The way businesses work is changing too. Professional interactions, employment opportunities and the workplace structure are all affected by this rapid development. As the famous Greek philosopher, Socrates, once said, “The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting for the old, but on building the new”.
This wisdom is still pertinent some 2400 years later. Change is simply part of life and the way the world works. How we adapt to this change is what determines our success, both on a personal and a business level.
Six stages of change
The change cycle model identifies the thoughts, feelings and behaviours associated with each stage of change. There are six basic stages in the change cycle, which can apply to business as well as personal change. They are:
- Discomfort (danger zone)
The change cycle model explained
People move through these stages when undergoing drastic change. In the first stage, Loss, people find themselves longing for what used to be the norm. This sense of loss is an admittance a change has taken place, whether good or bad. People have feelings of fear, cautious thoughts and behaviour is paralysed.
In stage two, Doubt, people tend to be sceptical about the facts of the change. They find it hard to access and perceive valid information about the change. People often start to blame the change on certain factors, falling into a state of resentment that clouds judgment. People have feelings of resentment, sceptical thoughts and behaviour is resistant.
The third stage, Discomfort, is characterised by the unease felt by people undergoing change. Frustration and lethargy start to set in as people realise that the change is irreversible. At the end of this stage is the danger zone – the pivotal space where people make a choice to move on and accept the change or return to the first stage once again. People have feelings of anxiety, confused thoughts and behaviour is unproductive.
The fourth stage, Discovery, is the start of the healing journey after a dramatic change. This stage represents the light at the end of the tunnel. People form a willingness to make new decisions and through this, gain a new sense of control and hope. Optimism replaces the scepticism characterised by the previous stage. People have feelings of anticipation, creative thoughts and behaviour is energised.
The fifth stage, Understanding, is when people come to terms with the change and why it has happened. They develop confidence and start to think pragmatically about their situation. Production and motivation also increase during the Understanding stage. People have feelings of confidence, pragmatic thoughts and behaviour is productive.
The final stage, Integration, is the full acceptance and adaptation to the change. People regain their ability and willingness to be flexible once again. They develop an insight into the consequences and rewards of the change. It’s back to ‘normal life’, despite the change. People have feelings of satisfaction, focused thoughts and behaviour is generous.
These six stages and their associated thoughts, feelings and behaviours can also be applied to the business context. When change affects an employee – be it termination, a change in office space or a promotion – they can experience all six stages of the change cycle. It is important for managers and business owners to recognise these stages and look after employees when they are undergoing change.