The change curve: how to manage change smoothly

blue and red rippled curved plastic

Change happens to everyone on a daily basis. However it can be tricky to navigate- wether that be the difficulty of upturning our routine, or the stress that may comes with it. What’s more, everyone reacts differently! Having a change management model can make us better able to negotiate change. And with just 43% of employees willing to support enterprise change, it is now essential that we have processes in place. This is where the change curve comes in.

Derived from the work of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the change curve identifies 7 typical stages that people go through when faced with change.

This can be change on a big or small scale, the curve is the same.

The curve maps across the typical points that people go through as they are presented with, made to react to and then ultimately, absorb and adapt to the impacts of disruptive change.

Let’s go through it.

Stage 1: Shock

This is the moment we can all identify with. The initial feelings of shock associated with change can be due to a challenge to the status quo, fear of the unknown, or a lack of information.

Step 2: Denial

We hold onto the belief that the change isn’t relevant to us or what we do, in business or life. ‘Why does anything need to change?’ ‘Things work fine!’ Maybe that sounds familiar?

Step 3: Frustration

We respond with anger or frustration as an outlet for the negative emotions we are feeling. Individuals may have a tendency to resist or protest against the changes. This can be a critical moment in the change curve for change management strategies to be in place- as this frustration can easily become blown out of proportion.

Step 4: Depression

This is the moment where change can get on top of us. Our anger has worn off, we begin to feel anxious, self doubt may be high and our confidence suffers for it. Performance takes a hit, and morale is low.

Stage 5: Experiment

We start to consider if the change might actually work for us, and begin to try things out, consider new scenarios and ways of thinking. This is the point where we accept that we cannot prevent this and the change is going to happen regardless.

Stage 6: Decisions

At last, we are coming to terms with the change and starting to feel more positive about our future. We start to make decisions about what works and what doesn’t, in the new way of thinking.

Stage 7: Integration

What was new and uncomfortable is now just the way things are done. The change has become the new norm.

So what does this tell us?

As we follow the change curve left to right, we can see how people go through these steps of ultimate acceptance.

We start in shock and ultimately try to carry on as if the change isn’t going to happen.

However as time goes on, however, we begin to simply accept that the change is happening and stop resisting, choosing to move with it, rather than against it. We start to let go of the old way and embrace what is happening, and can even begin to feel excited about the new change and the opportunities it provides.

This allows us to make the conscious decision to embrace change, reorganise our ways of working and then start to integrate the change, so that we can fully move forward. After all, change is essential to growth- and while it may seem scary at the time, change can help us move forward. Take a moment to consider how many of the things we take for granted today that would not be present, were it not for individuals pushing for change?

Ultimately, everyone reacts differently to change. We are all individuals, with out own responses, ideas and concerns. But the change curve allows us to better understand our reactions, and therefore respond appropriately, setting up practices that allows us to make the transition as stress free as possible.

So, there you have it. Where on the change curve are you? Can the change curve help you?

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