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The Scott and Jaffe Change Model

The process of change - managing people and performance

This change model has considerable explanatory and predictive power. It describes the psychological process of adaption to change. Derived originally from studies of coping with bereavement and one’s own mortality it can also apply to comparatively minor changes, including changes in circumstance and routines at work. An understanding of how these stages affect us and others is invaluable when we are placed in a situation of driving change or having to cope with it. Overall, the model demonstrates that responses to change, which on the surface appear negative or undesirable, are in fact part of a necessary and therapeutic process.

Change occurs in and over time and this is indicated by the horizontal axis moving from the past (left) to the future (right).

The vertical axis represents our general awareness and suggests that as change progresses in time, we shift from a preoccupation with external circumstances to becoming more introspective and wrapped up in our thoughts and emotions before, once again, becoming attentive to our external circumstances.

The ‘U’ shaped curve represents ‘morale’ but also tracks the changes in psychological preoccupation, as described above. It can also be viewed as plotting the disempowering effect of change, with the left-hand quadrants of the curve representing increasing disempowerment and the upward curve of the right-hand quadrant representing re-empowerment

Working through the stages


The denial stage is easily identified even though the symptoms may take different forms ie. Ignoring the issue, minimising the threat or trying to ignore it to name a few.


Once the reality of the need to change sinks in and we can no longer deny the reality we move onto the next stage of resistance. Essentially, we accept that the change is inevitable but we are not happy about it. Either we have lost an existing reality or our loss is replaced by uncertainty about the future and our ability to deal with it. The resistance stage can therefore be anxiety and hostility.


The important thing to consider at this stage is that ‘exploration’ is tentative and fragile and moving too quickly may send a person backwards towards ‘resistance’. With this in mind, the behaviours associated at this stage are likely to involve finding out a little bit more of what change entails, or possibly, testing things out in a small way.


This is the stage at which individuals are re-empowered. Essentially, it is important that efforts to commit to a new course of action are recognised in a positive manner and that ownership or responsibility for implementation is encouraged.

Adapted from Scott C.D. and Jaffe, D.T. (1995). Managing Change at Work. New Brunswick: Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy (CRISP) Publications