Everything you think you know about change management is wrong.
Stages of change models can explain why.
A common incidence of change gone wrong: Your staff are showing resistance toward learning new processes and digital software.
Why is this resistance occurring? Lack of leadership, yes. Fear of the unknown, certainly. But ultimately, they just weren’t ready.
What do you mean they weren’t ready? I hear you ask.
In order for a change of behavior to occur, there needs to be a readiness or eagerness for that change. This is where stages of change models come in.
Different stages of change models
Stages of change models map out the different phases in a behavior transition.
No doubt you’ve heard of the stages of grief model. This is the journey of emotions a person experiences after a great loss.
Similarly, there are stages of change models. These outline the phases a person goes through when changing their behavior.
The most famous of all stages of change models was developed in the late 1970s. It is sometimes called the transtheoretical model.
Prochaska and DiClemente developed the model. They studied smokers to explore why some can give up on their own and others can’t. They determined that the difference was due to being ready.
This readiness to act is at the heart of their stages of change model.
The stages of the original model were:
This model is frequently used in healthcare. In an addiction context, there is often a relapse phase. When a relapse occurs, the cycle starts again from the beginning (pre-contemplation).
A final stage, termination, was added in subsequent iterations of the model. This is the point where there’s no longer a risk of relapse, or the change no longer needs to be actively maintained.
Using stages of change models in a corporate context
Prochaska and DiClemente’s transtheoretical model is extremely useful in organizational change. This is because change managers can map out solutions to fit each stage of the change process.
Ultimately, this helps employees to move through the cycle towards termination faster.
Stage 1: Precontemplation
At this stage, there are no plans to make changes. The employees have been doing it the old way up until this point and they’re content to “make do”.
Maybe there was a previous failed attempt to move to a new system. They remember how difficult it was and they don’t want to go through that again. This is sometimes called “change battle fatigue”.
You could try these seven entertaining exercises to help employees overcome this reluctance. Or you could refer to step 1 of Kotter’s organizational change model for guidance.
Only when people start to realize the benefits of the change will they progress to the next stage.
Stage 2: Contemplation
Now employees are considering the advantages of the change. They’re acknowledging that a new system could benefit them, but they’re still not ready to make the change.
This stage can last for a long time. This is why it’s important to begin the process as far in advance of the change as you can.
Be thorough in preparing answers to key questions about the change. These are recommended by Elsbeth Johnson writing for Harvard Business School:
- Why do we need to change and why now?
- What is the full extent of the change we need?
- If we figure out 1 and 2, what should improve as a result? How will we measure the improvement we’ve been targeting?
- How does this new strategy or change link to previous strategies?
Answers to these questions will inform your strategy in the next stage.
Get your guiding coalition together. These are the authoritative figures who are going to champion the change.
Stage 3: Preparation/determination
At this point, you document the strategy and start communicating the change vision. This is the stage at which employees start to feel ready for the change. It’s all about making them feel secure in the direction you’re going to take them.
Stage 4: Action
Now the hard work starts. Execution of the change begins. There should be no roadblocks by this stage. Employees must be able to start implementing the change easily.
Communication and celebrating success is important throughout this stage. It helps to maintain high morale and commitment.
This stage can last for several months of traditional training. But a Digital Adoption Platform can speed up this process.
Stage 5: Maintenance
After the action or implementation stage comes maintenance. Adjustments to work habits must be made. These adjustments will ensure the change can continuously be accommodated.
This might be the point at which you document the process. This ensures the change can be enforced by new leaders and adopted easily by new joiners.
This stage is crucial. It allows the change to become ingrained in organizational culture. Unless this happens, there’s always the risk old habits will creep in. This would render the change management process ineffective.
This is what often happens. Unfortunately, most change management initiatives fail. But yours won’t if you complete the previous five stages of the model successfully.
Stage 6: Termination
The new system or process has now been adopted. It has become entrenched in company culture. There is no risk of old habits returning. The change has become part of “who we are and the way we do things”.
At this point, your change management has been successful — congratulations!