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The Change Curve – Accelerating Change in Your Organization

Throughout my childhood in Texas, I played many different sports. In particular, my brother and I played a lot of catch together as kids. As we grew older, he turned into a respectable pitcher and I would spend many days catching for him, helping to improve is game.

Sometime in college we were playing a game of catch and I was down in my stance, ready for the ball. He sets his wind up and delivers the pitch. The ball came flying out of his hand, but this was no normal ball, no…there was something special about this ball. As the ball got closer to me, I put the glove up to catch it. Only, I didn’t catch it. The ball curved down and hit me directly in the shin bone. I was sure he must have broken my leg!

What I didn’t realize was that while he was away at college, my brother had developed a very good curveball – almost too good, if you ask me. Here’s the thing, he never told me about this new change, and I never saw it coming.

Change is a lot like that curveball….it does not occur in a straight line and can catch you off guard if you don’t know it’s coming.

In baseball a changeup is one of the slowest pitches thrown and it is based on deception. When initiating change in your organization it’s not a good idea to try to deceive your employees. When you do not have a game plan for change, the majority of people will perceive those changes as deceptive in nature.

Change is highly emotionally and physically stressful for employees of your organization. Therefore, structural change initiatives fail at an alarming rate – over 70%. This is due to most organizations failing to consider how those changes affect the people within.

Science has shown that there are two theories of thought on how the brain and body see change: one as threat or the other as challenge. Those who see change as a threat will have a fight or flight mentality; those who see it as a challenge have a growth mindset and see an opportunity to learn or do something new. Change isn’t simply about embracing something unknown, it’s about giving up something old (and therefore good) for something new (and therefore not good). Accelerate change and increase its likelihood of success by utilizing the knowledge of the Change Curve. With the Change Curve you can give individuals the help they need to move forward through the stages of change.

The four stages of the Change Curve are Denial, Resistance, Exploration and Commitment. This model was derived from the same way that people deal with grief and death, but really any major change can be very similar to a loss, as some parts of the old way are now gone.

Denial begins with the awareness that change is on the horizon but usually entails acting as if it isn’t. Denial is a defense against change that takes the form of ignoring or not responding to information that demands a change. It is an attempt to preserve the success and comfort of the past by ignoring signs that the past is about to end.

People in Denial Use Stalling Tactics:

• Avoid the topic of the change as much as possible

• Are waiting, not taking any initiative, and appear unconcerned

• Act as if nothing is happening

Resistance begins when people wake up from denial and experience how upset they really are. The change now becomes deeply disruptive and personally upsetting, overtaking the defenses of denial. One of the things that contributes to feelings of resistance is the experience of loss. During a change, people may feel a loss of status, power, security, influence, comfort, relationships, credibility, seniority, value, expertise, and meaningful work. Individuals cannot talk themselves out of their feelings nor can others (as much as they will try). Feelings of resistance are reasonable and realistic.

People in Resistance:

· Ask, “Why me?” and “What about me?”

· Show anger at the organization

· Doubt the wisdom of decisions

People move into exploration when they acknowledge their feelings and accept that change is necessary and important, even if they do not personally welcome it. At this point people are more than halfway through the transition. They are ready to think about what they can do, what is possible. Exploration signals a shift from seeing change as a threat to seeing it as an opportunity. Not every member of a team will enter exploration at the same time. Some will take longer and others will zigzag between resistance and exploration. People who are more firmly anchored in exploration should help those who are stuck in resistance. The leader or manager has to adopt a different role in helping people manage exploration. In resistance, little more than listening sympathetically was needed to help people move through their feelings. In exploration, leaders need to become facilitators, helping people focus their energy, deal with the many options and choices, and help employees move forward.

Commitment comes when people have learned new ways to go forward. They understand why they have gone through the change. They have accepted that the changed environment is now status quo, and it will not return to the way it was.

People in Commitment:

• Feel confident and in control

• Feel comfortable with the change

• Are up to speed on the technical side of the change

How do you prepare your field for lasting change and what are the questions to ask before embarking on any organizational change?

  1. Why is the change necessary?

  2. What is your roadmap for the change?

  3. What is your end goal?

  4. Who does it affect?

  5. How can you make it the new status quo and everyday life at your organization?

5 Dimensions of Leading Change

  1. Modeling change - you cannot expect your employees to change if you are not willing to change as well

  2. Communicating the change

  3. Involving others in change – you need “buy in”

  4. Helping others break from the past

  5. Creating a supportive learning environment

By focusing on the four phases of the Change Curve and five dimensions for leading change, you will be able to knock it out of the park…

Gabriel Castillo helps organizations overcome challenges and transform into energetic and thriving environments. A national speaker for the past 10 years, Gabriel's talent is combining education and entertainment to provide a memorable experience for his audience. He has spent the past 20 years coordinating logistics and marketing for educational programs, special events and sports leagues and has a wealth of knowledge to share.




The Change Curve is a fascinating concept - it's like a curveball in life that can catch us off guard if we're not prepared. Just when we think we've mastered the game, a new twist comes our way. But with the right mindset and support, we can navigate those changes, much like a batter learning to hit a wicked curveball. It's all about purity of approach and a willingness to adapt, similar to how the rice purity test gauges one's experiences and adaptability. The key is staying flexible and not getting stuck in denial or resistance. Embracing the exploration and commitment stages is where the real growth happens.

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