IT Governance

Why the Right Change Often Feels Wrong

Change and apprehension are the peanut butter and jelly of the transformation sandwich. You just cannot get people to shake that nagging sensation of worry whenever a change must be made. Or can you? In a post at his website, Scott Berkun shares the Satir Change Model, which explains why change feels scary even when you are doing it for the right reasons.

Getting Familiar with Change

If you imagine a line graph depicting the status quo (or you can just view it a few inches down the page here), where time and performance are the axes, the Satir Change Model describes what is going on when the status quo changes. The model occurs in five parts:

  1. Late status quo
  2. Foreign element
  3. Chaos
  4. Transforming idea
  5. Practice and integration

The late status quo is where performance is steady over time because everything is familiar. But then a foreign element strikes—such as a new person, idea, or process—that breaks the status quo and inspires resistance from those affected. Thus, productivity plummets into a period of chaos, about which Berkun says this:

Even if you are doing everything right, and the change is the right one, volatility will rise for a time. Average performance will drop as people experiment with adjustments to incorporate the new idea. Hidden assumptions, and emotions, will be revealed, which can be painful at first. A new idea may require new conversations, redistribution of responsibilities and more. What makes this phase challenging is it’s hard to predict how long it will take or if the path is the right one (e.g. “do we need to keep going, or is this direction a mistake?”)

Things segue into the “transforming idea” stage when leaders are able to find clarity in the change and enable people to just adjust to revised or new roles. Stronger leadership and management will get people through this stage faster. And at the end of that stage is practice and integration, where productivity accelerates beyond the old status quo and reaches a newer, better status quo—one that is ripe for more change.

Berkun believes that people are too quick to think that change has failed during the “chaos” period, because they do not recognize that some chaos is just part of the change process (which is probably not something change managers want to hear). So next time you are struggling with a new initiative, try to stay mindful of the circumstances. You could just be suffering through that temporary valley of chaos.

For additional thoughts, you can view the original post here:

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