Posted on

Cynthia Scott & Dennis Jaffe: Change Grid

Cynthia Scott and Dennis Jaffe developed the model that often bears their names, as consultants, in the 1980s. Their Change Grid is one of the most widely used models to explain and anticipate how people will respond to organisational change. They published it in Training and Development Journal in April 1988. The article was called Survive and Thrive in Times of Change.

Cynthia Scott & Dennis Jaffe
Cynthia Scott & Dennis Jaffe

Cynthia Scott

Cynthia Scott had a varied academic career, studying Anthropology, then Health Education and Administration, before gaining a PhD in Psychology from The Fielding Institute, in 1983. From there she became a co-founder (along with Dennis Jaffe) of ChangeWorks Global, in 1983. She remained there until 2001.

Scott’s career remained in the private sector in a wide range of consulting roles, with academic appointments running alongside. Today, she leads ChangeWorksLab, a change management consultancy that she founded, and is a professor at the Presidio Graduate School.

Scott has written 14 books. Five were with Dennis Jaffe, all of which are out of print and available only as used copies.

Dennis Jaffe

Dennis Jaffe likewise studied various subjects: philosophy, management and (for his PhD in 1973) sociology – all at Yale. In 1980 he joined Saybrook University as professor of Organizational Systems and Psychology. He remains an emeritus professor there.

He co-founded ChangeWorks Global with Scott, and now specialises in matters relating to family businesses: governance, relationships, and leadership. He also consults with the financial advisors who serve those businesses.

Jaffe has written a large number of books. Five were with Cynthia Scott, all of them out of print and available only as used copies.

The Change Grid

Their model owes much to the work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, who had researched the way people deal with tragedy, bereavement and grief. Her five-stage grief model is widely used:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Our evolution did not take place among shifting organisational structures and operational processes. The changes our ancestors encountered were often life threatening.  So the responses that Dr Kübler-Ross described served them well.

Now, the same underlying physiology and brain chemistry has to cope with serious emotional trauma and trivial organisational changes alike.  So, that when Scott and Jaffe researched responses to organisational change, they found a similar pattern to Kübler-Ross.

Scott & Jaffe Change Grid
Scott & Jaffe Change Grid

Four Stages of Change

Scott and Jaffe’s model describes a progression through four stages.

Denial
Initially, the meaning of the change fails to sink in: we act as if nothing has happened.

Resistance
Once we start to recognise that change will happen, we start to Resist it.  We do this at an emotional level; we show anger, anxiety, bitterness or fear, for example. But we also oppose the change rationally, and often take active steps to frustrate it.  Organisations tend to see increases in sickness, absenteeism, and turnover, along with more general drops in efficiency and quality.

Exploration
When the organisation faces up to the inevitable resistance, and engages with it in a positive way, then people can start to focus on their future.  They will Explore the implications of the change for them, and look for ways to move forward.  This can be a chaotic time. But it can also be exhilarating for the change leaders. This is especially so when the benefits of the change are significant.

Commitment
Eventually people start to turn their attention outward as they Commit to their new future.

Summing Up

I have used my own variant on this model, and found it powerful as a predictor of change.  Like all models, it is not ‘true’.  Yet it does offer us valuable insights. When we use it with care, these insights can enhance the process of facilitating change.

 

Share this:
Posted on

Scott and Jaffe: The Change Grid and How we Respond to Change

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


Last week’s Pocket Correspondence Course module was about the three phases of creating change – or ‘transitions’, in Bridges’ language. This week, we need to address the question of how people respond to organisational change.

Have you ever noticed how people’s response to organisational change is sometimes out of proportion to the objective scale of the change itself? Organisational changes are hardly a matter of life and death, yet people often get scared, angry, upset or frustrated. These are powerful emotions that managers rarely feel ready to deal with.

While many managers see organisational change as someone else’s specialism – the HR team, or the consultants, for example – it is your team. A general overview will help you understand some of the dynamics you encounter. One of the most useful and compelling models is that developed by Cynthia Scott & Dennis Jaffe.

Grief: The work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

The Scott-Jaffe model owes much to the work of Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. She researched the way people deal with tragedy, bereavement and grief, that led her to the development of a widely used description of grief as following five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – often remembered with the acronym DABDA.

Kubler-Ross Grief Model

The responses that Dr Kübler-Ross described served your ancient ancestors well. They did not emerge in an environment of shifting organisational structures and operational processes: the changes they encountered were often life threatening.

In modern times, we must use the same underlying physiology and brain chemistry to cope with both emotional trauma and an office move. It seems unsurprising, therefore, that when Scott and Jaffe researched responses to organisational change, they found a similar pattern.

Scott and Jaffe’s Four Stage Response to Change

Scott & Jaffe Change Grid

Scott and Jaffe’s model suggests that we move through four stages as we respond to organisational change. Clearly, if we quickly perceive the change as beneficial, we will jump from the first to the fourth.

Denial

Initially, the meaning of the change fails to sink in: we are happy enough (or at least comfortable) with the status quo, so our minds reject the reality of change. We act as if nothing has happened and Scott and Jaffe called this stage Denial.

Resistance

Once we start to recognise the reality of change, we start to Resist it. This arises from our aversion to loss – we focus on the elements of the status quo we will need to give up and our brains assign that a far greater weight of attention and value than any potential gains.

We do this first at the emotional level, showing anger, anxiety, bitterness or fear, for example, and later by opposing the change actively, engaging our critical faculties to find reasons to resist. Organisations see increases in absence, complaints and losses, and drops in efficiency, morale and quality.

Exploration

When managers like you face up to the resistance and engage with it in a respectful and positive way, people can start to focus on the future again. They will Explore the implications of the change for them and for their part in your organisation. They will look for ways to move forward. This can be a chaotic time, but also an exhilarating one – particularly when the benefits of the change are significant.

Commitment

Eventually people start to turn their attention outward as they Commit to the new future.

Other Models of Change

Scott and Jaffe are not the only researchers to articulate a model of organisational change. There are other, similar, models. Perhaps the best known of the three-phase models is Kurt Lewin’s ‘Freeze Phases that we covered in the previous Management Pocketblog: Unfreezing – Changing – Refreezing. We also saw William Bridges’ three-phase ‘Transitions’ model: Letting go – Neutral zone – New beginnings.

These are all powerful as predictive models of change and, like all models, none is true. Yet each offers up valuable insights which can help you predict, understand and mange change.

Further Reading

  1. The Managing Change Pocketbook
  2. The Handling Resistance Pocketbook
  3. Survive and Thrive in Times of Change,
    Training and Development Journal, April 1988,
    Dr Cynthia D Scott and Dr Dennis T Jaffe
    This article is not available freely on the web.
  4. On Death and Dying,
    Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, 1969
Share this: