The Three Phases of Change Management

3 phases of change management

By Mark Samuel, First Published on Forbes

Creating any type of big change in an organization takes thoughtfulness, commitment, accountability and patience — though not as much as you might think! It’s often assumed that change takes immense amounts of time, but it doesn’t have to.

Knowing the three phases of change management can be immensely helpful for saving time and preventing unnecessary breakdown. 

Phase One: Action

Believe it or not, it actually takes the most time just to get to this first phase. This is the phase that everyone is afraid of because to take action means to be held accountable for results. Before we take action, we can live in the care-free (and not very useful) world of planning, thinking, guessing and imagining.

There’s a reason I don’t include planning in the phases of change management. While some level of planning is necessary during a change effort, most leaders spend far too much time here. It’s only once you’ve taken action that you’ve really started. 

Phase Two: Movement

The second phase of change management — movement — is a whole lot easier than the first phase. By this time, everyone has given up the idea of going back to the old way and people are more focused on problem-solving and moving the change effort forward. It usually takes an organization 3-6 months to get into the rhythm and flow of the movement phase.

It’s in the movement phase that kinks in execution are ironed out, people are beginning to get used to their new habits, everyone is learning and adjusting for better results and the change effort is well underway. This phase still takes focus and attention and the natural frustration that comes with a learning curve will likely still be present at times, but overall, the gears are turning and the machine is moving.

Phase Three: Momentum

The momentum phase of change management is where it gets really fun. This is when the change takes on a life of its own. In this phase, it’s not just the efforts of the workers who are making the change happen; the change has its own momentum that carries itself forward. The new habits have become ingrained, the actions that used to be difficult become second nature, and the change effort becomes the new culture of the organization.

Once the change is in place and momentum has taken over, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to go back to the old way of doing things. Getting to this phase can take anywhere from nine months to two years and requires consistent action through the first two phases to get there.

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