The Three Stages of Transformation

by Jeffrey S. Deckman 23. May 2012 11:40

Understanding How People Change

The 3 Stages to Transformation

 The mere thought of “Change” causes many people more fear than almost anything I can think of, except perhaps death, public speaking and someone from the government showing up with an offer to help. But, I submit that the reason people fear change is because they see it as a destination as opposed to what it really is. Change is simply the first step in an evolutionary process, which in time, becomes the new normal.

 This month’s article is going to provide a unique perspective and some new paradigms on this subject. It will identify the 3 specific stages that people and/or organizations must always go through as they transform themselves to adapt to the newly emerging conditions and situations unfolding around them.

 Understanding these dynamics of transformation has helped me greatly when working to help people and organizations re-design, reboot and transform any aspects of themselves, including myself. Hopefully they will help you too.

 Paradigm Shift:

I will start out by arguing against the myth that people fear change. Believing that people naturally fear change is not only a limiting presumption but it is simply not true.  And I can prove it.

 If you decided to buy a new car today would the thought of changing your old car for a new car scare you? I think not. What if you just got that promotion you were working so hard to get? Would that strike terror in you? Or, how about hearing that your salary is being “forcibly changed” upwards by 25%! Would you hide in bed the next day? Obviously not. Unless you were nursing a celebratory hang over!

 The point is that we don’t fear change. What we fear is that which we think may result in a decrease in stability or security.. So, FDR was right. What we fear, in actuality, is FEAR itself. The reasons for fear are many but the truth is evolution hardwired for fear as a survival mechanism. Thanks goes to the Amygdala.

At the core of all of this is the fact that we fear anything which we don’t understand that we perceive may threaten us.

 So it stands to reason the more we understand the “Change process” the less we will fear it. So let’s get to it.


The 3 Stages that lead from “Change to Changed”

The 3 stages of this evolution are Change, Transition and Transformation.


This first step can be defined both as a situational phenomenon that may sometimes be temporary as well as what the person feels hey are being called upon to do; for instance, when a situation changes people are then called upon to change.

 Situational change refers to any number of “newness” elements ranging from a departmental shift to the appointment of a new boss. Changing events are seen as external to us and are reflective of a shift in our environment.  Yet changes in people are always internal first and they challenge us to shift our consciousness if we are to adapt.

 Change is the end result of an event or an intervention. People’s typical initial response to change is reactive, sporadic and unpredictable. It is a time of uncertainty of conditions and a period of unpredictability in people.


This next step refers to people’s evolving response to Change. It refers to the psychological adaptation and early acceptance to a changed environment. This process pertains to the shifting “hearts and minds of employees. It is in this mental state of Transition where employees are deciding to “let go” of old ways and begin embracing a new way.

 Since this process occurs on an individual level (implicitly also at each individual’s pace), it is arguably the single most unpredictable element in the management of change to transformation. It is at this critical point where people either “snap back to grid” and retain their original mindset or they begin to adapt to the existing conditions and evolve into the new environment. So care must be taken as you seek to assist them through this stage as it is in this area where it is determined who moves forward and who falls back.


This point marks the final stage in the Change process. Transformation is when acceptance, adaptation, assimilation and a settled adjustment occurs within the people as well as in the organization. This is when the mindset of the people is in alignment with the new conditions existing around the organization. The people and the organization have evolved to adapt to the same set of conditions and are once again working in synergy to move forward.

 What was once considered Change is now considered the “norm”.

 Then things settle down once again…..until the next round. And the system repeats itself.


The thing to remember about the 3 Stages of Change is that in the first phase you and your employees feel disoriented and perhaps fearful. The antidote to which is communication.

 Talk about what is happening and why. Explain in detail and ask them questions to help you to understand if they understand the 4 W's - What is happening? Why is it happening? Who is afffected? When is it happening?

The more clarity they have the less calamity you will face. And once you understand the 3 stages of that lead to transformation you will be in a great position to shepard the group through the process proactively and productively.

 This is because healthy and honest communication leads to trust and trust is the single largest factor in determining how much or how little fear is created.

So a change event, when done properly, is actually a communication and trust building experience. And when you have a team that is able to communicate, maintains a high degree of trust and is able to face change with confidence instead of reticence you have created an organization that is highly efficient and resilient.

And that is a powerful corporate asset to posses!

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