Our world is full of change and yet dealing with change remains a problem for many people. To help us to process change in our lives it is important to gain a better understanding of how change works, and various models have been put forward to assist with this. All of these models have the same underlying principles, and these are:
1. People deny change. This is the usual first reaction to change, either in the workplace or the home. Whether it's the death of a loved one or the loss of a job, the first place people go to is denial. There seems to be an ability to turn off logical reasoning - if I pretend it isn't happening it will just go away. Of course this is unsustainable because it isn't true, but it's a stage many people find themselves in and it's important to understand this when working through change.
2. Anger or resistance to change. Having come out of the first stage, people quickly enter the second one which is all about trying to delay the change. This is a common problem faced by management when trying to introduce new working practices or systems - their staff refuse to cooperate and endeavour to force a return to the old way of doing things. When someone loses a loved one they start to feel angry. This might seem unreasonable - how can you be cross with someone for dying, particularly if it wasn't their own fault? But it happens.
Again, when working with people through change it is vital to understand that their emotions may not be reasonable or logical, but they are still real and must be dealt with the right way.
This stage is the most difficult to break out of, and it is also easy to return to if the next stage should fail.
3. Exploration or bargaining. Change is now accepted and people begin to look for ways to make it work for them. This can be a very positive stage, but it's also fragile. Exploration might mean discovering things we don't like and these could force a return to anger and resistance. Exploration means people can see the potential in the change, but it is only potential and is yet to be realised.
4. Acceptance. This where the change process should finish up. The new circumstances are accepted, the old situation is left behind, and life moves on. In a management situation it means that the workplace is now satisfied to proceed with the new way of doing things. In the personal situation it means that people have come to term with the changed circumstances and now seek to live within the new parameters they have been placed within.
Change is a cyclical process. This means that once acceptance has been reached, it is possible to embark on yet another change cycle.