The Change Curve: A Tool for Understanding Your Teams Through Organisation Transformation

In this article we cover the change curve and the emotional experiences your teams may go through during times of organisational flux and innovation.

If we look at the pandemic, and what’s happened in our external environment, many organisations have still continued to push on with internal change and operational change programs. But, what could this mean for our team’s emotional state?


It’s really important to note that it’s not just leaders who should understand the change curve concept. We all need to know how we’re experiencing it. We need to be able to notice how people around us are experiencing changes. 

The Change Curve is Not Linear

It’s also key to notice that in this change curve illustration, you don’t necessarily experience; step one, step two, step three, in a linear fashion. You can go to step two and get stuck for a while. Or, you can go to step two and then go back to step one. You could even potentially accelerate through one stage and not even notice that you were even there.

It’s a personal experience and it depends on a number of things, resilience being one of those key factors. 

Resilience - What Is It?

Resilience is the “ability to bounce back from adversity or change”. People who have more resilience are going to be the ones that come out of anger, or the stage two-phase, much more quickly. This will be amplified if they feel like they have their resilience externally supported. 

If you’re a leader of teams, notice on this change curve, if anybody might be stuck somewhere on it and what could you do to help support them move forward, which we’ll go through in this article.  

How To Move Your Organisation Through The Change Curve?

It’s very much about listening and acceptance. If somebody is stuck, there’s nothing worse than saying to them: ¨Come on! We’ve just got to get on with it!¨- and trying to push them or force them through this change curve. There’s a lot of value in accepting where people are at and just having them be heard and having them feel supported. 

Strategies to Support Your Teams

  1. Introduce the concept of this change curve and change, creating an emotional response.
    The more we talk about it, the more visible it will become so it can be handled efficiently. Quite often in the corporate space, people don’t want to talk about how they’re feeling when it comes to change, they just want to get on with it. They want to be task-oriented, but this is about emotional intelligence and how we can deal with the emotions of change.


  1. Treat change and people’s response to change as key risks to your organisation.
    This is especially important if you’re going through a change program. Behaviour is a risk to change and this is one of the things that leaders often overlook. They look at the more tangible measurement of change, they don’t look at the intangible, which is the behaviour and the decision-making that comes from the individuals executing or implementing the change.


  1. Encourage people to talk about how they are feeling about change and what the change means to them.
    Don’t forget, as we said before, on this change curve, it’s a personal experience and journey. So, what it means to them is crucial and critical:
  • Don’t make any assumptions
  • Try not to bring your own judgement to the situation
  • Ask open questions and allow people to really talk about what’s going on for them
  • Acknowledge that their feelings are valid, once they’ve shared them


Too often we aren’t listening enough or acknowledging enough of how people feel about change and this can cause the majority of change resistance. 

¨How can we get anything done if we were spending time talking about feelings?¨ This is a real common problem that people have and one that we see time and time again when our coaches are working with large organisations. They say: ¨we haven’t got time to have these conversations, we haven’t got time to listen to how people are feeling about things¨. 

However, acknowledging that change is uncomfortable through discussion is exactly how we help organisations and leaders to push through these issues and this resistance and get back to what needs to be done within the business in a more effective way. 

People tend to move through discomfort much faster when they feel heard. When the feelings aren’t acknowledged, people turn on change. Or they turn on each other. They don’t cooperate or they either overtly or passively try and avoid the change. This takes up time. It puts the change success at risk and it can cause cultural issues within the entire organisation.

To learn more about how we can take your organisation on the Emotional Intelligence Evolution please get in contact via

Zoe Williams, founder & CEO –

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The Change Curve is widely used in business and change management, and there are many variations and adaptations. It’s often attributed to psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, resulting from her work on personal transition in grief and bereavement.