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Hypothesis for a Doorway to Smoother Change part 2

  • 01 February 2012
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

In his first blog, Chris Warren explained how differently people can respond to change depending on their DISC type and he compared DISC to the Competing Values Framework and organizational culture. In part 2, Chris shows the Change Cycle from danger to opportunity. Depending on your primary DISC style, you experience different blockages when moving through change. Chris argues that 4 factors, one of them being organizational culture, can help people move through the change.

Change involves perceptions of both danger and opportunity. However, most people approaching change, if for no other reason than self-preservation, will initially give attention to the potential of threat or danger.

The first stage of the change cycle will, commonly, be based on a denial of the change in favour of retaining the safety of the known; a maintenance of the individual's comfort zone: "It'll never happen".

Stage two will likely be a slackening of the denial and replacement with resistance: "OK, so it's going to happen; but I'm not getting involved; I like it the way it is." However, once change has started to take place and has become something of a known quantity people will, usually, begin to accept it, allowing a more positive perception to take root at stage three of the cycle.

At stage three, people often see that the change may lead to new opportunities and they enter a phase of exploration. Some will see that the new way may indeed be more effective and offer the potential for new freedom and positive development, others may look back to past experiences and recall situations where they have been misled, requiring significantly more reassurance before they are prepared to commit themselves to stage three. However, once people accept that a change can provide new opportunities and possibilities and that the perceived risk of damage to their position has been removed, then the change is well on the way to successful implementation: "You know, there may just be some benefit to me in adopting this new way, I think I'll take a closer look."

The fourth stage of change is where people find that there is, indeed, a benefit in doing things the new way. As they enter this stage of commitment it is not uncommon for them to think they were involved right from the start: "That was a good idea I had, wasn't it?"

As you will see from the explanation above, Danger and Opportunity can each be further sub-divided.

The Danger phase can be sub-divided into:

  • Denial and
  • Resistance

The Opportunity phase can be sub-divided into:

  • Exploration and
  • Commitment

Together these provide a basic model of four core stages that people generally pass through when facing and managing change. Of course, each stage will be perceived differently by individuals with different behavioural preferences – their predisposition to risk or caution orientation and task or people orientation will impact directly on their behaviour in each of these change cycle phases.

As individuals go through these four stages of transition, some may move quickly, others may get ‘bogged down' at different points. As we have already suggested, the way in which individuals move through this change cycle is heavily influenced, among other factors, by their behavioural style.

The Change Cycle

Change Cycle

In addition, effective leadership, level of team maturity, and organisational culture, can help an individual move smoothly through the stages from denial to commitment, passing as quickly as possible from the danger phases (denial and resistance) to the opportunity phases ( exploration and commitment) of the cycle.

Think of the cycle as descending into a valley and then climbing back out again. The transition leads from the way things were done in the past on to new options for the future. During change, people initially tend to concentrate on the past and deny the change. In other words they reject the unknown in favour of the known. Next they pass through a stage where they become preoccupied with how they will be affected - this is normally where resistance occurs. As they look towards the future and start to see the opportunities it can bring, they will enter the exploration and commitment stages.

Think back to past changes that have taken place in your life and work environment. Can you identify with any of the behaviours/feelings listed below:

Denial

  • "it won't actually happen"
  • apathy
  • numbness
  • "they can't really mean it"
  • "over my dead body"

Commitment

  • teamwork
  • satisfaction
  • clear focus and plan
  • ownership
  • "I believe this will work"

Resistance

  • can't sleep at night
  • anger, emotion, fights
  • "they will have to do it without me"
  • "gave my all and now look
  • what I get in return"
  • "I already have too much to do"
  • withdrawal from the team

Exploration

  • over preparation
  • frustration
  • excitement
  • too many new ideas – "what if I try it this way?"
  • can't concentrate
  • "This might work if..."

The importance of understanding such behaviour and the underlying feelings is to enable us to effectively manage the stages that we and our colleagues experience in the process of change. Understanding the relationship between behavioural styles and change phases will enable us to better recognise and address issues and cope with the difficulties that we and others will perceive and experience.

Four factors to speed you up

As we have already suggested, there appears to be four factors that primarily influence the speed/ease with which people move through the change cycle:

  1. Their own behavioural style,
  2. The level of conscious, active and positive management of the change by those introducing it,
  3. The level of maturity of the team(s) involved,
  4. The culture within which the change is taking place.

If we can understand more about change, how it affects us and others, and how to handle it, then we will be in a better position to make decisions about the best course of action in supporting individuals through the different phases of a transition.

Much of the way in which we handle our contact with other people, other teams, environments and situations is based on our ability to cope with changes in a smooth and ‘unruffled' fashion.

In looking at the process of change in the context of behavioural preferences we are able to recognise that there is a basis on which we can assess our own and others positions. We must also be aware that any one individual will be at various different stages in the change cycles relating to all the changes they are currently experiencing. People do not only handle one change at a time.