Change Happens – For People and Organizations

Any major change in an organization has a beginning and end with several distinct stages along the way. There are many descriptions of the “change curve”. Here is one that I use...

  1. Initial Optimism
  2. Jumping In
  3. The Long Slide
  4. Rock Bottom
  5. Climbing Up
  6. Success

Organizations are entities unto themselves with their own needs, fears, values and personalities (culture). They adapt to the environment (and changes to it) and they experience the six stages of change.

Individuals experience the same six stages. But they do so at their own pace not necessarily at the same pace of the rest of the organization.

Some key things to remember about change for both individuals and organizations:

  • Change does not just “happen” - It must be embedded, intentional, organized and led.

  • Change is a choice - A change and its benefits happen only when employees adopt the change for themselves – not because someone told them it was a good idea.

  • Leaders are critical - Leaders are the bridge between the organizational level change and the individual change. Employees look to their leaders during times of change.

When organizations and individuals progress through the stages of change at different rates projects can get stalled, run over budget and can even fail.

So how do we avoid this and help individuals and organizations progress together?

Here are 5 things we can do…

1. Measure and compare - Use an assessment of where the organization and each person is on the curve. Measuring factors like the morale, how people are perceiving the change, what activities are going on and what messages are being sent and received are key to getting a complete picture.

2. Treat individuals as individuals – Everyone has unique behavioural needs based on their experiences and individual make up. Use behavioural or “style” assessment tools to get a valid picture of these and address them each in their own way.

3. Track your progress – Create a dashboard of where everyone is and where the organization is. Make it simple, visual and update it often. Here’s one that is simple and effective…

Click to Enlarge

4. Take action in the moment – Leaders are the key to helping people through the curve. Leaders need to take action in the moment. Give them the skills and tools to coach their teams when members need it.

5. Make course corrections – This is a process not a quick or one-time fix. What worked for a team member during the “long slide” may not be effective when they are at “rock bottom”. Leaders need to adapt their techniques for each individual at each stage of the curve.


Make sure you are managing both the individual and organizational progress through the six stages of change. The success of your project depends on it!

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