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How Can the Change Management and Emotional Change Curve Models Help Your Project?

This article is an attempt to share some knowledge and tips in helping Project Managers (PMs) manage change.

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When I’ve managed transformational projects, the first few questions I ask myself is:

1) What’s the organizational readiness level?
2) What type of change management model should I use?
3) How can I minimize resistance to change?

This article is an attempt to share some knowledge and tips in helping Project Managers (PMs) manage change.

Above are the six fundamental change management models. Companies like McKinsey, Accenture, Boston Consulting Group, etc, use an adaptation of these models when consulting to organizations. I mainly use the Burke-Litwin Model because I’m able choose all or parts of the model based on the organizational needs.

From a PM perspective, the main takeaway is to, at minimum, know which model is used within your organization and understand how change management model works/is applied.

This knowledge will help you gain a holistic perspective and a structured approach on the impact of your project. It can also be a tool for you to assess why your project may not be moving forward (e.g., regulatory factors, political agendas, internal resistance, etc.)

Irrespective of the model used, the most important model that all PMs should know is the Emotional Change Curve (an adaptation from the Kübler-Ross model).

Elizabeth Kübler-Ross was a psychiatrist that identified the Five Stages of Grief, a process by which people cope with grief and tragedy. Her model was adapted and correlated to how humans deal with change (as shown above).

Humans are naturally resistant to change. The level of resistance is strongest if the individual perceives the change to be out of their control.

The red circle represents an action that has resulted in a perceived negative change (known as Shock); for example, changing reporting lines, being displaced, or changing buildings. The severity of the reaction and resistance is contingent on the level of impact and change to the individual’s daily routine.

As a PM, the goal is to help individuals feel a part of the change. The more individuals feel they are in control, the quicker they can move through the emotional change curve

Since the Emotional Change Curve has many stages, I like to use the acronym S.A.R.A. as illustrated above. It was introduced to me when I was taking a course on Change Management at Columbia University and ever since then, I’ve used it.