2021 - How can change management help us through uncertainty?

2021 - How can change management help us through uncertainty?

We all had different plans for last year until Covid-19 turned everything around and forced us to go through different emotions and challenges. Change is a constant in our lives and 2020 made it pretty clear to all that whatever you think is stable and firm, can go sideways.

9 February 2021

We often hear about change management and most of the time it is a broad concept. How can we easily understand it and apply it to our work environment or personal life? How can change management help us with our transitions?

A useful way is by understanding the change curve model, a powerful and simple tool. It was created in 1969 by the Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, originally to help people go through terminal illnesses and support in grief, but it was later adapted by other authors to manage organizational changes. Although there are many variations, the concept remains the same.

The change curve model describes the stages most people go through as they adjust to change. It helps predict how people will react and has a clear method to provide help and support in each stage, allowing the person to move forward. These stages are summarized in the following graph:

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Model: ekrfoundation.org

The stages are not linear, each one implies different feelings and observable behaviors, that can lead a person to go back and forth in the curve. The objective is not to avoid stages, it is to accelerate an individual or team's path with the right support. The best way to identify each stage is by recognizing emotions and behaviors involved in each one and applying the actions recommended.

As an example, let’ review the curve, using the roller coaster of emotions that we have lived with Covid -19. If we analyze the challenges we are facing, we can see that everybody is in their own transitions. Some people are still in shock and denial, many are frustrated, some feel depressed and negative, and others have discovered a new way of working and living where they are feeling comfortable and positive. How fast we go through the stages is personal for each one of us and it must be acknowledged as a natural process.

Some small actions that could individually help us reduce uncertainty are recognizing our strengths and values, exploring options, building self-awareness, planning our finances and reskilling. We must also remember there are opportunities within challenges.

In your role as a leader, there are some actions recommended in change management for each stage, for example:

  1. Shock and denial lead to uncertainty, which can be minimized with good communication
  2. Frustration can be overcome by listening to your team members
  3. Depression can be defeated by directing and leading
  4. Experiment and decision can be triggered by motivating
  5. Integration is reached by following up or coaching

One of the most valuable things you can do now as a leader is to spend some time reflecting on which stage or stages of the change curve you and your team are. Indeed, working virtually is a challenge to get a sense of this, but honest and sensitive communication will be the key to identify each stage and to support your team.

Will 2021 be different? Has the worst already passed? Will the vaccine bring us back to normal? There are still many unanswered questions and for sure we can expect more changes. However, I believe we became more resilient and are ready to embrace change differently. More than ever, we can implement change management tools like the change curve to our daily life to have better transitions. We do not know how it will all end up, but we can understand and take control of our emotions to move forward and manage change instead of the changes managing us.

Changes are inevitable and not always controllable. What can be controlled is how you manage, react to and work through the change process.” Kelly A Morgan


Catalina Gaviria

Catalina Gaviria

CONSULTANT | Financial Services | Insurance
Badenoch + Clark Luxembourg