Your Change Journey – It’s Personal 

 May 16, 2016

By  Steve Nunn

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Your Change Journey

“Change happens”
“The one thing constant in life is change”

Both are more than neat quotes: they are facts. I read a blog entry by Sean Tibor at Red Reef Digital entitled Is Your Marketing Culture Holding You Back?  He talked about the failure rate of business transformation projects, but also the rewards to a business if you succeed in that transformation.

Transformations don’t fail in the same way every time: transformations are journeys, and like all epic journeys (think of Lord of the Rings) you can encounter problems anywhere, unexpected or expected. Sean pointed out that the failure rate of transformations is 70%. Failure occurs along your personal Change Journey, as different things will catch different people at different times.

When something happens to people how does it affect them?

Kübler-Ross Change Curve

This graph (known as the Kübler-Ross Change Curve) applies to any change. Let’s will take a simple example:

Say you just got a new mobile phone. It takes you a while to work out how to use the phone, and if all goes well your life is easier (more productive) than it was before you got the phone. Here’s what could happen to you on your Change Journey.


Immediate effect of the change

  • You get the phone, and don’t know how to use the features
  • You can’t work out how to listen to a voicemail or install apps

As a result, your productivity drops lower than it was with the old phone. However you work out how to overcome this initial reaction and recover a little.


You enter the Frustration Phase. You know there’s a better way to do things, but struggle while you continue to work with an old mindset

  • You don’t get your phone set up correctly, and struggle to use the new phone in the old way

While you’re in the Frustration Phase you don’t commit to the change, and you become less and less productive.

  • You start to learn how to use speed dial, but keep forgetting how to assign it
  • You spend a lot of time re-learning how to assign a speed dial


You accept that things can’t go on any more this way and decide to bite the bullet. You’re now about to go through the Learning Phase.


You’re still in the Learning Phase and you start to understand the new paradigm. You have setbacks, but overall make progress, sometimes steady and other times it will be a series of breakthroughs.

  • You start to learn how to use the phone, taking advantage of some of the features that are new to you

As you make progress you start to feel more positive about the new situation.


Near the end of your Change Journey you become recognized as having accepted the changes, and they start to work for you.

  • You use many of the phones functions, and your life is made easier with it
  • There are still more things to learn and set up, but already you are good at using the phone

Once you’ve reached Integration there continue to be opportunities to learn, but the improvements are smaller.

Reason for Transformation Failure

As I said earlier, the Kübler-Ross Change Curve can apply to anything:

  • Getting a new phone
  • The death of a friend or family member
  • Being acquired
  • Being part of a business transformation

Each part of the Change Journey has its own problems to overcome. You can fail or chose not to try to overcome these, which is the reason for the high failure rate of transformation projects. What may not be an issue during one phase may be an issue in another phase. People can get stuck anywhere along the graph.

​How many people do you know that use a phone really badly and have no wish to use it any better?



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