Dynamics of Change



The winners respond to resistance as an inevitable part of the change process that must be expected and managed. They do not try to avoid it, nor do they view resistance as someone's failure.

Target's emotional responses to change fall into predictable patterns of resistance. These patterns differ as a function of the targets' initial perceptions of the change: positive or negative.

A positive response to the change may go through five phases:

1. Uninformed optimism.

2. Informed pessimism (during which people may check out of the process or buy-in).

3. Light at the end of the tunnel.

4. Informed optimism.

5. Completion.

The five phases predict the targets resistance to a change they originally perceived as positive.

A negative response to the change may go through eight phases. The eight phases predict resistance to a change that is initially perceived as negative by the targets. In such cases, they feel they are trapped in a change they don't want and can't control. The eight phases are: (1) Stability (that precedes the announcement of the change project), (2) immobilization, (3) denial, (4) anger, (5)

bargaining, (6) depression, (7) testing, and (8) acceptance. (These eight phases are adapted from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's clinical work with the terminally ill.)


The winners recognize the level of commitment and communica­tion that is required from various key people for the change to succeed. The issue is not whether there is or is not commitment: there is always commitment in some form. The issue is the direction that the commitment takes.

Commitment is often taken for granted. Managers fail to appre­ciate that commitment is built by careful planning and executive. The first step in building commitment is to decide what level of commitment is required of sponsors, agents, and targets.


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