One of the things others find surprising to me is how fast I adapt to change. When I hear the information about some change, even the hard ones, in a matter of minutes I deal with it and I start my creative thinking – searching for possible solutions, proposing some improvements or giving arguments why the change should not happen. This is not something I was born with. This is something I understood, trained and now have control over. Moreover, I think this is an important skill in tester weaponry.
We face change on daily basis – change in code, change in requirements, change in approach, change in priorities, change of data, change of team, and many more. We are very exposed to change especially in the agile environment when everything is adaptive for a customer and our needs. When something is adaptive it tends to change a lot. This is how I discovered the change curve.
The change curve was created by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969 to illustrate how people deal with terminal illness. Original curve is described with five stages of grief:
More about it You can find here. Nowadays this same model may be used for any crisis or big change we may go through. Of course, as many years passed more versions of this curve appeared. In one of change curve example we are presented with three transitional stages:
- Stage 1 – Shock and denial
- Stage 2 – Anger and depression
- Stage 3 – Acceptance and integration
While other sources provide us with four transitional stages and emotions connected:
- Stage 1 – Status Quo – Shock & Denial
- Stage 2 – Disruption – Anger & Fear
- Stage 3 – Exploration – Acceptance
- Stage 4 – Rebuilding – Commitment
However, they are consistent in their use and order of emotions connected with each stage. First stages are connected with bad feelings like shock, denial, anger, fear or depression. The breaking point is acceptance, that allows us to look into the future. This one little thing at the end allows us to make plans and get back to work.
I can think of many examples of going through change curve in my life – both professional and private. The first history that comes to my mind is the time when my team was too big to fit in one room and we were informed we need to change it and split into two rooms. At first, I thought this change will not happen – denial example. Later on, I focused at all the negative things that may come out of it – communication might go down, I might not have a good spot, I might not sit next to the person I like. We were all kind of angry and ready to fight, possible stopping this change. But we knew there is new person joining the team and there is no way we can fit into one room. So we started to accept this fact. And in fact one day we changed rooms and surprisingly – it wasn’t bad at all. It was even better since we were able to listen to music in the smaller group. We started to come up with creative ideas, that maybe we should rotate to split the knowledge?
The only thing is that each stage took us about 2 weeks. During first two weeks our professional performance and emotions were not that good. It was restored only in the last two weeks when we got back into the productive working environment.
The thing is that I see this as a problem. I do not like not being productive! So I decided to do something about it. Every time I faced change instead of dwelling on negative thoughts or thinking about the past I choose to move towards acceptance. Mastering this skill allows me to adapt very quickly and be creative in the matter of minutes after I was informed about the change of plans. Just like my Project Manager walker into the room to announce the project is closing. Before others got out of denial phase I was already asking what is comming next!
It seems that change curve theory is true. I can see myself and others struggling with emotions following after change. But if we are aware of this phenomena we can do something about it. So I have few points for You:
- Acceptance is a breaking point. Accepting the change doesn’t mean we just go with it as it is. When we accept that it is happening we might come up with a few additional creative ideas for a change.
- When You are aware what is happening with your emotions You may try to shorten the time period between the stages.
- Remember that You are in control of your emotions. Remember this especially when You want to stay professional.
- And if You are a person preparing changes – be aware of emotions of others.
What about Your experiences? Are You change resistant?