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Coping with Change

October 23, 2009

While attending Declan Whelan’s session Learning is the Key to Agile Success: Building a Learning Culture on Your Agile Team at Agile 2009, he mentioned the Change Process Model introduced by family therapist Virginia Satir. Declan only touched on Satir’s model, and I found myself wanting to know more after I left. With Point2 going through a high degree of change in the last two years, I was very curious as to how the Satir Process Model fit in.

The Satir Process Model was initially introduced to help families deal with change, but coincidentally enough it was also used at an organizational level. It’s no secret that businesses have to change in order to stay competitive. However problems can arise as those changes are introduced, and what Satir’s model helps us understand is the natural stages encountered along the way. There are five stages.

Late Status Quo

  • The subject group is at a familiar place.
  • The group has a strong sense of identity, and are comfortable with each other.
  • Behaviour of individual group members can be predicted.

Resistance

  • Something foreign is introduced to the group which requires some sort of response.
  • The change is usually introduced by a small minority.
  • The rest of the group sees this as a threat to how things work, and fear losing their sense of familiarity.
  • The group will generally try to undermine the change, or avoid it completely.

Chaos

  • The group fully plunges into the change.
  • Relationships may change.
  • The group may no longer behave as they used to.
  • The group will lose their sense of belonging causing them to become anxious and vulnerable.
  • In this stage the performance and productivity of the group take a sky-dive.

Integration

  • Something clicks and the group starts to embrace the foreign element. They see ways to use it in a positive way.
  • The group begins to form new relationships, and a new sense of familiarity starts to emerge.
  • Performance and productivity starts to climb.
  • The group starts to experience genuine excitement.

New Status Quo

  • The group now levels off into a new comfort zone with new relationships, and have a sense of stability again.
  • Performance and productivity are now at a higher level than the Late Status Quo stage.
  • There is an overall sense of accomplishment.

The image below does an excellent job of illustrating the model.

Being aware of the stages of the Satir Process Model, and looking back at some of the changes Point2 has underwent, I can definitely see this model’s relevance. A good example would be a recent shift from product-centric teams to feature teams. Up until this point Point2 has always had each team focus on one product (or suite of products), but this approach made it difficult to ensure that the highest priority work items for the company were always being worked on.

Feature teams seemed to be the way other companies were dealing with this problem so the change was introduced. Sure enough there was resistance (including from myself), performance and productivity were hit, and the teams could no longer function as they once used to. But the teams did not give up, and  continue to push through their uncertainties. I believe we are still in the change process, but have recently started to fully understand and embrace the benefits of feature teams as the Integration stage implies. I don’t think it will be long before we reach that new status quo.

Understanding the Satir Process Model has given me a new perspective on change, and I look forward to seeing how Point2 copes with it in the future. I think it’s a great exercise, and recommend looking back at changes your organization has gone through while identifying behaviour that was encountered at each stage. Having that awareness is only going to make change that much easier in the future.

For an excellent post check out Steven M. Smith’s The Satir Change Model.

By Hemant J. Naidu

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