The Four Stages of ‘Change Curve’ Small Business Owners ought to know

Posted on March 11, 2014 by

The ‘Change Curve’ is a very helpful tool for small businesses to understand the stages of personal transition each employee goes through. It was a model developed by Kubler Ross to explain the grieving process (Shock and Denial, Anger and Fear, Acceptance, Commitment).

This model helps small business owners predict how employees will react to change, in order for them to help and support the employees through their personal transitions.

The fact is, an organization does not change just because of new systems or processes. They change because people within the organization adapt and change. Only when people within the organization make their own personal transitions can the organization benefit from the change.

Change CurveThe Change Curve model
The ‘Change Curve’ model helps small business owners understand the stages of personal transition and organization change. This model comprises four stages that most employees go through as they adjust to change.

Stage – 1: Shock and Denial

Stage – 2: Anger and Fear

Stage – 3: Acceptance

Stage – 4: Commitment

Stage – 1: Shock and denial
This is the first reaction that small business owners notice in their employees, as they react to the challenges to the status quo. This reaction is seen more in experienced and established employees, as these employees are more indifferent to new systems and procedures. The fear of the unknown, fear of doing something wrong and lack of information make them uncomfortable. They get a feeling of being threatened and fear of failure. Under these circumstances, they normally take it as a friction rather than an opportunity.

What do the employees need here?
Employees may have experienced this stage multiple times. To get over it, employees need information, need to understand what is happening in the organization and need to know how to get help from the organization.

Note: This stage affects particularly those employees who have not experienced any major change before.

What should the organization do?
At this stage, it is the responsibility of the owners to communicate with their employees and educate them about the benefits that they will gain by adapting new systems, personally and professionally. Remember, do not overwhelm your employees by flooding them with loads of information at a time or they may become even more confused. It’s always better to plan a schedule and follow it.

Stage – 2: Anger and fear
This is the second stage that is seen in the employees. As employees react to change, they start expressing their anger, concern, resentment or fear. They may resist the change actively or passively. This stage could be a danger zone and if the organization does not manage it carefully, it might result in chaos.

What should the organization do?
At this stage, small business owners should handle the employees’ objections carefully. Since reaction to change is personal and emotional, it’s impossible to prevent it from happening. Therefore, the organization should try to address the employees’ experience and sort of the issues as early as possible.

Note: As long as employees remain at Stage 2 of the Change Curve, by escaping progress, the change will be unsuccessful.

Stage – 3: Acceptance
This is a turning point for employees as well as the organization, because the employees have stopped focusing on what they have lost and have started accepting changes. They begin exploring changes, and get a real idea of what’s good and what’s not and how to adjust themselves accordingly.

What should the organization do?
This stage is critical, it takes time for the employees to learn and accept things. So, don’t expect your employees to be 100% productive during this stage. Give them time so that they learn and explore without much pressure.

Stage – 4: Commitment
At this stage, there will be a commitment from the employees in analyzing and embracing the change. They start rebuilding the way they work and this is the stage at which the organization starts to see the benefits of the change.

Benefits of the change
At this stage the organization will see the benefits of putting in effort for the welfare of their employees when they were in a grieving stage. The positive effects of the change curve are now more evident through its productivity and profit.

The Change Curve is an effective model for small business owners while managing employees. Locating an employee on the change curve will help business owners decide on how to effectively communicate information to employees and to know what kind of support they require. This helps them take necessary measures and protect both the business and the employees.

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