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Are You Ready for Change?

Sustainable Positive Change

October, 2018

Page 3

A step-by-step Guide to Process Improvement and Change Resistance Mitigation

If you're starting off at this page, welcome! the previous two pages of the article focused on basic quality management and continual improvement principles.

“I like things the way they are”

The previous pages have some valuable resources but likely are not new content for Veteran Quality or Continuous Improvement Professionals. Now, we will briefly look at process measurement then get into a methodical approach to identify root cause for resistance to change and look at several tools to reduce that resistance.


You’ve identified a problem to fix and mapped the associated process. How good (or how bad) is the process? Depending of the kind of process, business operational or production, unique measurement approaches are necessary.

Typically for operations related issues, process non-conformance is used in passive data collection. If you’re producing many non-conformance daily, this can work. Any key attributes necessary for process measurement would need to be communicated to relevant team members. Otherwise relying on non-conformances does not provide the resolution necessary to get a clear picture in a reasonable time frame.
A data collection plan will be necessary to ensure that the way information is gathered and what is gather is reliable and consistent. A user on iSixsigma produced a useful
six-step guide to building a good data collection plan. Implement your data collection plan. Expect some work. This is an active step which requires resource commitment.

“Measurement. Got it” Now what?

The continuous improvement models would indicate that establishing process controls (to improve) would be an appropriate next step, which would be followed by process measurement then establishing new goals one improvement was achieved or adapting the plan to overcome any issues identified. It’s not that easy. Most seasoned Quality Assurance or CI professionals will tell you that building initial buy-in is critical.


It’s not uncommon to receive any number of explanations, often in the form of antidotal summaries as to why a Quality Manager or a CI professional failed to accomplish his/her improvement project. “We didn’t have top leadership commitment”, "project goals were not sufficiently defined” "team resistance" and a litany of other reasons. No finger pointing going here, I’m guilty of having used some myself!

Perhaps these reasons were true in some case. But consider for a moment that the most frequently cited reason for failure is resistance to change. What if the majority of continual improvement projects fail due to resistance to change. Think of the implications: an individual's resistance may be hurdles/roadblocks which are personal, practical or perceived. This also translates to the organization: hurdles/roadblocks can be cultural, practical or perceived.  Do you have the tools to to identify root reasons for resistance to change?

Many can offer anecdotal suggestions but unfortunately not many have a methodical, process-based approach of how to accomplish that. If we don’t have the answers, perhaps we are asking the wrong question. I believe this is what must be asked: Are you and your organization ready for change?

We’re about to go off-script from the typical advice. I want to introduce a tested behavioral model that accounts for and attempts to define the phases of an individual’s states or phases of personal change. What I am about to discuss is probably not revolutionary. But it is a unique and a methodical approach to sustained positive change.

As you consider the potential implications and uses of this model, think of change on multiple levels. Namely individual and organizational. The Transtheoretical Model (also called the Stages of Change Model), developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the late 1970s, is a model which evolved through studies examining the experiences of smokers who quit on their own, and with others requiring further treatment to quitting. It was recognized that people quit smoking if they were ready to do so. Therefore, the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) focuses on the decision-making of the individual and is a model of intentional change. It operates on the assumption that people do not change behaviors quickly and decisively. Rather, change in behavior, especially habitual behavior, occurs continuously through a cyclical process. The TTM was not intended for social or collective change. It should be obvious that a business may be thought of as a type of society with its own distinct personality and traits. Therefore, one may question how TTM might be used in business. For our purposes the focus is on key individual stakeholders in an organization and therefore useful if we identify the readiness and needs of each individual to achieve change. If you attempt to utilize TTM for the purposes of organizational or process improvement, your effort must recognize that the focus for TTM is on change, not improvement. Change is the hurdle which most individuals must overcome to achieve improvement. In the context of an organization or process we can measure the result of improvement. But the perception and opinions of individuals in an organization or those involved in a process may differ from the measurable results of change. In other words, “this doesn’t feel like improvement”. In the model, it can be inferred that improvement is an insight realized during the Termination phase of the TTM.


It’s important to understand that the model focuses on an individual’s self-guided, non-structured change. After reviewing the stages, we’ll look at methodology for facilitating change and cultivating success of improvement.

The TTM postulates that individuals move through six stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. For each stage of change, different engagement strategies are most effective at propelling the individual to the next stage of change and subsequently through the model to maintenance, the ideal stage of behavior.

The Transtheoretical Model

  1. Precontemplation - In this stage, individuals do not intend to take action (facilitate change) in the foreseeable future. They are often unaware of practices considered problematic or which produces negative consequences. Individuals in this stage might underestimate the value of change and place too much weight on the down-side change.

  2. Contemplation - In this stage, individuals are intending to implement change in the near future. Individuals recognize that existing practices may be problematic. They are more thoughtful and are open to practical consideration of the pros and cons of proposed change, with equal emphasis placed on both. However, even with this recognition, individuals may still feel ambivalent toward change.

  3. Preparation (Determination) - In this stage, individuals are ready to act within the next 30 days. Individuals begin to take small steps toward the change, and they believe change can lead to improvement.

  4. Action - In this stage, individuals have recently implemented change and intend to maintain that change. (This assumes that the change is measurably net-positive when weighed against the previous process or practice). Individuals may exhibit commitment by considering other changes with a potential positive outcome.

  5. Maintenance - In this stage, individuals have sustained change for a while and intend to maintain the change going forward. Individuals in this stage work to prevent reversion to earlier stages and previous practices.

  6. Termination - In this stage, people have no interest or willingness to consider a reversion to the previous practices.


Not considering change: Ignorance is bliss or doesn't recognize the value

How to engage:

  • Validate lack of readiness

  • Empower them / decision is theirs.

  • Encourage a sincere assessment of the problem

  • Explain and personalize the risk or failure


Ambivalent about change. Doesn't "See the value". Consideration seems to be in-progress but individual is "on-the-fence"

How to engage:

  • Validate lack of readiness

  • Clarify & empower them / decision is theirs.

  • Equip: suggest a pro & con assessment of the problem

  • Identify potential positive benefits and suggest outcome expectations


Some commitment to change can be observed. "Testing the waters"

How to engage:

  • Identify and assist in problem solving. Remove real of perceived obstacles.

  • Determine if individual has skills and knowledge to affect change.

  • Small group meetings/lunch with other individuals supporting change

  • Encourage small steps to avert failure.


Substantial change for extended period of time. 

How to engage:

  • Focus on sustained positive change.

  • Leverage Corporate Authority to reinforce individual empowerment

  • Combat perception of loss with long term outlook
  • Use stimulus control when possible


Continued commitment. Reversion to old practice not likely.

How to engage:

  • New process has been adopted. Treat as the expected norm.

  • Process audits used as validation.


Change is the "new way". Value in change clearly recognized and perceived as an improvement.

How to engage:

  • No special focus is necessary.​
  • Monitor process performance using methods identified in the measurement plan as defined in the project plan

The goal is to help team members progress thru the stages before and during the improvement project. The use of the word "Termination" is not common for continual improvement and is a carry-over from the TTM. What it means here is successful change. To progress through the stages of change, individuals will apply cognitive, affective, and evaluative processes. Part of your responsibility is to create the environment in which that happens. These above techniques are processes of change (adapted and modified from TTM for applicability here) have been identified, with some processes being more relevant to a specific stage of change than other processes. These processes result in strategies that help people make and maintain change. Here is some additional detail on the techniques:

  1. Awareness Raising – Increasing awareness about the value of the change.

  2. Cognizant Affirmation – A communicated position regarding the proposed change, whether positive or negative.

  3. Re-evaluation - Reassessment to realize the positive potential of the change.

  4. Corporate Authority – Leveraging opportunities that exist to show organizational support & commitment to the proposed change.

  5. Individual Authority - Commitment to change based on the belief that achievement goals is possible.

  6. Momentum/collaborative Relationships - Finding supportive relationships that encourage the desired change.

  7. Counter-Conditioning – Substituting productive practices and thoughts for non-productive or less productive practices.

  8. Reinforcement Management – Rewarding the positive change and reducing the rewards that come from reversion to less productive practices.

  9. Stimulus Control – Re-engineering the environment to have reminders and cues that support and encourage the sustained positive change and remove those that encourage a reversion to less productive practices.

It’s curious that many of these methods mirror accepted continuous improvement best practices. Also, it is worth noting the absence of one or some of these process does not indicate a failed attempt at process improvement.  Nor should it be inferred that failure will occur. Think of them as tools which can be leveraged to improve change success.

There are several limitations of TTM, which should be considered:

  • The lines between the stages can be arbitrary with no set criteria of how to determine an individual’s stage of change. Questionnaires developed for TTM to assign an individual to a stage of change are not standardized. However, an interview process can be constructed to identify the stage an individual is in.

  • There is no clear logic for how much time is needed for each stage, or how long a person can remain in a stage. This is not a new problem though. Before reading this, you likely considered change readiness in a binary state: ready or not ready.

  • The model assumes that individuals make coherent and logical plans in their decision-making process when this is not always true. In fact Prospect Theory and Framing clearly demonstrate that people, individually and collectively do not always make rational decisions and even highly educated can easily be induced to make cognitive errors (dumb assumptions).

Our adaptation of the Transtheoretical Model provides possible strategies for individual and group engagement to address people at various stages of the decision-making process. This can result in engagements which are crafted (i.e., a message or program component has been specifically created for an individual’s level of knowledge and motivation) and effective. The TTM encourages an assessment of an individual's current stage of change and can account for reversions in people's decision-making process.

Finally, the TTM is also based on critical assumptions about the nature of behavior change and common engagement strategies that can best facilitate such change. The following set of assumptions drives Transtheoretical Model theory, research, and practice:

  • Change is a process which occur over time through a sequence of stages.

  • Stages are both stable and open to change.

  • Promoting change by enhancing and demonstrating the understanding of the pros and diminishing the value of the cons.

  • Many, if not majority of individuals are not prepared for change

  • Setting realistic goals will facilitate the change process

  • Specific principles and processes of change need to be emphasized at specific stages for progress through the stages to occur.


Given that process improvement is always a collaborative work, there needs to be a basis for collaboration. Since the group is made up of individuals, best practice indicates that one-on-one meetings preceding a group meeting significantly improves change success. This is an opportunity to vet your idea and to determine how prepared each team member is for change. Approaching your project like this will also allow you to tailor the group pitch, specifically focusing on challenges the team will need to overcome to eliminate the objectives identified during the interviews. This will effectively take the wind out of the sails for any detractors and help the team get to work on problem solving more quickly.

With TTM, we have a way to define an individual’s change readiness. But, how can we determine change readiness in the real-world? In some cases, it may be as simple as asking: “are you ready for change?”. Some people are desperate for it!

TTM Use Strategy.PNG

But many times, it won’t be so easy. Using a goal-oriented interview where specific questions promote a response or lack of response, this can feedback provide objective evidence of an individual’s change preparedness state. This is much more than a ‘hey, what do you think of my idea?’.

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