Although you will be addressing this area throughout the programme and particularly in relation to the Action Plans arising from the results of the Diagnostic, it is useful to have some understanding of the potential emotional effect on people who will be with you on your change journey.
Here we will look at how people may react to or cope with Change and how the impact of the learning and changes in behaviour can be evaluated using a well-tested model for evaluation.
2.1.1 Accelerating Change, and Increasing Its Likelihood of Success
Imagine you have invested large amounts of time, effort and money in the new systems and processes; you have trained everyone; and you have made their lives so much easier (or so you think.) Yet months later, people still persist in their old ways. Where are the business improvements you expected? And when will the disruption you’re experiencing subside?
The fact is that organisations don’t just change because of new systems, processes or new organization structures. They change because the people within the organisation accept, adapt and change too. Only when the people within it have made their own personal transitions can an organisation truly reap the benefits of change.
As someone needing to make changes within your organisation, the challenge is not only to get the systems, process and structures right, but also to help and support people through these individual transitions (which can sometimes be intensely traumatic and involve loss of power and prestige and even employment.)
The easier you can make this journey for people, the sooner your organisation will benefit, and the more likely you are to be successful. However, if you get this wrong, you could be heading for failure.
The Change Curve is a popular model used to understand the stages of personal transition and organisational change. It helps you understand how people may react to change, so that you can help them make their own personal transitions, and make sure that they have the help and support they need.
Let’s look firstly at the theory behind the Change Curve. Then we can look at how you can use it to accelerate change and improve its likelihood of success.
The Change Curve has been widely used in business and change management and there are many variations and adaptations. It is often attributed to psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, resulting from her work on personal transition in grief and bereavement. Here we’re describing major change, which may be genuinely traumatic for the people undergoing it. If change is less intense, you can adjust your approach appropriately.
The Change Curve model describes the four stages most people go through as they adjust to change. You can see this in figure 1, below.
When a change is first introduced, people’s initial reaction may be shock or denial, as they react to the challenge to the status quo. This is stage 1 of the Change Curve.
Once the reality of the change starts to hit, people tend to react negatively and move to stage 2 of the Change Curve: They may fear the impact; feel angry; and actively resist or protest, against the changes. Some will wrongly fear the negative consequences of change. Others will correctly identify real threats to their position.
As a result, the organisation experiences disruption which, if not carefully managed, can quickly spiral into chaos.
For as long as people resist the change and remain at stage 2 of the Change Curve, the change will be unsuccessful, at least for the people who react in this way. This is a stressful and unpleasant stage.
For everyone, it is much healthier when you can move to stage 3 of the Change Curve, where pessimism and resistance give way to some optimism and acceptance.
It’s easy just to think that people resist change out of sheer awkwardness and lack of vision. However, you need to recognise that for some, change may affect them negatively in a very real way that you may not have foreseen. For example, people who’ve developed expertise in (or have earned a position of respect from) the old way of doing things can see their positions severely undermined by change.
At stage 3 of the Change Curve, people stop focusing on what they have lost. They start to let go and accept the changes. They begin testing and exploring what the changes mean, and so learn the reality of what’s good and not so good, and how they must adapt.
By stage 4, they not only accept the changes but also start to embrace them: They rebuild their ways of working. Only when people get to this stage can the organisation can really start to reap the benefits of change.
Using the Change Curve
You can use this understanding of the Change Curve, to reflect and plan how you could minimise the negative impact of the change and help people adapt more quickly to it. Your aim is to make the curve shallower and narrower, as you can see in figure 2.
As someone introducing change, you can use your understanding of the Change Curve to give individuals the information and help they need, depending on where you perceive them to be on the curve. This will help you accelerate change and increase its likelihood of success.
Suggested actions at each stage:
At this stage, people may be in shock or in denial. Even if the change has been well planned and you understand what is happening, this is when reality of the change hits, and people need to take time to adjust. Here, people need information, need to understand what is happening, and need to know how to get help.
This is a critical stage for communication. Make sure you communicate often, but also ensure that you don’t overwhelm people: They’ll only be able to take in a limited amount of information at a time. But make sure that people know where to go for more information if they need it and ensure that you take the time to answer any questions that come up.
As people start to react to the change, they may begin to feel concern, anger, resentment or fear. They may resist the change actively or passively. They may feel the need to express their feelings and concerns and vent their anger.
For the organisation, this stage is the “danger zone.” If this stage is badly managed, the organisation will suffer, so it needs careful planning and preparation. As someone responsible for change, you should prepare for this stage by carefully considering the genuine concerns and objections that people may have. A Stakeholder Analysis will be helpful at this stage and will help you to address these early with clear communication and support, and by taking action to minimise and mitigate the problems that people will experience. As the reaction to change is very personal and can be emotional, it is often impossible to pre-empt everything, so make sure that you listen and watch carefully during this stage (or have mechanisms to help you do this) so you can respond to the unexpected.
This is the turning point for individuals and for the organisation. Once you turn the corner to stage 3, the organisation starts to come out of the danger zone and is on the way to making a success of the changes.
Individually, as people’s acceptance grows, they’ll need to test and explore what the change means. They will do this more easily if they are actively involved and supported to do so, even if this is a simple matter of allowing enough time for them to do so.
As the person managing the changes, you can lay good foundations for this stage by making sure that people are totally involved and if appropriate, well trained and are given early opportunities to experience what the changes will bring. Be aware that this stage is vital for learning and acceptance, and that it takes time: Don’t expect people to be 100 percent productive during this period and build in contingency time so that people can learn and explore without too much pressure.
This is where the changes start to become second nature, and people embrace the improvements to the way they work.
You will finally start to see the benefits you worked so hard for. Your team or organisation starts to become productive and efficient, and the positive effects of change become apparent. Whilst you are busy counting the benefits, don’t forget to celebrate success! The journey may have been rocky, and it will have certainly been at least a little uncomfortable for some people involve. Everyone deserves to share the success and by celebrating the achievement, you establish a track record of success which will make things easier the next time change is needed.
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2.1.2 Evaluating the Impact of Change
Finally we need to consider the lasting impact that the change or changes have had on the organisation. As a Change Leader you will be required to ensure that effective project progress review and monitoring is in place and this will be informed by the feedback from the Diagnostic and Action Planning. Another critical aspect is how Change will be evaluated in the long term. There will be hard measures built into the project, but how will you measure the impact on the people within the organisation? Repeating the Diagnostic will give an analysis of the employees’ perception of the benefits and impact of changes made, however some changes take longer to produce the desired outcome and there are additional actions that you can take to capture the longer-term benefits gained.
One model of evaluation that you may find useful is the Kirkpatrick Model of Evaluation. It was primarily designed to measure the effect of training in the organisation but can be adapted to “measure” the behavioural and attitudinal changes in the individuals involved.
Donald Kirkpatrick’s 1994 book Evaluating Training Programs defined his originally published ideas of 1959, thereby further increasing awareness of them, so that his theory has now become arguably the most widely used and popular model for the evaluation of training and learning. Kirkpatrick’s four-level model is now considered an industry standard across the HR and training communities.
Because of its focus on people and the impact on their application of “new learning” in the workplace it is relevant to the measurement of the human side of Change.
The four levels of Kirkpatrick’s evaluation model essentially measure:
- reaction of learner – what they thought and felt about the training (or Change)
- learning – the resulting increase in knowledge or capability
- behaviour – extent of behaviour and capability improvement and implementation/application
- results – the effects on the business or environment resulting from the individual’s performance
Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation
This table illustrates the basic Kirkpatrick structure at a glance. (modified to focus on Change rather than training)
|Level||What is Measured||Evaluation description and characteristics||Examples of Evaluation Tools and Methods||Relevance, Practicality and Application|
|1||Reaction||Reaction evaluation is how the individuals felt about the Change.||Diagnostic results.
Group / Team discussions
|Quick and very easy to obtain.
Not expensive to gather or to analyse.
|2||Learning||Learning evaluation is the measurement of the increase in knowledge – before and after the Change.||Observation.
|Relatively simple to set up using current systems.|
|3||Behaviour||Behaviour evaluation is the extent of applied new ideas and learning in the workplace.||Observation and conversations over time are required to assess change, relevance of change, and sustainability of change.||Measurement of behaviour change typically requires cooperation and skill of line-managers.|
|4||Results||Results evaluation is the effect on the business or environment by the trainee.||Measures already in place via normal management systems and reporting – the challenge is to relate to people.||Gives a picture of the whole organisation and culture.|
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The role of the Change Leader is complex and challenging and requires not only the skill set of effective management but also the qualities, characteristics, attitudes and behaviours of inspirational leadership. The challenge is to create an environment where employees at all levels feel motivated and inspired to bring about change that leads to a culture where everyone is valued for what they bring to their role; have high levels of self-confidence and self-worth and work together to create a workplace that is truly great to be a part of.