Changes are not easy to manage

How best to start?

We all know how it feels when we break a New Year's resolution shortly after we've made it. It's not a good feeling and often it's really hard to describe why we failed to change.

In fact, changing habits is not easy but that shouldn’t be an excuse. Dale Carnegie said: “Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have.” So, what can you do to successfully change old habits and get used to a new behavior pattern or in an organizational context – How does successful change management work?

The Process of Change Management

In 1947, Kurt Lewin formulated the 3-phase model (Unfreezing – Moving – Freezing) for describing a change process with the aim of avoiding social conflicts. The cornerstone was thus laid, and a lot has happened since then. Numerous research and case studies have further developed this change process to the more accurate 4-phase model (RejectionResistanceDiscoverCommitment).

The first phase of this model is called Rejection. No matter how clearly or boldly (or the opposite) you deliver the change message, people start to reject it. When that happens, you can literally feel the rejection. It´s normal to have such a feeling and there are various reasons for it. But it’s important to specifically address these reasons.

One way to handle rejection is to involve all stakeholders, to encourage participation or, practically speaking, to bring them together at the table and talk to them. This will allow you to identify all critical points of view and give the stakeholders an overview of what the change is supposed to do and why it is so necessary. It will help clear up fears and uncertainties right from the beginning.

Next comes the Resistance phase. Be careful – this is when people start to work against the change. They find ways to continue working the way they always have and they stop sharing their opinions with management. In the absence of action, productivity and morale drop sharply.

Now it´s time to properly train the leadership team. They need to be equipped with the necessary arguments and approaches to deal with objections. In the best case, communication takes place on different platforms, ranging from general information events over small group meetings to one on ones. It is important to repeat the advantages again and again. All objections must be taken seriously, but they must also be immediately invalidated.

As long as you don´t stop to communicating, the Resistance will be unsuccessful, and the Discover phase will begin. At this point the Resistance isn´t over yet but the people will start to explore and realize the new possibilities and added values of the change.

The good news is that productivity and morale increase again. You will be able to feel a hint of optimism and more and more people will start speaking positively about the future. The risk at this point, is that the situation is still critical. The new behavior is still fresh and people still face problem coping with the new situation. Do not underestimate the importance of trainings in this phase. The change now affects everyone, and information with the highest level of granularity must be available. This brings with it a new complexity, which means that all content has to be effectively orchestrated.

Every change is difficult and different every time. However, when all communication measures and other activities like trainings, workshops and corporate events are effective, the Discover phase leads to Commitment. Now, people accept the new behavior as the new standard. The change becomes normal and productivity is higher than ever before. The confidence gained as a result of having successfully changed also strengthens team morale and the relationship between management and employees. Now, you can congratulate yourself on a job well done!

The Valley of Change

Experienced change managers know that clear and understandable communication and proper training is crucial to successfully implement new behaviors in organizations and companies. It should also be noted that not every employee or stakeholder are at the same emotional phase during the full process.

The bigger the change is and the longer the overall process takes, the more likely it is that each phase will have to be repeated. It may even happen that there will be employees who have accepted the change as the new standard and already live it, while there are individuals who have not even started to deal with the change.

Every employee goes through the various emotional stages in the change process at their own pace. As you can see in the following graphic, it is important to keep the severity of reaction to change as light as possible. In a perfect world, no one would slip into the valley of change.

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In order to make the change process successful, various instruments are used in practice. The use of media and in particular the use of videos and online trainings, has stood the test of time. Depending on what specific content is currently required, videos and online trainings can be offered virtually at any time. This gives you ideal support for all your communication activities.

Depending on where you are in the change process, we have developed certain storytelling formats to provide you a mix of media in the right language and tonality. In recent years we have been able to accompany 10+ change management projects and rollouts in different countries and cultures.

For example, we created an integrated campaign with interactive learning modules, intro videos and interviews with members of the company management on the topics of compliance and business culture. For another client, we accompanied the main change on the topic of change awareness with a large set of e-learning and videos. In the past few months, we have also been able to implement some projects on the topic of IT changes & digitization.


Changes are not easy to manage.

You need a great deal of sensitivity and knowledge of the people involved in the organization. The use of media helps to address the various problems directly and to move to the next phase in a solution-oriented manner. It is always important to ensure that the entire change management process is accompanied by the leadership team. The more individually you can respond to the employee groups, the higher the acceptance will be in the end.

daniel, froehlacher, portrait

Daniel Fröhlacher is a Producer & Video Strategist at NEON Media.

He writes about marketing & communication topics and current trends in the field of digital transformation.