Change Curves (Personal Changes) vs. Change Curves (Business Changes)

There is a wide range of change curves that show how people transition through change.

Change models that show how a person progresses through change based on a personal event includes the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, John Fisher’ Personal Change Curve, and the Bridges’ Transition Model.

However, how a person goes through change based on a personal life event (for example, a loss of a loved one, marriage, pregnancy, financial circumstances, etc.) is different from how that same person goes through change as an employee or a manager that is faced with an organization change event.

Such an organizational change event might include a new system integration, new technology that needs to be learned, new business processes that need to be adopted, new management or leadership, new products or company expansion, culture changes, or a change in job roles.

Change Curve Models

The Change Curve - Through Change - Model and Diagram

7 Key Transitional Milestones for Organizational Transformation Change

There are 7 key milestones that people generally go through as they progress through their individual change curve for organizational change. (If you seek additional information on personal change curves, please click here: Personal Transition Change Curves -Brief Overview).

The 7 milestones are listed and reviewed below.

  • Milestone 1: Lack of Awareness Nor a Desire to Support the Change
  • Milestone 2: Gains Awareness
  • Milestone 3: Resists or Questions the Change
  • Milestone 4: Accepts the Change
  • Milestone 5: Learns New Skills & Knowledge for the Change
  • Milestone 6: Builds Proficiency
  • Milestone 7: Sustains the Change

Airiodion Global Services Change Curve

The Change Curve - Airiodion Global Services

Change Curve Milestones

Change Curve Milestone 1: A State of a General Lack of Awareness Nor Desire to Support the Change

At the beginning of an organizational change, program, project or initiative, employees might have heard that a change is taking place, but they are often unaware of the factors driving the change. In addition, they are often unaware of why the change needs to happen now, the benefits of the change, or the risk of not changing.

During this stage in the change curve, people generally are not supportive of the change or resisting it.

Change Curve Milestone 2: People Start to Gain Awareness

During the second milestone is when employees and managers start to gain awareness of the change, as well as how this change will impact them personally and professionally.

Best change management practices require that you apply effective communications, as well as meeting with employees and managers via 1-on-1, team meetings, virtual meetings, in-person presentations, etc. to provide them with awareness about the change, discussing the impacts, and answering the “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) questions that will come up as people digest the news about the change.

Don’t Miss: Top Steps for Developing, Tracking and Managing a Communications Plan

Awareness is more than just telling people that a change is happening. To effectively move people through their change curve, awareness needs to involve educating them on the driving factors behind the change, as well as why is the change happening now? What are the overall benefits of the change? Timeline? Who are the key points of contacts? Where do people go if they have questions about the change? What are the risks if the change is not implemented now? etc.

Developing an Effective Communication Plan

Change Curve Milestone 3: People Start to Resist or Question the Change

It is normal human nature not to like change. People’s first reaction when they start to understand the change, as well as understanding the level of impact, is to question the value of the change.

And in some cases, they may start resisting the change. During this stage in the transition change curve employees may be in a state of shock, denial, resentment, fear, or anger based on how they will be impacted by the change. It is during this stage that reality of the change hits, and people need the time to adjust and react before they can successfully move through their change curve. 

This is a critical milestone for change management. You need to ensure that you are engaging with people using different communication and engagement channels. You also want to communicate the WIIFMs and ensure that people understand how they benefit from the change. In addition, to mitigate resistance, you should utilize a proactive and reactive resistance management plan.

Click the links below to read more about developing and implementing effective communications, engagement, and resistance management activities:

Change Curve Milestone 4: People Start to Accept the Change

After understanding their WIIFMs, and as you continue to engage them to address their concerns and fears, employees and managers generally progress to the next stage in the transitional change curve, which is acceptance of the change.

During this stage in the change curve, individuals internalize the change and make conscious decisions to contribute or support the change versus continuing to resist the change.

To increase change adoption and the success of the project, program or transformation initiative, your change management tracking, and measurement plan should involve tracking and measuring how well employees are progressing through these set of change milestones. Read more: Developing an Effective Tracking and Measurement Plan

Change Curve Milestone 5: People are Trained on New Skills & Knowledge

Milestone five is when employees and managers are trained and coached on the new skill sets and knowledge, which they will need in order to be successful as part of the change.

For additional information on training and coaching, click below:

Change Curve Milestone 6: People Build Proficiency

Having knowledge of how to change is great, but people need to build proficiency in order for them to be successful when the change is implemented. As such, you will need to ensure that employees and impacted managers are giving enough time, opportunity and the necessary platforms to practice what they have learned.

Change Curve Milestone 7: The Change is Sustained

The final spectrum of the change curve involves sustaining the change. It is normal human nature to develop workarounds or to revert back to old ways of doing things.

To reinforce the change, you should follow-up with employees and provide additional coaching if needed; identify and implement lessons learned, celebrate quick wins and implementation successes; and apply other actions to increase and sustain adoption of the new business processes, technology solutions or organizational restructuring

Phase 3 of OCM

The Importance of a Transition Curve Model

Why do people find change curve models to be useful? What value does a transition model really provide?

Utilizing a transition change curve is a very useful process as it allows you to more effectively understand how people transition through a change.

Knowing where an employee, manager or group of impacted users are on the change curve will help you in developing and implementing effective change management plans to communicate, engage with, and support these individuals through the transition process.

When a group of employees is in the initial phase of having no awareness or desire to support the organizational change, then focusing your change activities on communications and engagement to provide awareness, as well as WIIFMs will boost these individuals’ ability to progress through the transition curve.

More Details about Personal Transition Change Curves

The Kubler-Ross Change Curve was developed in 1969 by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross as a way to show how people transition through change when faced with a terminal illness or a death. This curve involves four stages including: Denial, Anger, Exploring, and Acceptance.

Other change curves that are based on personal/life events include phases like Shock, Denial, Anger, Isolation, Frustration, Bargaining/Negotiating, Resistance, Depression, Exploration, Acceptances, and Commitment.

Organizational change management has three main phases:

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