This week I moved house. It’s been the normal frantic, last minute packing of boxes. A well-known time of stress and angst. And as I was going through the whole cycle of buying, solicitors, packing and moving, it struck me that I was experiencing change in action. Isn’t that obvious, I hear you cry? Especially as I work for Curium, where we help clients manage change daily. But it reminded me that the situations we experience at work have so many parallels with our experiences at home, especially the fundamental human experience of change.
The change curve – the process of transition from one status quo to a new one – is a well-understood and well-used phenomenon in the world of change management. At Curium, to help simplify the understanding of this process we use the analogy of moving through different rooms within a house (aptly, given my story), to explain the different emotions experienced until change becomes accepted:
– room of denial
– room of resistance
– room of exploration
– room of commitment
We use this regularly with clients and, as the house-buying process rolled on, I started to realise that I was emotionally moving through these various rooms myself. Indeed, I experienced all of these stages on the actual day of the move – all over a wardrobe. Let me explain.
Even though it was just a wardrobe, it was a lovely big wardrobe with sliding doors that fitted most (but not all) of my clothes and shoes. I had known for many weeks that the place I was moving to had smaller rooms than my flat and that the wardrobe may not fit in the bedroom, let alone go up the stairs. [DENIAL]
The day of the move came and I had a sinking feeling that my fears were going to be confirmed: I looked at the staircase (small) and at the wardrobe (big), but, nevertheless, resolved not to give up. “I know”, I said to myself, “the removal men can flat pack it for me”. As I put this option to them, they exchange a look. One of them ventured: “Are you sure love? I think you have to rethink this”. But no I’m determined, there is a way forward and I am not getting rid of the wardrobe that easily. [RESISTANCE]
One hour later. The removal men are at the bottom of the stairs with a worried look on their faces. A large part of the wardrobe is wedged at the bottom of the stairwell. It’s now blindingly obvious that, for love nor money, the wardrobe will not go up the stairs. I am faced with a decision and bravely ask the removal men about my options. Having clearly discussed this already, they suggest they could sell the wardrobe for me and take it off my hands today, so I could then look at buying a smaller one. [EXPLORATION]
I eventually realise that a new wardrobe is an inevitability and accept this offer. I then look on as they do the deal with a second-hand furniture buyer and watch my beloved wardrobe get whisked away. [COMMITMENT]
OK, so it’s only a wardrobe (sob!). But the process I went through on the day was a microcosm of the emotions I witness our clients move through as they go through the cycle of change within their own businesses. It’s human nature to become attached to our current state of being, and the process of moving to a new state often involves grieving the loss of the old one. If I needed reminding, the experience has highlighted that the change cycle isn’t just a graph on a Powerpoint slide, it is a real emotional experience for every one of us as we face change in both our personal and work lives. This is what I think we do so well at Curium and work hard to achieve: making challenging corporate change personal and relevant at an individual level so that people are supported through the change cycle and emerge committed to the critical business changes that their company is making.