The change curve in action

Arash Arabi, M.Sc. IT, CSM, Solutions Architect, Butterfly


Change curve or transition curve is a well known model for describing how employees react to organisational change.

A few years ago I introduced stand-up meetings to a development team. It was interesting to see that even a small change caused team members to go through the transition curve.

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Stage 1

Team members were in denial. There were talks of “this is not going to work for us”, “this will not last long”, and “This is a waste of time and management is going to cancel this”.

Stage 2

Within a few weeks, team members realised that stand-ups were here to stay. Many were showing signs of frustration with the stand-ups and developers were openly stating that they didn’t want to be interrupted and don’t see a need in the stand-ups.

There was also active resistance as no one was willingly attending our Kanban area during stand-ups. Every day, team members needed a reminder to attend the stand-ups, which included going out of my way to grab everyone from their desks.

At stand-up, everyone would run through their parts in 10 seconds. It seems that this was becoming more of a ‘tick in the box’ exercise, as they were keen to return to their desks. The whole stand-up took no more than a minute to complete.

During this time I tried focusing on the positives and spoke about the benefits of stand-ups and how they are neither a waste of time nor an interruption. At the meetings I would encourage everyone to participate more and talk about their challenges. Furthermore, to strengthen its importance as a normal exercise, I would call for stand-ups religiously at the exact same time every day.

Stage 3

Gradually, the benefits of the stand-up meetings started to sink in – Team members started to see how problems were identified earlier and how the team was now a lot more focused on their goals.

Active resistance was slowly replaced by curiosity. Developers started talking about their work and impediments. Realising how effective the stand-ups can be, a new energy started to permeate in the team. Signs of enthusiasm, hope and acceptance were present – everyone was now eager to be involved and participation was no longer forced. There was a sense of unity and passion to be involved – reminders were no longer needed.

Stage 4

The daily stand-ups then became the new norm – enthusiasm and commitment; the status quo is evolving, where team members were expecting to have the daily stand-up meetings.

This experience has shown me that even the most trivial organisational change can have unpredictable consequences. The transition curve identifies the changes which were experienced through this exercise, therefore allowing for better preparation when introducing change.

The best way to prepare is to think about the impact that the change will have on the team and to put yourself in their shoes. The bigger the impact of the change, the more intense and emotional the transition will be.

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