Change is a scary place to be!, especially when it is just thrust upon us.  We may feel at the mercy of other people’s whims and that we are just re-acting to other people “pulling our strings”.

However, my experience of dealing with change suggests that if we feel we have some form of control over the change (and are involved in the process) we are more acceptable of it and will contribute more effectively to make the change work than if it is just forced upon us.

So before we start deploying our change programme, and as part of the preparation of our change plan, we need to identify just where our people are with respect to their anticipation of the change.


Usually we approach any new situation based on our past experience of being involved in a change (for better or worse) and ask ourselves the following questions:-

  • Is this similar to any of my past experience (i.e. have I been here before) or not


  • Do I think I’m going to end up being better or worse off

Change experience diagram

Then simply place all your people where you think they are on the grid (either individually, in teams or in generic groups).


Then, again as part of your change plan preparation, and using stakeholder mapping plot your key players and use the resultant map to start planning how (and where) you can engage with them in an effective way to drive your change forward.


The meaning I’ve applied to each of the four quadrants is:-


Threat zone – this is the really scary place to be!  I’m in unfamiliar territory and not only do I not know what to do, I don’t think I’ll cope well.


People in this area will tend to resist the change or stick their head in the sand and ignore it.


Fear zone – I’ve been here before and things didn’t turn out too well for me last time – so why should this be any different?  I’m going to end up shafted again!


In many ways this is the zone where we’re trapped into making the same, inappropriate and unsuccessful responses to situation.  People do not respond well, they may just go through the motions, be disengaged and already looking for a new job.


Comfort zone – here I’m of the opinion that I’ve already “been there, done that” and it worked well for me then so why should this be any different.  I know what I have to do to come out of it OK!


People here tend to take some ownership, control and know how to deal with the situation in a way that will give us the best possible outcome (or at least one that we know will make us look reasonably good).  These people become your second level change agents who will drive the change forwards and be champions.  Just beware if things don’t turn out in a way they expected, or they become disillusioned they can also become your biggest threat and enemy!


Anxiety zone – here I tend to think that whilst I’ve been here before this time I think I may have a new way of adapting to the situation to make it work in my favour (although I don’t quite know what the outcome will be, I’m willing to give it a go!)


People here, whilst a bit nervous and apprehensive tend to go along with the change, are prepared to try something new but also to wait and see how it will play out before fully committing.