Change Curve

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PDP Toolkit » Change Management » prepare for change » Knowing » The Change Curve

The Change Curve
The Change Curve is based on a model originally developed in the 1960s by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to explain the grieving process. Since then it has been widely utilised as a method of helping people understand their reactions to significant change or upheaval. Kubler-Ross proposed that a terminally ill patient would progress through five stages of grief when informed of their illness. She further proposed that this model could be applied to any dramatic life changing situation and, by the 1980s, the Change Curve was a firm fixture in change management circles. The curve, and its associated emotions, can be used to predict how performance is likely to be affected by the announcement and subsequent implementation of a significant change.

The Change Curve

The original five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – have adapted over the years. There are numerous versions of the curve in existence. However, the majority of them are consistent in their use of the following basic emotions, which are often grouped into three distinct transitional stages.

Stage 1 – Shock and denial
The first reaction to change is usually shock. This initial shock, while frequently short lived, can result in a temporary slow down and loss of productivity. Performance tends to dip sharply, individuals who are normally clear and decisive seek more guidance and reassurance, and agreed deadlines can be missed. The shock is often due to: lack of information fear of the unknown fear of looking stupid or doing something wrong After the initial shock has passed, it is common for individuals to experience denial. At this point focus tends to remain in the past. There’s likely to be a feeling that as everything was OK as it was, why does there need to be a change? Common feelings include: being comfortable with the status quo feeling threatened fear of...
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