Supporting staff through change

 The fifth in a series of six articles written by Karen Jones and Joanne Spencer provides two tools you can use to help your staff cope with change.

In an IBM study (Making Change Happen, 2008), 75% of companies said they adopted an ad hoc or informal approach to supporting their people through change. Not surprisingly the research also found that most change projects that failed were due to their people not being suitably equipped to deal with the scope or volume of change.
We know that all change involves loss and can be a scary journey for people as it triggers a wide range of emotions, thoughts and feelings. That’s why at Infinite You we place a great emphasis on supporting people through the change in a planned and organised way, using a wide range of interactive techniques as well as detailed communication and engagement strategies.
Two of the tools we use to help support people through the change are detailed below and we hope you find them useful.
The Comfort, Stretch, Panic model
This is a useful way to explore feelings about change in a safe and managed way.
The Comfort Zone is just that, but you don’t learn very much nor develop yourself as it’s simply ‘more of the same’. As leaders we can talk with our teams about the possibility and opportunities to learn and do new things as a part of the changing organisation, so people can start to see the potential benefits in the change for them, the organisation and their clients/customers.


The Stretch Zone is the area of exploration and adventure where things will be a little or a lot out of the ordinary. This is a stimulating place and will also feel uncomfortable as it’s where we stretch and challenge ourselves mentally, emotionally or physically. Exploring how the change will feel when it happens is a good way to help people start to make the ‘shift’ in mind-set, and develop new coping mechanisms in advance of the change taking place.


The Panic Zone is the ‘stretch’ too far and moves us into the ‘flight or fight mode’ which isn’t helpful for the individual or the organisation as it can cause stress and resistant behaviours. Understanding what the panic triggers are for the team and the organisation can be timely as once the risks are identified, plans can be put in place to mitigate their likelihood.


The Skill/Will matrix

This second technique can be really useful in helping us to diagnose whether people’s ‘skill, will or both’ are high or low for a specific change to be accomplished. Skill depends on experience, training, understanding and role perception, and Will depends on desire to achieve, incentives, security and confidence.

Using the grid and steps below, think about where each individual is in relation to the change and what steps are more appropriate to help support them in making the change.  


DIRECT – skill and will are low
  • First build the will

    • Provide clear briefing

    • Identify motivations

    • Develop a vision of future performance

  • Then build the skill

    • Structure tasks for ‘quick wins’

    • Coach and train

  • Then sustain the will

    • Provide frequent feedback

    • Praise and nurture 

·         Supervise closely with tight parameters and controls, clear rules and deadlines

 GUIDE – low skill and high will

  • Invest time early on

    • Coach and train

    • Answer question and explain

  • Create a risk free environment to allow early mistakes / learning’s

  • Relax control as progress is shown

EXCITE – high skill, low will

  • Identify reasons for low will e.g. task, management style, personal factors

  • Motivate

  • Monitor and feedback

DELEGATE – skill and will are both high

  • Provide freedom to do the job

    • Set objectives not method

    • Praise – don’t ignore

  • Encourage staff to take responsibility

    • Involve in decision making

    • Use “Tell me what you think”

  • Take appropriate risks

    • Give more stretching targets

    • Don’t over manage

 So in summary, change will have a different meaning and impact on each individual. Therefore creating an approach which allows people to voice their fears and be open about the help they need is a fundamental stage in any change activity.  Communication by email just isn’t enough. It’s about developing a strategy for support which can touch each and every individual throughout the change.

Karen Jones and Joanne Spencer

Directors of Infinite You Limited


Infinite You Limited specialises in supporting organisations with change management, strategic leadership and people development. Our ethos is clear: We enable organisations to maximise the potential of their people and to make sustainable improvements to individual, team and organisational performance. Since 2007 we have developed a proven track record in embedding cultural change, organisational transformation and people development improvement across all sectors, working with organisations and individuals as they navigate the challenge of transformational change. Additionally, we will also be running two Branch based Change Management Master Classes in February 2016.



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