Another dot in the blogosphere?

Hyped up change

Posted on: November 2, 2018

I thought of tweeting a response to this tweet. But I realised that a short form reply might send the wrong tone and not provide enough fuel for thought.

For the record, I wanted to caution against taking that particular adaptation of a Kübler-Ross curve seriously.

First, how valid is applying the original concept for stages of dealing with grief to organisational or systemic change? Just what, if any, transfers from the stages of grief as a result of the personal loss of a loved one to a complex system of seemingly disconnected parts?

Next, the curve is an over simplistic representation of how change works. The graphic illustrates assured directionality (left to right), and clear and fixed phases. Change is not that straightforward or guaranteed.

It is also one thing to describe possible patterns in various forms of change, it is another to prescribe the graphic as a model. I cannot imagine any well-read change leader taking all the graphic seriously.

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This reminds me of another oft-cited visual: The Gartner hype cycle for technology adoption.

Critics of the Gardner cycle point out that it is not actually a cycle (duh!). However, it has better utility than the adapted Kübler-Ross curve — one can slide forward or backwards on the Gartner curve.

For example, a technology like Second Life was in the trough of disillusionment, headed for higher ground, and then firmly slid back.

Both representations of change do not seem to have been rigorously tested. Both are devoid of contexts where other factors might dictate the rate and processes of change.

One example of a non-represented factor is change in leadership, and along with it the changes in policy. The actions that follow can seem quick and drastic.

My takeaway is a reminder to be skeptical within reason. Visuals can captivate, but they can also misrepresent. It is tempting to simplify; it is more important to embrace nuance.

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