Virginia Satir, an American psychologist, or the “Mother of Family Therapy” as she is widely referred to, developed a model to describe the different phases in change process families go through during therapy.
Although the Satir’s Change Curve Model was initially developed for families, it is equally relevant for bigger systems such as organisations. The essence of the Satir Model is that systems going through changes will inevitably go through 5 distinct stages. If you have a close look at the change curve (see above), you can see that the change described in the model is positive overall: the performance of the system eventually improves compared to the initial stage – the level new status quo is higher than late status quo.
This is a general phenomenon: changing the system for the better involves having to go through a rough period. Often the “foreign element” comes in the form of a new colleague, or perhaps new management, who bring with them new ways of thinking. It must be accepted that resistance to change doesn’t necessarily come from lack of understanding. Questioning the authority of the instigator, the person trying to introduce the “foreign element” (“He is a nice guy, but he has no idea about the business. If you are a manager trying to facilitate the change process, it is important to remember at all times that the root cause of resistance is typically the fear of the unknown. If you manage to address the underlying feelings by helping your colleagues to open up and talk honestly about their worries, hopes and confusion, chances are that common ground will unfold naturally instead an endless bitter argument.
Have a very clear vision and communicate it early – start it well before the chaos phase reaches its peak. In 1958, Ron Lippitt, with his colleagues Jeanne Watson and Bruce Westley, wrote a book called The Dynamics of Planned Change. After Lippitt, a few other consultants (Havelock - Ed Psyc; Reddin - MBO) riffed of of Lewin's work, but nothing that stuck. The power of McKinsey was that they practiced social science according to professional discipline rather than an academic discipline. Making the implementation of change successful and getting the buy in and commitment of your people can be a real challenge so it is important that the change management process is rigorously thought through and planned, and more importantly implemented effectively. It is this rigorous approach to change management and our experience that spans almost 50 years that accounts for our high success rate in the field of change and organisational development.
Input=commitment is a principle of employee engagement, so the more the workforce can contribute to the proposed change the better. What gets measured gets done, so it is important to set very clear measures for success and also milestones so that progress can be monitored against plan. Communication is something all organisations talk about and most employees on organisations will tell you it is a problem.
Don’t expect people to change if they don’t have the right skills to do the job or to operate in a certain way.
Coverdale can provide a wide range of tailor made organisational development services to meet the specific needs of your organisation. Whether the change is large or small, the ability to manage it is a critical component of high performance.
With every initiative comes the immediate need to continuously communicate status, challenge and progress to all the stakeholders involved.
Rather it is something almost everybody has said, or could have said at some point during an organisational change process, irrespective of what kind of change we are talking about.

Each of these stages is characterised by different behaviours and very different levels of productivity.
However, before this improvement there is a drastic drop, the Chaos phase – a period with significantly decreased performance.
The foreign element can be an event, an occurrence that doesn’t fit in to the existing paradigm, and therefore it makes people start thinking about change. Often it is not a rational answer to the change initiative but a very natural instinctive reaction to change. If things look worse than before, how can you convince anybody, including yourself that it will be worth it in the end? Make sure that employees know and understand why change is necessary and what positive results they can expect in the end. The chaos phase will be considerably shorter if the employees concerned have a network of colleagues they can turn to with their questions and doubts.
It usually takes a so called “transforming idea”, a point when people involved in the change process discover that the transition has considerable benefits. This is definitely and advantage.” When you hear more and more remarks like these, the organisation must be on the right track. However, no matter how much the management team talk about the future benefits of the new system, people have to discover the advantages for themselves to see the light at the end of the tunnel. As they keep practicing, gain more experience with the new system, chaos gives way to integration and the level of performance starts increasing. In every organisation there are colleagues who embrace the new ways more quickly, people who will discover the advantages of the given change earlier than others. The organisation has gone through a lot of hardship before reaching this final stage, so people involved must be acknowledged and praised.
After all, what makes an organisation successful in the long run is not a successful transition, but the ability to go through the change cycle again and again. We have built the reputation and experience to enable sustainable improvements in organisational capability, change management and organisational development.
It is also true that the earlier they are engaged the more likely they are to be committed – although this is not always possible. Measures will normally involve improvement in business results (otherwise why do it) but they should also include some form of measure of behaviour change. Without clear, consistent and constant communication, there will be a vacuum that will be filled quickly – by rumour, speculation and conjecture – none of it good.
There is a need for appropriate technical training and in most cases behavioural and cultural training too.
The top team is leading the change, there is a clear vision, plans and measures in place, everyone is engaged and knows what is going on, specialist training courses have been rolled out across the organisation, and yet…everything stalls. We can help at both the development and the implementation stages ensuring clarity and then delivery of change which is sustainable because the leadership is committed and the workforce is fully engaged and has the capability and confidence to be able to ensure success.
Whether it is a change of organisational structure, the introduction of the new SAP or a big cultural change project, the phenomenon of “nobody knows what they are doing” is always there at some point.
These stages are referred to as Late Status Quo, Resistance, Chaos, Integration, and New Status Quo.
It is not necessarily the best way, but it is something we know, and therefore we are relatively comfortable with it.

Yet managers often take it very personally when the organisation reacts to their change initiatives with resistance.
Rationally, we might know that change is necessary if we want to stay healthy, but we still find ourselves throwing the rational argument aside and eat that piece of chocolate, just like we have done in the past. Plan additional resources, make extra time for practice, prepare for training – whatever it takes to make the chaos stage as short as possible.
An environment in which people can admit to difficulties and ask questions instead pretending that they know it all. If you identify the most influential ones of them and make their voices heard, you will find that the transforming idea spreads in the organisation and the process of integration accelerates. This is a relatively stable state again, with the additional bonus of the performance being higher than in the late status quo. This is a terrifying figure and many CEOs and OD practitioners have asked us what they should do to give them the best possible chance of success. Secondly they must then develop a clear vision of what they want to achieve and be able to create a compelling case for it that they are all committed to. Input can be in many forms, for example, steering groups, working parties, regular consultation sessions. Too often there is an expectation that people can start doing something differently when they have being doing it one way for decades. Instead, prepare your men for it, be present and in charge during the storm and praise the team afterwards. Change normally involves people changing (although this is often overlooked), either in the way they work or in the way they behave.
There is a need for a clear communication strategy that takes account of purpose and all stakeholders – their needs, their aspirations and fears.
When people return to work from courses they are fired up and determined to implement what they have learned.
We have identified 6 areas that are critical to success and therefore should be monitored and managed really closely. But when the pressure is on, or when the customer is demanding, or your manager is pushing for results, the numbers are down… what happens?
It is much easier to show lack of commitment by failing to set the right model, by the way!
You head for your comfort zone, do what you know works, do things the way you have always done them, behave the way that got you where you are. These can all have the kind of eye-opening effect which results in some members of the organisation questioning the status quo and thus triggering change.
This support can come from their managers (they will need help so they know how to do this), from change champions, from coaches or mentors or form their peers.

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