On the Kubler-Ross Model

I have written elsewhere about the Kubler-Ross Model (KRM).

I have nothing against the model, but I do have a problem with it when it’s used as a model of change. Unfortunately, it is often used that way in the commercial world, and often by change managers.

I won’t go into a description of the model – check it out online if you are not familiar with it.

However, I will give you some reasons why it should not be used as a model of the change process.

  • It doesn’t describe the process of behavioural change. A good description of the process of change needs to show you the behaviours people engage in when they succeed at change. You can’t take the KRM and describe how someone is successful at change. It might describe how they deal with their emotions and how they get back on track with change, but it doesn’t show you how people succeed.
  • Not only doesn’t it describe the change process, but it also doesn’t provide an explanation of why people succeed. A good model needs to provide a good, testable explanation of why something happens predictably and with regularity. The KRM doesn’t do that with change. It may show you how people deal with negative emotions that sometimes occur because of change, but it doesn’t explain why people succeed at change.
  • The KRM assumes that change is something bad. It assumes that change has a negative emotional impact on people that they have trouble dealing with. But this is not always true. Sometimes change is what we seek and hope for. Sometimes change brings great joy and hope.
  • The KRM doesn’t handle variations well. A good model should be true across a wide variety of situations. But the KRM does not describe what happens when change is wanted and chosen. It only describes changes that are undesirable and forced on a person.

In my opinion, the KRM is not a good model of the change process, and it is a mistake to use it in that way. It may be an apt description of how people deal with grief and loss, but that is not always true of change.

A much better model to use is the Transtheoretical Model (TM). Unlike the KRM, the TM does describe the process of behavioural change, it explains why people succeed, it applies regardless of the emotional impact a change may have, and it is hard to vary.

Because of these features, it is a much better model of the change process.

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