Last year, became a year of change. From new routines, altered shopping habits and different ways of socialising. We were all forced to embrace change and still continue to ride a change wave in 2021…

In this article, I explore how change can impact organisations, people and provide knowledge to those who are interested in this subject or are going through an organisational change or even a career change.

What is change?

In simple terms, change is to make or become different. Or replace/exchange something. Change is the situation such as to move house, to wear something different or to do a different job. It is about doing things differently, seeing things in a new way, as well as adjusting and adapting to ideas.

There key factors to take into consideration when it comes to change are:

  • Change affects everyone differently; there is no “normal.”
  • Change is an essential element of the world and it must be accepted. (Even a Pandemic World type-of-change)
  • Adapting to change is about the attitudes we have.
  • We have to grieve for what we are letting go of.
  • Change is an opportunity for self-motivation and innovation.
  • We can identify strategies for accepting and implementing our changes

How does change impact organisations and its people?

When applying change to an organisation, a quote from William Bridges springs to mind: ‘It isn’t the change that do you in. It’s the transition’

Let’s look at a really simple example to explain change to an organisation: Change is a new mobile phone (say from basic phone to a smartphone). Transition is learning how to use it.

With the new smartphone, you will be excited by the newness, the style, things you can do, the apps and pictures as well as the productivity.

However you are also a little anxious and uncertain – what if you don’t know how to use it properly? What if all your contacts are not there? What if I download the wrong app?

It is about addressing how that change will affect you. When applying change at an organisation, like the new mobile phone example, it is about covering all bases and knowing whatever the change you put in place, you will need a transition period to ensure maximum results.

Three phases of the change

There are three phases, which was established by William Bridges who believes, that changes isn’t necessarily the problem; the change is the situation. People have difficulty with the transition.

The transition isn’t optional and we must all go through the three stages to accommodate ourselves to any change:

Endings

All change begins with an ending. This first phase of change transition begins when people identify what they are losing something and then to learn how to manage these losses. They determine what is over and being left behind, and what they will keep. These may include relationships, processes, team members or locations.

What do you need let go of? What will you be keeping?

Neutral Zone

This is a time to complete endings and begin new patterns. The second step comes after letting go: the neutral zone. People go through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. It is a time to support others. It is the very core of the change transition process. This is the time between the old reality and sense of identity and the new one. People are creating new processes and learning what the new roles will be, but it’s in a state of change and doesn’t feel comfortable yet. To perhaps plant the seed for the new beginning.

What new habits or processes are you putting into place?

Beginnings

It has been said that organisations think about beginnings long before people do. There is often conflict between the companies motivation and the critical mass/ people to make it happen, so it is essential to get people involved, especially those who are leaders and can of course influence. At this stage, Beginnings involve new understandings, new values and attitudes. Beginnings are marked by a release of energy in a new direction – they are an expression of a fresh identity. Well-managed transition allows people to establish in new roles with an understanding of their purpose, the part they play, and how to contribute and participate most effectively. They are reoriented and renewed.

How is your new beginning better than before?

Let’s look at the Change curve model

The Kubler-Ross Change Curve, something you have probably seen before. It is used across businesses globally showing the 5 stages of emotional response to change, which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This model was introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in a book called ‘Death and Dying’ – After publication the model was widely accepted and it was found that it was valid in a majority of cases and situations relating to change.

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In the times we live in right now this change curve seems more than applicable. The entire world are on it and at different points on any given day.

Here is an example of how we are all currently going through the change curve:

  • Shock – “OMG, Are we really living through a global pandemic??”
  • Denial – “We will back in the office in no-time”
  • Frustration – “I am so over lockdowns. I want to go back into work. I want to go out and socialise.”
  • Depression – “I’m so upset, I just want to be back at work, I am so stressed there is so much to do and my company have invoked a recruitment freeze, so I can’t get support for my team.”
  • Experiment – “Working from home is still happening for the foreseeable future, let’s think about what’s not working and try out new approaches. Instead of working on the sofa, I will buy a desk and set up a mini office in my spare room.”
  • Decision – “With my new desk and attitude, I got a lot more done today!”
  • Integration – “After lockdown I may now even ask to work from home more often!”

Does any of this resonate with you? Where are you in the change curve?

Did you know that you could be on one change curve or several. Here are the most common changes we are experiencing:

  • Remote working
  • Home schooling
  • Job insecurity
  • Furlough
  • Financial insecurity 
  • Role change 

Feelings of shock, denial, and frustration are all natural responses as we seek to resist change. This is normal since change means loss. But as we begin to acknowledge what we have lost and begin to feel sadness or depression about it we are then moving closer to acceptance.

What next?

Well that is up to you. If you are going through change now or the next time you go through change both personally and professionally, here is an exercise that you can use to help understand where you are and support yourself on the journey:

  1. Write out your change “problem” statement.
  2. Draw your curve(s) and ask yourself , where am I on the curve right now?
  3. Ask yourself, the 5 whys around your feelings (there is no wrong answer).
  4. Next, think about support: who can I talk to about where I am on it?
  5. When you are ready, start to put steps in place to help you move along your change curve.

For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future. – JFK

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