Change Curve Debunked?

Today I read an interesting post by Rob Robson on the change curve at his blog ( .

This sparked some thoughts which I share below.

Change Curve debunked… really?

Rob asks is the Kubler Ross change curve an over simplification – yes of course… all models are over simplifications of reality – isn’t that what they were created for, to take a complex theory and enable the PRINCIPLES to be more easily understood?

He raises some interesting points that many authors do ignore that fact that many people welcome change. This is so very true, in OD and HRM we seem to assume the worst in people – when this is just not true. Sure people will reach different under change, and that is to be expected – our role is to ease that process – not offer therapy for change interaction!

We all need to remember that these are just models and not reality.

As a framework and common language they do have a value – indeed as he says

“By all means, keep the five-stage model in our armoury, but let’s not get carried away with it. Let’s not present it as an unequivocal truth. And let’s not let it get in the way of attempting to truly understand how people really experience change.”

As is said in the change management article there are 3 rules to leadership (or change):

  • Rule# 1 – people are different
  • Rule# 2 – people are different
  • Rule# 3 – people are different

And we need to treat each individual in the way that is appropriate for them.
Rob’s headline is to Debunk the
Change Curve … which one there are many? Rob focus’s is on the Kubler Ross curve – which as he points out was actually developed for use in a clinical environment, and users need to be aware of that.

Many practitioners will use a simplified model for use in a general business environment business environment.

What we do need to be careful of is people search the web (or a library), finding a model and using it without understanding what it is, where it come from or indeed its limitations.

All models have a place – the question we all need to ask is – is it here and now?



Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI, an organisational effectiveness consultancy. He has been involved in HR, OD and strategic development for over 20 years. He can be contacted via
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  1. I got a call from a potential client a couple of weeks ago. He wanted someone who could tell supervisors what resistance their employees would be experiencing so that they would be ready. In effect, he was asking for Kubler-Ross 101. My comment was that change doesn’t have to evoke resistance. People resist for good reason and focusing on the death and dying steps takes the leaders – and how they lead change — out of the equation. This lets them off the hook. The leaders can look at the poor huddled masses and say, “Well, they’re merely rationalizing. We can wait for them to get over it.” I find it so much more helpful to focus on the relationship between those who want to lead a change and those people they want to support it. This allows us to ask, why are people resisting (or supporting) the change? What are the things that contribute to those reactions? Is there are history of poorly run change? Do people trust or distrust the leaders. And the list goes on.

    I enjoyed your post. I look forward to reading more.

  2. Hi Rickmaur
    Thanks for stopping by.

    Much more in the pipeline.

    If you have a blog – send me the details & I will add an rss feed

  3. Herb Selesnick says:

    I agree with the observations that change doesn’t have to provoke resistance and focusing exclusively on psychological reactions to change is an incomplete change management strategy. Our practitioner experience on this side of the pond indicates that a combination of organizational and individual change management models is required for effective change to take place, and that most of the factors influencing the success of change efforts are related to the “soft” side of change rather than the so-called “hard” issues. “Soft” but critical factors that can compromise change projects include not only employee resistance to change but also lack of clear leadership and commitment, lack of required implementation skills, lack of sufficient employee involvement, unrealistic expectations and lack of effective communication and coordination. Thus there is a clear need to address the human side of change, but that side goes well beyond individual emotional responses to change.


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