Using the change curve to guide internal communication
The Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Change Curve was originally developed in 1969 to help understand how people deal with the news that they have a terminal illness. It’s since been developed to have a wider application to help organisations understand how people respond during organisational change.
It’s also an incredibly useful tool to help guide internal communication during periods of change. Let’s explore how.
What is it?
As Lance explained in his top tips on change management, the Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Change Curve is a very useful tool to help organisations understand how employees react during times of change.
How can it be used?
Every individual goes through change at their own pace – for some it’s a matter of days while for others it could be several years! The challenge for businesses is to recognise where people are on the change curve and help them through it as quickly as possible with the right internal communication interventions while at the same time minimising (and smoothing out) the ‘dip’ in everyone’s curve.
Stage one – denial
At the start of organisational change, typical reactions from employees will be to resist the need for change. You might hear phrases like “it’ll never work” or “we’ve tried that before”.
Stage one – internal communication interventions
The best advice we can give here is communicate, communicate, communicate! Face-to-face is paramount and you need to be giving people facts, figures and answering the “what’s in it for me?” question as well as the explanation of business rationale. People may be worried about their jobs or their work location, so address these issues upfront and with honesty.
Stage two – resistance
As people realise that the change isn’t going to go away, feelings can often turn into anger and resistance. You might be seeing deliberate attempts to sabotage the change and a highly active rumour mill emerging.
Stage two – internal communication interventions
Here you need to keep all communication channels open. Get your leadership team out and about and talking with people face-to-face and one-to-one if necessary. People might need a lot of support at this stage so think about ‘change clinics’ and open meetings. It’s also great to identify those who’ve come out of the Change Curve quicker and get them to head up employee face-to-face sessions. Give people time to accept change and keep your finger on what’s being said in the rumour mill.
Stage three – acceptance
As people get used to the idea of change, they will become more open and accepting and your messages about the change and future plans will land much easier. This is also a time where people explore and ask questions.
Stage three – internal communication interventions
This is the time when you can communicate project timelines and invite and encourage involvement through focus groups and workshops. Go big on the end game or vision as this is the time people will be opening their eyes (and ears!) to what could be possible.
Stage four – commitment
Hopefully by now, employees have come through the Change Curve and have accepted and embraced the change. Congratulations!
Stage four – internal communication interventions
Keep up the reinforcement of the vision and change objectives. You’ll also need to share success stories and talk about what milestones you have achieved. Do remember to keep feedback channels open at all times. There could be a way to go on your change journey, so don’t take your foot off the communication pedal!