open if relaying information is going to be effective. Face to face communication is a really good method at this stage.

Two-way communication through face to face forums, focus groups or even an online intranet forum provides an effective ‘ear to the ground’ for management to understand how employees are responding to change and makes employees feel heard.

Phase 2 – Resistance

This is often a scary phase for the organisation when the employees that really need to be on board actually aren’t! In fact they are resisting any and all attempts to change. They feel aggrieved, frustrated, angry and unappreciated. This can be frustrating for managers and other employees who do want to change but benefit of the doubt and support is important here.

During this phase, employees are actually scared, they’re worried for their own job security, so the management role and that of internal communications is to support and reassure employees. Remind them what they stand to gain from change. Keep your employee’s hands held until you start to see some shift in their mindset.

Phase 3 – Exploration

To help people come out of the resistance phase, strong leadership and direction becomes massively important. People want to see where they fit in the new plan and understand the bigger picture.

This might be an opportunity for training, exploring new skills needed to get to the end goal. It’s an opportunity to form project plans and working groups, putting people to task.

Phase 4 – Commitment

The final phase should start to bring an increase in productivity when the change is being fully embraced within the organisation, it is part of everyday life and ‘just the way we do things’. The key element to this phase is ensuring that the leadership don’t undermine all the effort they have made by insincere communication. Remain encouraging and inspirational, communication should not ever be ‘lip service’.

The role of internal communications then becomes a reporting function, celebrating successes and achievements and reminding everyone how far they have come.

Until the next change….

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