Five Ways of Thinking About Change

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Author(s) - Léon de Caluwé and Hans Vermaak

Title - An Overview of Change Paradigms

Source -

Year of Publication - 2003


I first heard of this article in a class on organizational communication during my BSc at Utrecht University.

There are five ways of looking at change, all of which can be represented by a colour.

Yellow: This way of looking at change assumes that you can get change going by uniting perspectives and creating coalitions, to make everyone set their eyes towards the same goal, etc.

Red: People need to be stimulated in order to accept and embrace change. This can be done in various ways, for example by rewarding or penalizing, by managing expectations and by making things attractive for people.

Blue: In order to get change going, the processes need to be formalized and structured, with clear checkpoints and clear beginnings and endings. Steps need to be monitored well and adjusted accordingly, so that complexity can be reduced.

Green: Change needs to be interpreted as a learning experience, allowing people to improve their personality and learn new things. This can be presented as a challenge to make it more attractive for people.

White: Change can only be effective if it comes from within. There needs to be meaning to what people are going through and it is important that people are given free rein in order to release their energy and creativity.

It is important to analyze managers' and employees' 'change colours' to see which style of change would be most effective for the manager, as well as for the employees.