How to ‘manage’ Change and understand how people respond to it

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How to ‘manage’ Change and understand how people respond to it
Two people that have contributed immensely in terms of change management theories are John M. Fisher and John Kotter. A brief description of their change management models are given below.

John M. Fisher's Change Model

Fisher's Process of Transition model explains how people respond to change. This change theory is based on earlier studies by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who identified five stages of grief. Fisher identified eight stages that people follow in succession through a change process. They are:
1. Anxiety and Denial

2. Happiness

3. Fear

4. Threat

5. Guilt and Disillusionment

6. Depression and Hostility

7. Gradual Acceptance

8. Moving Forward


Some people move more quickly through the stages than others, depending on their temperament, life experiences, degree of control and so on. People may regress to an earlier stage depending on their situation.

An effective change agent is able to plot where people are on the transition curve, and respond appropriately.

Initial Resistance to Change

People generally react badly to change in the first instance. They are anxious and in shock. They follow this by expressing a degree of happiness or relief about the situation, glad that something is happening at last. Then fear sets in. If there is a healthy amount of two way communication at the happiness stage, then the degree of fear may be reduced, but it always present.

People will resist change, afraid of what lies ahead and how it might affect them in a negative way. If you are a change agent, accept that this resistance to change is a perfectly normal reaction and do not be deterred by it.

For example, there is no point focusing on the benefits of change, if people are still in the stage of fear or threat. You have to listen to them and attempt to understand where they are at that moment. The discussion should ideally move to an action stage when they are ready for it. As long as you are ahead of them on the curve, you can guide them forward at the right time.
Working with People through Change

It is possible that some people are not able to move forward and "get stuck" in the stages of denial, disillusionment or hostility. You might find it difficult to accept that you cannot help everyone move through the change process, despite your best efforts.

Your time might be better spent working with those who move quickly through the curve and see the change as a positive thing. These people can act as "champions" and support others to reach the same view.

Timing is extremely important when managing change. If you attempt to force change through before the majority of people are ready, then the change is not likely to be as effective in the long term.

John Kotter's Change Model

Kotter identified eight steps that need to be taken in order to manage change successfully. These steps translate the best of change management theories into practice.
1. Establish a sense of urgency

2. Form a powerful guiding coalition

3. Create a clear vision

4. Communicate the vision

5. Empower others to act on the vision

6. Plan and create short-term wins

7. Consolidate improvements and produce still more change

8. Institutionalise new approaches

These steps are based on a solid foundation of communication, empowerment and focus. Once the change has been made, it is important to embed the new approaches, so that people do not slip into old habits. Monitoring, feedback and intervention are necessary for a sufficient period after the changes has occurred.
See PDF appendix, de 8 stappen van een succesvolle verandering (John P. Kotter)

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