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Do you understand the lessons of these two curves?

Effective change managers do.

The two curves, The Learning Curve and the Kubler-Ross curve are in effect during every change effort.

The Learning Curve (named after the exercise that creates it) demonstrates that when you ask people to learn a new process, even if all the new process steps are known and familiar, performance will get worse before it gets better. Managers who fail to appreciate the Learning Curve will be tempted to abandon a change effort too soon. The old saying, “Things get worse before they get better,” is demonstrated in this curve.


When should a change manager evaluate the effects of a change? The Learning Curve suggests that the time to make that evaluation is when all the special cause variation has been eliminated and only common cause variation is present in the new process.

The second curve, the Kubler-Ross curve, is useful because of its descriptions of how we cope with change or significant loss. The model was originally designed to postulate a progression of emotional states experienced by terminally ill patients after diagnosis. The five stages are chronologically: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. 


Nearly all change, in initial stages, is viewed from the perspective of, “What am I going to lose?” When that happens, resistance to change should be responded to as natural and expected. What effective change managers do is allow people to have their reactions to the changes they are experiencing. While there may be a few who get “stuck” in the early stages of processing their losses, most people are able to work through all the stages. They stop resisting and even become advocates for new approaches.

The two curves help us see that quickly abandoning new changes or eliminating resistant employees are probably ill-informed and ineffective strategies. 


Tina M