All projects involve change but some changes are bigger than others. If changes affect people dramatically such as making them redundant, these changes have to be handled sensitively. To understand how best to do this, some lessons have been drawn from the most dramatic change for any of us; death.
Back in 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross studied how people coped with being told they were terminally ill. Since then, her work which has been developed further to cover how people cope with change in general. The work shows that people go through a seven step process of change where they let go of the past and adjust to the future.
- Shock after being told about the change for the first time.
- Denial or refusing to accept the change is happening.
- If this is a change happening at work, this may be directed at management.
- Self-blame. People question if they could have ‘prevented’ the change.
- Depression as people let go of the old world.
- Acceptance as people prepare for the new world.
- Problem solving and developing the tools needed to live in the new world.
But what does this mean for Change Management and helping people through change?
- Firstly, accept you will never remove people from going through this 7-step process but you can minimise the impact.
- Lessen the shock that people go through by, if possible, getting them involved in the planning of the change.
- Accept that people may be angry with the changes. Don’t take the anger personally, listen and empathise as people need to know they have been listened to. Above all, don’t trivialise their problems or make false promises of support.
- Recognise that this people progress through this 7-step process at their own pace.
IT projects are notorious for focussing on the technology and treating people as an afterthought. I’m proud of the fact that as an IT Project Manager, my projects are the exception. If you want to know more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org