Organisational Change Management Volume 2

1. Grief Cycle

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. Be aware of the Grief Cycle (expect and accept the signs of grieving) ie internal situation

i) denial or disbelief - (people deny that the loss has taken place, ie rude collision with harsh reality; "it will be over real soon"; apathy; numbness/fear)

ii) anger - especially if there is no warning, a lack of consultation or information (everything from grumbling to rage; often misdirected or undirected, such as "shoot the messenger of bad news"; this can lead to foot dragging, mistakes and even sabotage)

iii) bargaining - (unrealistic attempts to get out of the situation or to make it go away; questioning the reality and challenging the specific details so that it supports our view of the world; trying to strike a special deal; making big promises that they will "save you a bundle of money" or "double the output" if you'll undo the change)

iv) anxiety - (silent or expressed fear of an unknown and probably difficult future, or simply catastrophic fantasies)

v) sadness - (everything from silence to tears ‐ the heart of the grieving process)

vi) disorientation - (confusion and forgetfulness even by previously organised people; feeling of being lost and insecure)

vii) depression - (feeling of being down, flat, dead; in the pit of despair; feelings of hopelessness and being tired all the time)

viii) acceptance - (changes are accepted and people move forward to new possibilities; learning starts and action becomes possible)

. Not everyone feels all these emotions intensely or follows the above sequence but

"...(s)he that lacks time to mourn, lacks the time to mend..."

William Shakespeare as quoted by William Bridges, 1991

Graph of Grief Cycle

organisational development change management

(source: Heller 1998)

Some typical reactions during different parts of the grief cycle:


"...They cannot be serious..."

"...These will not/cannot last..."

"...This can't be happening..."


"...I refuse too..."

"...After all I've done for this organization/community..."

"...I'm going to the union..."

"...OK If you want it that way, I'll do it exactly to the letter. Then we will see who was right..."

"...How dare you..."


"...If I do.....can I be excused from..."

"...How about we..."

"...What if we..."

"...Do a deal..."


"...It's not worth the effort anymore..."

"...My world's collapsed..."

"...Things will never be the same..."


"...Things have changed..."

"...Let's make the most of it..."

"...Well if it is to be so..."

"...So be it..."


"...How can I get involved...?"

"...What can I do...?"

. "Because it matters" (personal results)

People care about business results but they really have a passion for the quality of their life. Direct personal benefits constitute an important source of reinforcing energy for sustaining change, ie it is inherently satisfying to work in a situation where people trust one another and feel aligned to a sense of common purpose. People seek joy in work, but with the "bottom-line focus" people often assume that personal needs are subservient to the business's needs. If the two needs can be aligned, change has more chance of success.

On the other hand, it is taken for granted in the traditional industrial-age model that employees are an input into the production process. This means that staff are regarded as employees first and people second. This has resulted in a lack of alignment between personal and organisational needs.

If alignment can be achieved, it has the following positive results

- committed people differ from compliant people in that the former have their own ideas and their own passions (this can be threatening for an authoritarian boss)

- as personal commitment increases, so must the ability to set boundaries and thus make healthy life choices

- sometimes personal results are often among the "undiscussables"

- there is a difference between passion and narcissism, ie recognising the importance of personal results does not mean obsessing about oneself.

. "Because my colleagues take it seriously" (networks of committed people)

Informal networks of staff interested in a common purpose, such as learning and quality initiatives, have played important roles in change management at organisations like Ford, Intel, Shell Oil, etc. Their presence has lent institutional legitimacy to projects at times when there was little direct executive support, and these networks provide a dynamic link for sharing and diffusing learning.

If in the informal network staff learn about new ideas from those whom they trust and who have no authority over them, they are not threatened and more likely to remain open-minded.

Informal networks should be allowed to flourish and be free of management control.

Organisations are a web of participation. Change the participation dynamics and you change the organisation

. "Because it works" (business results)

People will simply not invest themselves in initiatives which they don't see as leading to meaningful practical consequences, ie better business results. Again, the closer the alignment between participants' and organisational aspirations, the greater chance of success.

. Ideally "When the student is ready, the teacher appears"

Unfortunately, there are many forces at play in organisations that discourage people from asking for help, eg

- "macho" cultures as they foster an image that

"...I can do it myself..."

- asking for help is seen as a sign of incompetence and weakness as managers must create a perception that they have all the answers

- "don't know what they don't know", ie managers do not ask for help as they are unaware that they need it

- "no help amid an abundance of help", ie a great variety of help is available but it is not located where it is needed, eg help located in head office and not at the branches where needed

. As investments in change initiatives go up, more help is required which can cause a "help gap"

This help includes coaching, training, consultation, mentoring, and other forms of guidance for developing a change initiative

The question to ask yourself as a manager is

"...what can I give back to balance what's been taken away?..."

Some of the areas where loss may occur include

- status, turf, team membership or recognition

- loss of control over the future

- a feeling of competency being eroded

This principle of compensating for losses is vital for effective change management

. Managers need to find how to pull back from an automatic response, to listen differently and to hear not just the words someone is saying, but the message that the person is trying to tell you beneath the words.

. It is important to acknowledge and make allowances for these feelings as it will allow people to vent their feelings and provide an opportunity for honest discussions

In addition to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross grief cycle (shock, anger, denial, bargaining, acceptance, etc), John Bowlby (1961) talks of 4 phases, ie shock and numbness (1), yearning and searching (2), despair and disorganisation (3), and reorganisation and recovery (4) around grief and bereavement. When loss occurs, grief is a normal adaptive response


(sources: William Bridges, 1991; Robert Heller, 1988; Dennis Hall, 2006a; Kathleen Liebfied, 1996)


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