Using the Change Continuum to Your Advantage

Evan Sanchez - Monday, May 15, 2017

Perceptions are not always reality – but they are absolutely true for each individual.

One of the key components of successful change management is the ability to understand where each person sits on the Change Continuum and to spend your energy on those who will help make change happen – not on the professional naysayers.

The continuum gives you a range of expected attitudes and reactions to change. The groups are not equal in size or in influence. Starting from the left side and moving to the right, we have:

  • Initiators: 6% of your team is on-board and ready to make change happen
  • GOBIs (Get On Board Immediately): 7% of your team are people who trust the Initiators wholeheartedly.
  • See Success First: at 32%, this is a substantial group and they aren’t necessarily opposed to change, but they aren’t willing to alter their behaviors until they see proof that change is working. (The proof they need to see is the success of the GOBIs!)
  • Naysayers: 43% do not trust the original creators of the change and will not get on board with them.
  • ROADs (Retired On Active Duty): 12% are collecting a paycheck, but doing as little as possible to get by. They are low performance and low fulfillment. If change somehow allows them to do less and lowers expectations, they may embrace it. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.

What does the Change Continuum tell us about how to make change happen in an organization? If you are the change leader, focus your energy on the Initiators and GOBIs. These are people who are open to change and whose early success will be more convincing to others than anything you might say. The Initiators and GOBIs working together show how the change will benefit the group. They prove it through their actions and behaviors – building trust, support, hope, and positive reinforcement. They also catalyze a chain reaction of success.

Once they see the GOBIs succeeding, the See Success First folks are convinced the change is worth it and they are on-board. This is significant not only because their inclusion brings you closer to the half-way point in your organization’s embrace of change, but because they do the heavy lifting in making change happen on a broader scale.

The Naysayers may be skeptical of those who immediately embrace change, but they are heavily influenced by the See Success First group, which shares their initial hesitation. By winning over the See Success First group, you eventually win over the Naysayers, which brings you to 88% of your team embracing change. You have reached critical mass!

You’ll notice there’s one group we didn’t talk about – the ROADs. These folks like to blame, moan and complain. They enjoy commiserating together about the way things used to be or bemoaning what will be lost because you insist on change. In the long run, look for ways to manage these people out of your organization. If they continue to block change and do not align with company values and performance standards, it’s not a good fit for either of you.

The Change Continuum gives you a good framework for thinking about how to institute change in your organization. Identify your Initiators and GOBIs and invest your time, energy and resources in helping them succeed. Watch them convince others through their daily actions. You’re well on your way to sustainable success!

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