Common States of Change in an Organization

A lot of forums, blogs and other business discussion mediums have been abuzz lately about the states of change concept, in change management. I’ve seen this concept represented in a couple ways, one being a simple linear roadmap, another being a convoluted cycle model that I think was made by someone with a twisted sense of humor.

Now, something both of these have in common are some, well, common states of change milestones in them. So, I’ll give you a brief explanation of the two models, and then look, as simplistically as possible, at some common progress points of a change project, as they define them.

I intend, with luck, to remove the convolution from this concept, if I can.

So, the linear one is pretty much a straightforward progression through a change cycle. It goes through analysis and evaluation, introduction, implementation via training and reinforcement, checking with related systems, and finally, locking in the change by modifying policies and rewarding adherence.

Now, that’s a simple concept, and the different states of the change process are self-explanatory. The order of the states, and the factors of transition through them lines up so nicely with most established change models, and is scalable to a total project map, or a small template for cycles during implementation.

I don’t half mind the linear layout of the change states. In the linear ones, the terminology isn’t standardized into pretentious jargon. Well, it isn’t with the cycle models either, but those get confusing, taking all of those points, but after refreezing, it branches into “exit change” or “relapse” which is where a lack of adherence to the change means refreezing fails.

That sounds simple, but when it’s actually drawn out that way, it really doesn’t work with human eye tracking, and it gets confusing. Either way, those points in the cycle are the common states you will go through. You’ll analyze change needs and design changes to suit the needs. You’ll talk to those involved and unfreeze them to change. You’ll train them, work with them and motivate them. You’ll confirm its compliance with standards and rules established. And, you’ll try to make the changes permanent, making sure everyone is loyal.

You’ll want to communicate the transitions of these states, and their implications, frequently to stakeholders and to those involved in the change as well. I cannot express enough how important communication during change phases are, and being intimately familiar with these transitional states helps make that communication work better.

Also, having these mapped out is a good foundation for planning and strategizing, and choosing your model. It helps in forecasting, and it helps in managing this in a pace that doesn’t stall out the system.

Many explanations and infographics of the various states of change are quite convoluted and ambiguous, and that causes people to find this an alien concept. This makes them miss out on the insight it can provide and the good basis for progress report and planning, and it’s unfortunate, because change projects can easily go awry without this strong basis. I hope I’ve made this simpler and easier to come to terms with by explaining it this way.

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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