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Managing Change in Organizations.

If change was an acronym, what would it be?

C.H.A.N.G.E.: Constant Havoc Amidst Nervous Grumbling Employees


C.H.A.N.G.E.: Challenging, Hostile, And No-Good Edicts (from management)


C.H.A.N.G.E.: Corrosive Headaches Arriving and Not Going (away) Effectively

We might laugh because these are amusing and we might laugh (wince?) because they touch a nerve. Even organizations and employees who claim to thrive on change reach their limits and, as a rule, we all struggle with the pace of rapid change.

An organization was faced with several changes occurring simultaneously: a change in leadership, a change in policy and practice, and a change in the manner peer teams work together. That final change was causing internal conflicts, office behavior issues, and other related challenges. The employees were struggling to stay focused and be productive. Many organizations find that employees shift their focus to the change and the challenges that come with change, and then find it difficult to return to work as usual.

I think we can all agree that organizational change happens, if not routinely, then certainly regularly. That being the case, how can you help your own organization and teams on which you are a member manage change emotionally and work through it in order to get to heightened productivity as soon as possible?

One strategy is to use a version of the Tuckman Model to encourage your employees to work through their challenges with whatever change is occurring. Information on the Tuckman Model is widely available should you want to know more but, in essence, Tuckman outlined four critical stages, or phases, of change as follows.

In the first stage of change, Forming, the team (and individuals) learn about their opportunities and challenges and begin to tackle the change head-on. Team members tend to behave quite independently. They may be motivated for the common good and are usually on their best behavior, but are typically very focused on themselves. At this stage, you may begin to see how individual team members respond to change in general and to specific pressure points.

In the second stage, Storming, the group hits the proverbial “wall.” The individuals react in a variety of different ways to the change and emotions run high. Different solutions compete for consideration. The group may feel chaotic or dysfunctional in this phase. In some cases storming can be resolved quickly. In others, the team members begin acting out or focusing on minutiae to evade real issues. Here’s the secret though: the storming stage is critical to the growth of the team. It can be contentious, unpleasant and even painful to members of the team who are averse to conflict. But every team – for every organizational change – will go through a storming phase before progressing and getting to the last two phases.

In the Norming phase, teams begin to work together naturally. Productivity begins to increase and team members agree to rules, professional behaviors, and working tools. Trust goes up and individual and collective motivation increases.

After time, teams should reach the Performing stage. High-performing teams are able to function as a unit as they find ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for much external supervision. Team members have become interdependent.

If your organization is in the throes of change, consider this application of the Tuckman model to allow your team the space and the time to identify in which of the four phases they find themselves, and to define what the characteristics of each phase look like. One organization we worked with brainstormed what the four phases looked like for their organization, and came up with this list:


Feeling anxiety, relief, curiosity

Asking “who am I?”


Re-proving yourself


Become aware of contrasting emotions

Different opinions/ways of doing things

Confusion and inconsistency

Silence and anger


Increased work load


New agreements about how to work

Resignation: time to move forward

Clear expectations

Acceptance of change

Finding your role/place


Change is accepted/embraced

Well-oiled machine, synergy

Purposefully reaching out to others

Open communication and collaboration


This activity based on the Tuckman Model allowed the organization to openly discuss how each team member felt, raise awareness, progress through the four stages, and achieve improved performance. Try this for your team and let us know if you have any questions or how it worked for you.