The Art of Change Management

pencils in stainless steel bucket

We have all experienced an immense amount of change over the last year. As much as we would love to settle into consistency and certainty, we are also having to accept that change is constant and that with the state of our current environment, uncertainty is present. The constant change presents challenges in the workplace. 

From radical change to developmental change, change is happening within our organizations daily. While the organization is shifting towards a new future state, each individual on the team is also needing to shift their behaviors to align with the new future state of the organization. Therein lies the greatest challenge in leading through change. We all hold different beliefs, experiences, and values that influence how we respond to change. Some move quickly towards implementation of change, while others might take a bit more time to process and accept the new skills and behaviors needed to work within the new future state. 

Individual Emotions Towards Change 

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first identified the emotional change curve in the 1960’s to address the grieving process. It has been updated over the years to identify what emotions come up within each step in change and how performance can be altered when change is present. 

The Emotions of Change

  • Shock – We don’t know what to think about the change yet, it is new and daunting. 
  • Denial – We are hesitant to accept the new change so instead we avoid the new state of thinking and step into a denial mindset. 
  • Frustration & Depression – We feel uncertain, disconnected, and unhappy with the ideas of the new future state. This is an easy place for individuals to get stuck. 
  • Experiment – We start to rationalize and understand why the change is happening and the positive impact it could have. We start to try on the new behaviors that are associated with the change. 
  • Acceptance – From our experimentation we start to understand how the new future state will help not only ourselves but our teams reach success. We are ready to accept the change. 
  • Adoption – We have embraced the change and are using the right skills and behaviors in flow with the new state of the organization. 

Understanding the human emotion connected to change is one piece of the puzzle of change management. The other piece is how your behaviors as a leader can increase the speed of adoption, minimize the depression and frustration state, and how to enhance team performance throughout change. 

Leading Change

The ADKAR framework from Prosci, focuses on the framework on how individuals change and what support they need to successfully step through change! 

ADKAR stands for: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.  Aligning your behaviors as a leader with your team members’ emotional state will help the individual move towards the adoption phase with ease, as well as allow your employees to feel heard and seen! 

  • Awareness – In the midst of the shock and denial stage of change it is important to build awareness through direct communication. Identifying why it is happening, the positive impact it will have, and how it affects everyone on the team will help mitigate rumors and assumptions that can lead towards resistance. 
  • Desire – Frustration and depression hits when we are having to learn and change the ways we work. These feelings are valid, and as a leader it is important to actively listen to understand where your team is at. Hold one-on-one meetings and ask questions about how the change is impacting their work, how they are feeling about the change, and how you can support them. It is important to come into these conversations without assumptions. 
  • Knowledge – Now that you have heard your team members worries, fears, and excitements, you can start to share knowledge. Training team members on new skills, knowledge, abilities, and behaviors that will help them move out of their frustration and into experimentation. 
  • Ability – Once you train your team members on these new skills and tools, it is important to continuously coach and support team members. Do any team members have any limitations that impede them from success? Are they needing to realign their passion and engagement? Do they have any physical, personal, emotional, or cognitive limitations that you as a leader can help coach them through? Building their ability towards adoption doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. 
  • Reinforcement – You have communicated, listened, and coached your team towards acceptance and adoption! Now is the time that you celebrate the success of your team. Praise individuals for using their new skills and behaviors and give intentional feedback to individuals not adhering to the new state of the organization. It is important to still lean into your communication skills in the reinforcement stage so your team does not fall back towards the frustration or depression state of change. Keep the energy and celebration high.

Some change happens to us and other changes we choose, either way it can still be challenging. Remember, each individual is going to have an unique experience with change. A leader cannot expect all team members to just jump into a new process or system in one day, it takes time and leadership. Using the change curve to help identify where you and your team are emotionally can be really helpful. With that information, each team member will feel acknowledged and valued, which will allow you as the leader to successfully lead your team towards the desired future state. 

Want to learn more about company culture?

Join Morgan Tashea and LaTanya Walker for “Activating Team Power: Creating a Psychologically Safe Work Environment” from noon to 1 p.m. PDT on Thursday, May 20. Learn more about the webinar.

About the Authors

Morgan Tashea
Morgan Tashea

Morgan is the founder of Wyld Lynx Consulting. She is known for taking a unique approach to company culture design rooted in industrial and organizational psychology. With over 10 years of experience in company culture design, community development, marketing, and non-profit organization she has the unique ability to help you and your company reach sustainable growth. Morgan is known for taking a unique approach to company culture design. Through her capacity to dive deep, listen, and get to know people and the drive behind their work she has the ability to customize and design a company culture that aligns with your mission and values.

LaTanya Walker
LaTanya Walker

LaTanya is a company culture designer at Wyld Lynx Consulting. LaTanya Walker’s approach to consulting emphasizes the value of managed organizational change and the alignment of people, processes, and systems to build effective teams and organizations. With over 20 years of experience in project management, change management, and organizational effectiveness, LaTanya has the expertise to support organizations through transformational change.

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