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Understanding Change: The Change House

Change, whether large or small, is always happening, so it can be really useful to understand the psychology and behaviours associated with the different stages of change.

Claes Janssen developed a model which represents four rooms, each of these main rooms represents a different state we may find ourselves in – contentment, denial, confusion and renewal.

Room of Contentment

This is a very comfy room and everything feels good. In this room there is a mindset where we are content with what we have and how things are progressing. We are in our comfort zone and have little desire to try different ways of working or learn new things.

You might find yourself saying things like “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, “we know what we are doing” or “we don’t have any major problems”. Whilst you are in this room you might no sense of urgency, you might stop listening to customers or staff and ignore the outside world.

The danger of this room is if you become too comfortable and slip outside onto the sun lounge. You can become stuck in your ways, arrogant and be unaware of new threats which can be very damaging for your business.

Room of Denial

When change first occurs this is where we initially move to. In this room we believe that the change doesn’t apply to us or won’t affect us. We continue to believe that everything is OK and that it will eventually blow over. We fail to understand the potential impact to us.

We focus on protecting the status quo so may say things such as “It’s an industry trend”, “It will be OK next month” and the ultimate ‘head in the sand’ quote “our business is different”. When we are in the Room of Denial we blame others. Whether it’s the budget was too ambitious, a certain department doesn’t understand or external sources such as the economy, we look to move the blame elsewhere.

In our attempts to protect the status quo we can become aggressive, defensive and may waste valuable time and resources trying to identify others who are performing worse than we are.

There is a risk in this room of becoming so absorbed by our denial that we bury our heads in the sand and go into the Dungeon of Denial.

Room of Confusion

By this point you are starting to accept that change needs to happen but you feel confused by how to respond. You may recognise a need to develop new skills, knowledge or ways of working but you aren’t sure what exactly is needed. We find ourselves asking lots of ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions and becoming more dependent on others as our insecurity increases.

Within this room there maybe feelings of anxiety, doubt and inferiority and these emotions tend to run high as we assess the situation and analyse the options. When we need to assess too many options or when feelings of fear and anxiety are particularly high we can find ourselves paralysed by our confusion and in the Pit of Paralysis.

Whilst in the Room of Confusion businesses may set up numerous task forces and committees or hire consultants to try and find a way forward. During this phase many of these groups will not finish their tasks as the business is trying to do too many uncoordinated things at once without a sense of clarity.

Whilst this room can be overwhelming it is important to work methodically through the options whilst keeping a focus on where the market is heading. A wrong decision here could lead us through the Wrong Direction Door.

Room of Renewal

This room is full of positive energy and is where radical ideas emerge. We feel empowered, invigorated to move on, flexible and creative. We share our thoughts and feelings openly and ideas of change flow. Team working increases as everyone becomes more supportive as they have worked through the tough stages together and are now motivated to implement the changes.

Our dialogue becomes very positive and takes ownership for the plan. We say things such as “let’s make it happen” and “this is our plan”.

During this stage we stay focused, set new targets and regularly review progress. We have trust in others and are happy to take risks to continuously develop.

Once the activity in the room of renewal has settled and the new plans and processes become embedded we naturally move into the room of contentment once again. The cycle then repeats over time.

The Change House Model helps us to understand where we currently are, the challenges we face and how to deal with them in order to move to the next stage of the cycle.

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