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Willingness to Change


Disciplines > Change Management > Readiness for change > Willingness to Change

Understanding | Accepting | Desire | See also


Willingness to change is a measure of the cognitive and emotional buy-in to the change. It can be broken down into three stages: Understanding, accepting and desire.

Understanding reasons for change

The first stage is largely cognitive, where people understand that there are good reasons for change and that it is not just some management whim.

This may occur as a slow dawning of truth or as a sudden realization. At some point the truth sinks in and may be accompanied by an initial emotional response, often negative and possibly based in the fear of losing position, power and so on. This can trigger responses such as the Kübler-Ross cycle, Fight-or-Flight or other coping.

Presenting the reasons for change may involve explaining the diagnosis that led to the conclusion of the needed change. It can help also if this is accompanied by an emotional appeal that demonstrates leadership concern and which moves people towards acceptance.

Accepting necessity for change

Understanding is not enough. In order to reach a full willingness, the realization of the needed change must reach a cognitive and emotional acceptance that the change must take place.

Acceptance may also be a short phase, particularly where the person sees the change in a positive light, typically where they will personally gain in some way.

Mostly, however, gaining acceptance is a difficult and often lengthy process. It may well need the completion of internal psychological stages, such as the Kübler-Ross cycle, where initial resistance to change is exhausted or overcome and the person finally accepts that change is inevitable. In such cases a process of facilitation can be helpful to develop acceptance.

Desire to engage in change

For the willingness to really bite, the acceptance must be transformed into a real desire to get going with the change. The internal motivation of individuals may vary, for example being:

  • A real excitement and passion to create a new future.
  • A curious interest to see what transpires.
  • A passive desire just to get it over and done with.

Depending on the desire and passion, roles for engagement in change may be used to both tap and enhance individual motivations. Sometimes only when people are actually doing things for the change do their motivations finally align. A carefully staged set of actions can help this by getting people going (perhaps even with appropriate use of some ideas from conversion).

See also

Resistance to change, Motivation


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