Organisational Change Management
This article will look at the Organisational Change Management (OCM) witnessed by the
researcher in a recent organisation. Looking at how this OCM failed, the article will review the
Kubler-Ross Model and how this model would have applied to this change, citing also, different
psychological research evidence using this model.
The essay will define some key terms used within the OCM and will follow a successive manner.
First, the essay will briefly explain the OCM experienced by the investigator in the recent
organisation. The diagnosis and the implementation of the change will not be discussed, and as
such, the experience employees faced leading to the shock of the change will be described. Second,
the article will give a brief history of the Kubler-Ross Change Curve and explain how this model
would have applied to this recent change in the organisation to ensure a more effective change
management retrospectively. The rationale for using this model will also be briefly discussed. And
finally, the essay will recommend some effective change management strategies using
psychological research of the Kubler-Ross Grief Model and the OCM literature. Lastly, further
research will be proposed regarding how to effectively manage change by organisations.
Keywords: Resistance to change, Organizational Change Management, Kubler-Ross model,
Employee Transition Process
Organisational Change Management | Blessing Ikiseh
Resistance to change is a huge topic of discussion by change initiators and has been successively
linked to a range of problems facing organizations. Organizations need to limit the barriers that
cause the outcome of change management failures. Organisational Change Management (OCM)
has been researched over the last 50+ years; Google Scholar has referenced over 2,700,000 the
concept of ‘change management’ and/or ‘managing change’ (Rosenbaum, More & Steane, 2018);
and much scientific research has constantly discussed how OCM fail (Burnes & Jackson, 2011;
Gondo et al., 2013; Whittle and Stevens, 2013).
For a more effective organizational change management, it is imperative for
organizations/leaders/managers to manage and sustain the emotional trauma employees face in
organizations change programs and proffer ways to assist employees through this transition from
one scenario to the other (Oreg et al., 2013). Change is a necessary process for organizational
survival. And in today’s dynamic global business context, change is constantly becoming a norm
for organizations to sustain their identity/existence and to thrive (Al-Haddad and Kotnour, 2015).
Change, therefore, can be defined as a transitive – to make something into something different.
And transition is the process of change from one form of state, style or place to the other. There
are a growing number of instruments and/or models/frameworks assumed to help in the support of
staff and managers/stakeholders through organizational change management. Some has been more
managerial and while others are adapted from other fields (Leybourne, 2016). Many scholars have
implied that assisting workers to cope with managing transition from one state to the other because
of OCM can drastically improve employee transition and better produce effective change
management (Leybourne, 2007; Stensaker et al., 2002), and the emotional support given by
organizations to employees will produce a massive benefit for the changing organizations
(Cunnigham, 2006; Soulsby & Clark, 2013). It is on this note; the next session will now discuss
the researcher’s change management process experienced in a recent organisation working as the
line manager of the organization.
Organisational Change Management | Blessing Ikiseh
In a recent organisation working as the line manager, there were some recent changes that occurred
drastically, this was a total change in the organizational culture and ways of doing things. This is
what Grundy (1993, p. 26) defined as the discontinuous change. The author ascribed discontinuous
change as a mark in the rapid drift of an organisation either in its (structure, strategy and/or culture)
or a change in the three. This is the kind of change that happened within this organization. These
changes took place because of the external environmental pressures from the stakeholders and
board members of the organization. In terms of timing, this change occurred suddenly, and the
organization did not communicate/inform the employees about the development – only members
of the board were aware of these changes. This total organizational change restructuring,
otherwise, occurred because the organization lacked proper structure; operating an autocratic style
of leadership and not caring about the staff. The general type of rapid change can be mainly
triggered by a critical element of internal issues or a significant shock (Senior, 2002). According
to Luecke (2003) literature, discontinuous and/or sudden change is a onetime occurrence, taking
place through broad separated project followed up by a tiring stiffness or difficulty which Luecke
(2003, p. 102) described as an absurd/abrupt change in the past. Scholars of the discontinuous
change argued that discontinuous/sudden change within an organisation is cost-effective,
promoting a never-ending change process and seldom fail (Guimaraes & Armstrong, 1998).
The recent change caused resistance to change from staff. Resistant to organizational change has
been mostly correlated with many organizational change failures (Elving, 2005; Rosenbaum et al.,
2018). The change experienced wasn’t well received by members of staff, which saw some
prominent and skilled employees of the organisation resigned. The change brought about reduced
workers productivity, low work commitment, reduced motivation and increased absenteeism. Till
this day, the organization is still suffering from these changes because of bad leadership decision.
The following paragraph will now be assessing the Kubler-Ross Change Curve and the rationale
for using this model and how it would have applied to this recent organizational change
effectiveness contemplating the past.
Organizational change is adept at modifying the process and systems of organizational structures
and it is a state of being responsible for a changing organizational strategy and employees’ skills
Organisational Change Management | Blessing Ikiseh
(Bucata, 2016). Organizational change is an action that needs adequate communication (Jian,
The Kubler-Ross Change Curve is often known as the five (5) stages of grief or the grief model
composed of the distinct procedures of emotions experienced by a person soon to approach death
or that is a survivor of death (Leybourne, 2016). The model was found by and is named after the
author Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in a book entitled “Death and Dying”. The Kubler-Ross Change
Curve stems from the author’s analysis of the five phases of loss/grief people emotionally react to,
providing an insight into the inevitable organizational responses (Kubler-Ross, 1969). The KublerRoss Model presumes that persons especially workers who are faced with change and/or the loss
of their job will fall into a distressing five stages of Shock and Denial, Anger, Bargaining,
Depression and finally Acceptance.
Four (4)students at Chicago Theological Seminary in the fall of 1965, visited Dr Elizabeth KublerRoss (1969) as a project research assistant. The students have been given a task to write a paper
on the “Challenges in Human Life”. In the research, the students assumed that death is a major
inherent crisis faced mostly by humans (Elrod & Tippet, 2002). This research brought about the
Kubler-Ross Change Curve or grief model.
Denial and shock may arise when the person refuses to come to terms with change and an employee
will be uncertain about the outcome of the change and may fear to lose their job at this stage. Anger
which is a strong feeling of displeasure with oneself, the world or others. Bargaining is the third
stage where the person starts to see the situation in a new light or on how to improve the current
situation. Depression being the fourth stage is a situation where the person has finally accepted
their fate and the last stage is the stage of acceptance, where the person is willing to push through
the situation, pursuing and seeing new opportunity resulting from the change.
The first reaction to an unexpected or unwanted scenario in the face of change results in that of
shock and denial. The second is that of fear and anger which is celebrated by employee resistance
and protesting/complaint (Elving, 2005).
The rationale for using the Kubler-Ross Change Curve is that the model will
assist/transform/transition employees to get past their different stages of grief/shock and gradually
Organisational Change Management | Blessing Ikiseh
accept their new reality. Furthermore, the model will remind the management about the importance
of communication and how communicating this change process on time to employees can impact
effectively on the organizational change process. In communicating this, employees will be better
positioned and ready to know and accept beforehand, what change is taking place and how they
can be ready both psychological/mentally/emotionally about this huge change taking place in the
The Kubler-Ross Model has brought about some criticism and benefits by many scholars. Here is
what some of the scholars are saying concerning this model. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was the first
writer to have documented the stages of grief in the book “Death and Dying” but the author is not
the first one to have talked about the stages of grief (Elrod & Tippet, 2002). One of Kubler-Ross’s
colleague Imara identified the change procedures in writings around 700 BC at an approximately
2,700 years ago where the sixth chapter of the Old Testament Book evidenced Isaiah’s denial and
shock where the prophet was given a task but fell into a grieving/depressive state of shock and
denial, through to a bargaining state to the stage of acceptance (Imara, 1975). See more on (Elrod
& Tippet, 2002) literature on The “death valley” of Change. Nonetheless, the Kubler-Ross Change
Curve has been under-utilized by management change researchers of its effects on assisting and
transitioning employees to accept the change (Leybourne, 2016); Kubler-Ross Model is a very
effective and useful mechanism of assisting employees to cope with behavioural and psychological
reactions due to change resistance (Clarke et al., 2007), and lastly, the Kubler-Ross model
propelled the foundation for bereavement research and/or the work on grief model (Fink, 1967).
Subsequently, the next paragraph will recommend the strategies to effective management change
and the practical implications of this change – if well implemented will have impacted positively
on the change process of the organization looking backwards. Likewise, explaining further the
steps of the Kubler-Ross model to the recent organization’s OCM and some of the reactive
comments employees made during the different stages of grief while extensively evaluating
different strategies to effective OCM and resistance to change literature.
Recommendations and Practical Implications of Organizational Change Management
Organisational Change Management | Blessing Ikiseh
Communication as one of the strategies to effective management change, according to change
research is an important ingredient to the effective and successful implementation of OCM
(DiFonzo & Bordia, 1998; Lewis & Seibold, 1998) and communication is the bedrock of all
organizations communicative strategies, because effective communication within an organization
is the first step to achieving successful organisational change. In a current literature (Odine, 2015;
Omilion-Hodges & Baker, 2014) described Internal Communication as a significant tool of
organizations effectiveness.
Following the change in the recent organization, employees were greeted with shock on their faces.
This shock left some employees to experience some psychological reactions of fear, anger/pain,
and displeasure/anxiety/uncertainty. Organizational change leads to individual reactive and
emotional experience of change (Kyle, 1993; Leybourne, 2016). The recent organizational change
has been poorly managed and lacked communication. A poorly managed change will result in
organizational grapevine and resistance to change brought about by an exaggerated and a negative
perspective of the change (DiFonzo et al., 1994; Smelzer & Zener, 1992). A range of factors
contributes to why change fail, some of the barriers are in the levels of the organizational structure,
the quality of the change and the communication structure (Armenakis and Harris, 2002;
McClellan, 2011). If the recent change has been properly communicated and employees had
received adequate support, the change would have been effective and successful. The transition
would have been easier if employees have a knowledge of what kind of change is taken place. The
transitioning into a cultural context that is supportive and concerning of employees would be more
effective and successful (Söderlund, 2010).
The second recommendation is the strategy of learning. Several authors (Britt, 2018; Espejo et al.,
1997, p. 146; Perez-Bustamante, 1999) have stressed the imperative role of learning or the learning
organization plays in the strategic transformative OCM. Leybourne (2016) posits that the concept
of the learning organization applies and involves a new way of thinking; for organizations to have
an effective change, it is vital to asses and define what this effective change means. This change
brought about some emotional/reactive comments from employees. For example, what are the
leaders thinking to make such huge decisions; This change process will fail; The board didn’t think
to inform us before mapping out the plan to restructure; I will see where this lead. As organizations
increase their learning process to accommodate the new ways and process of doing things,
Organisational Change Management | Blessing Ikiseh
employees must unlearn the existing method of doing things as a part of the learning process
(Leybourne, 2016). This is where organizational training needs to take cognizance to help
employees’ transition and overcome their resistance to change behaviours. Employees learning
about the OCM is a critical venture towards ensuring that workers will be a more productive
member of the organization (Heathfield, 2011; Igbaekemen, 2014). Igbaekemen (2014) purported
that training and development can take a distinct approach (such as counselling/coaching)
employees on how to grasp this change process. In a nutshell, in the literature (Jerotich & Bartocho,
2016; Karatepe, 2013; Zhang, 2012) recommended counselling and training as a strategy for
assisting employees to transform from one stage of the learning change process to the other.
Butterfield et al. (2010) agreed/supported this as the scholar captioned it to be the counselling
aspect of OCM. Britt (2018) implies that an organization who show a poor learning culture breeds
inactivity. If employee learning has been incorporated into the recent organisational change
process at least, employees will have better understood how the change can benefit them and the
organization in the long run. And one critical element that has been suggested to assist employees
to cope with the stress involved in change is empowering employees to cope with change initiatives
(Riley & Park, 2014). Organizations learning today is both a response to the environmental
stimulus from the changing development in other to accomplish an added advantage through a
knowledge-based work (Grieves, 2000, p. 64).
The final strategy recommended is the change in the leadership style of the recent organization –
the practical implication of this, if not insistently changed, will constantly bring about employee
turnover, demotivation and absenteeism.
Leadership style has been linked to one of the reasons why change initiatives fail (Leybourne,
2016). Bad leadership style in an organization reviews that an organization is very much lagging
in communication style (Voinea et al., 2015). In (Tkalac & Poloski, 2017) literature, the
researchers contend that employees who are experiencing communication dissatisfaction display
signs of demotivation, organizational reduced turnover, employee absents and low work attitude.
To successfully manage change, resistance is a major problem change initiators are challenged by
and debatably, effectively managing this issue is a huge criterion of the change process (O’ Connor,
1993). Management pays much attention to the technical aspect of the change and failed to focus
on the human side of the change which is essentially crucial in the successful implementation of
Organisational Change Management | Blessing Ikiseh
the OCM (Arendt et al., 1995; Huston, 1992; Levine, 1997). In Bharadwaj (2014) strategy on
OCM, the scholar recommends that employees engage in the change will create an avenue for
information exchange, and a more employee changes satisfaction. Jiang & Linjuan (2017) work
suggests that transparent/transformational leaders will be open to different feedbacks and support
employees to share in the decision-making process of the changing organization. To summarize,
bad leadership decision/style, poor communication and an idea of not welcoming/entertaining staff
feedbacks are the major causes while the recent organizational change failed.
In summary, this essay focus on the researcher’s experience of OCM in a recent organization. The
article argues that using the Kubler-Ross Change Curve, the model would have applied to this
recent change towards ensuring a more effective and successful change management
retrospectively. The rationale for using the Kubler-Ross Grief Model was that the model would
have better-assisted employees to cope with the change and effectively/successfully transition staff
from one stage of grief/depression, the resistance of change, to the final stage of acceptance. The
researcher recommended that effective communication, transformative learning, and
open/transparent leadership style would have been inherent in ensuring a better OCM in the recent
organization. Lastly, for organisations/businesses to better lead a successful Organisational
Change Management, it is significant to balance both the technical and the human aspect of the
change. Effectively communicated organisational change management programs within the
workplace, will, in turn, lead to the successful implementation of organisational change that can
bring about a happy and more productive workforce.
Future Research
Future research should investigate what factors contribute to effective and successful
Organisational Change Management within an organization to better assist leaders/managers to
understand the change processes taking place within their respective organizations. If much
awareness is created in the workplace about how to successfully manage organisational change,
Organisational Change Management | Blessing Ikiseh
leaders/managers, as well as employees, can benefit from this awareness towards the reduction of
employee resistance to change and organisational change management failures.
Organisational Change Management | Blessing Ikiseh
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