Major Phases of Change

There are 5 basic phases for navigating through significant change. The beginning of each subsequent phase overlaps the end of the previous phase. The five phases are as follows:

Situation We See – The impetus for change generally comes from a recognition that if we keep doing what we are doing, we will either guide our way into a worse situation or we will miss a significant opportunity. During this first phase, there is a need to identify and articulate a looming crisis or compelling opportunity and communicate this to those who will ultimately lead the change, to those who will coach/guide the change, and to those who will be impacted by the change. When this step is effectively implemented, there will be a recognition that a significant change is needed – and must be accomplished. However, the actual change that will be implemented will still be fuzzy, which is as it should be since that part of the change effort has not yet been initiated. The more effectively this stage is accomplished, the more willing people will be to engage in the rest of the change process – and the less resistance they will have for letting go of the current way of doing things.

Ideas We Build On – For truly rapid change, we must go through a brainstorming phase where ideas are offered and built upon. It is important that ideas be welcomed from numerous sources – especially by those who will be “on the ground” implementing the change and those who will be operating the new processes, once complete. It is important for the leaders of this change to offer ideas without being attached to them. It is also important for those responding to ideas to either build on the ideas by offering suggestions for improvement or by asking exploratory questions which invite further discussion. This stage ends when there appears to be a general consensus on a single promising approach.

Decisions We Craft – At the beginning of this phase, a decision for further developing a particular approach is formally agreed to. When done well, the decision outlined by the leader will articulate the approach that will ultimately be implemented, the overarching parameters for success, and most importantly, the areas of concern which must be addressed in order to move onto the next phase. During this phase, the work is focused on identifying and articulating the end state – i.e. the processes, systems, and structures which will be in place after the implementation phase is complete. It is not about developing the implementation plan – which will come during the next phase. As you might expect, this phase has significant overlap with the next phase.

Plans We Develop – This is the phase where detailed implementation plans are developed. As with any significant change effort, these plans not only include the actual building of the new processes, but also plans for staged communication, celebration of milestones, training for those effected by the change, organizational changes, modifications of key measures and tracking, adjustments to policies and procedures, and mechanisms for rapid response when the inevitable surprises occur during the implementation. It is crucial to listen to all constructive ideas during this phase as there will be ample opportunities for streamlining processes, implementing many processes in parallel, and staging the implementation.

Implementation We Support – The biggest challenge during this phase is for stakeholders to maintain focus, support and encouragement. It is too easy to assume all will go well with the implementation and then focus attention elsewhere. Because people issues often arise at this time, it is important to monitor teamwork and use the inevitable snags as opportunities to uncover and address underlying issues. For those most affected by the new processes, support will be needed to help in adjusting to their new responsibilities, even if temporarily.

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