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The Cycle of Change

The Cycle of Change was developed by American author and change coach Rick Maurer to help leaders visualise how organisational change happens, as well as simplify how people react as they progress through changes themselves.

Picturing change as a cycle reflects the constant dynamic of most organisations and can help leaders to estimate the future consequences of change, as well as discover alternative actions that can be taken in the present.

The Cycle of Change has 6 phases:

In the dark

We see individual, potentially unconnected signs that ‘something’ is happening around us but with no real clear idea of their importance. Some individuals seem to have more insights than others, others seem to be paralised by not seeing what they need to do.

See the challenge

Some start to recognise a pattern in what’s happening that helps them realise the need for active change. The focus is on bringing those in the dark to recognise this need for change. Invariably, leaders need to spend more time than they want at this key phase to ensure acceptance of the change later on.

Get started

Like the name says, decisions are made and actions or pilots started towards adapting to the new change. This is a stage that many leaders need to slow down and get more people on board before launching into action. It sounds like a cliché but the more stakeholders involved at this stage, the easier the implementation of the change will be.

Roll out

Again, like the name says, actions are launched across the board, with large numbers of people involved in actively adapting to the new change. As long as the previous phases have been well-guided, this phase should be self explanatory. The key is making it sustainable, for example by having the right resources, and also matching the expectations of stakeholders.


The phase that most leaders focus on, sometimes to the detriment of earlier phases. Here we see the positive (or negative) consequences of the chosen change and how it impacts those involved. At this phase, the change starts to be part of everyday work and is no longer a special event.

Time to move on

Once results are being seen, it’s time to devote the organisation’s energy to other topics. To improve in the future, it’s important to document learnings from the change project and feed these insights into future initiatives. The hard question to ask is ‘was it all worth the effort’?

In reality, most leaders are in different change phases for different changes at the same time. They have to juggle the priorities of simultaneous challenges. Using the Cycle of Change to visualise where you are in a change process can help you channel your time into doing the right things at the right time.

When to use it…

  1. To onboard new change team members
  2. To prioritise own time and energy in driving change
  3. To understand why important stakeholders are not on board yet

Further information…

Behavioural Change

Find out how to make your change even more sustainable by driving it with the energy and support of the heart of your organisation.

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