The change curve is a model that shows how people respond to change. Based on research into grief, there are four stages: denial, anger, exploration and acceptance. (Photo: Envato)

Change is an inevitable part of all businesses. Whether it is to improve performance, increase sales or improve customer experience, change has to happen at some point. For that reason, part and parcel of many projects is the need to implement change. An organisation hires project managers to implement a new process, improve an old system, or develop new and more efficient ways of working. Whatever the goal or objectives of the project are, managing the change process is a crucial skill that project professionals need to tackle carefully from the very beginning of the project lifecycle to ensure successful implementation.


The Kübler-Ross Change curve comes from the psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who developed a theory you may know as the ‘Five Stages of Grief’ outlined in her book ‘On Death and Dying‘. These five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, and they identify the most commonly found emotions that people experience as they go through the journey of bereavement. After the publication of Kubler-Ross’s work, the model was widely acknowledged with accurately indicating the stages of emotions during grief. The model’s accuracy was also cited when considering emotions following any change, upheaval or trauma such as illness or other sufferings.

The Kubler-Ross Change curve for change management is a variation of these five stages of grief, built to identify the emotions of employees of an organisation or impacted stakeholders of a project as changes are implemented in their environment. It is used as a change management model guideline for organisations.

Project management is so frequently associated with organisational change, and one of the most common challenges that project managers face is getting staff accustomed to the changes they implement. It isn’t enough to list the positives of the new changes, even if it saves money and makes their lives one thousand times easier. Many people are used to doing things a certain way and do not want to change; new solutions are not always welcomed. The change curve gives project professionals a visual and detailed understanding of how the affected employees will likely feel about the change and how they will cope with the transition. For this reason, it is especially relevant to businesses experiencing change management. It is not simply enough to implement changes if the people operating the business are not on board; they must be equally accepting and willing to learn the new changes put in place. The Change Curve model can help project professionals support people through the change procedure.

As a Project Manager, the Change Curve should be considered at the beginning of the change management process to identify and plan mitigation for the risk of employees not accepting the change. Transparent and frequent stakeholder engagement at the start of the project can help alleviate problems in the early stages of the change process.

The Change Curve

Stage 1 – Shock

The first stage in the Kubler-Ross model is the initial shock or denial. Shock occurs when affected parties are informed of the intended change and are likely to experience an adverse reaction. During this stage, it is common for individuals to be inflexible and possibly even refuse the idea of the change as they aim to maintain the status quo. The project team needs to provide as many details as possible and offer support, outline the objectives and reasoning behind the change, assess the buy-in they have from the stakeholders, and allow them time to adjust to the news. By carefully considering the reactions at this stage, thorough planning can be made for the following stages to try and alleviate or reduce opposition as much as possible.

At this stage, good communication is essential. Setting up regular meetings and workshops with stakeholders is a good idea as it gives them a forum to ask questions, gather more information, and why they need to accept the change.

We can look at an example of a change management project where the Kubler Ross Change Curve would effectively predict and mitigate opposition to change. Let’s say you are a Project Manager who a company has hired to deliver savings by simplifying overly complex processes that are outdated and rely on paper, moving the services online. As the new change processes are more time-efficient, you identify that you do not need as many staff and will be making redundancies of 10% of the workforce.

When announcing this information to the affected people, they will experience shock. The employees have always done their work a certain way, and they do not see why it needs to change. They are also shocked that some of them will be made redundant.

Stage 2 – Disruption

During the second stage of the change curve or the ‘Anger’ stage, if you consider the original Kubler Ross model, it is common to see people experience negative moods such as anger, fear, denial, and resentment. You are likely to see active or passive resistance to the change and rejection of acceptance at this stage. Early risk management can help the Project Manager through this stage by carefully considering how each stakeholder might react at the onset of the project. The project manager should research and evidence their decisions as well as prepare for brutal questioning. There are likely always going to be critics to change in the workplace, but well-researched information can help the project team respond to questions and reduce anger.

It is common for the employees at risk of redundancy to fight back against the idea or stay in denial, insisting that the change will not happen or should not occur. Some employees may seek Union involvement and may reach out to internal management and the project staff involved to argue against change. In extreme cases, some will not work and demand more information or dispute the facts set out in the business case. At this stage, the Project Manager needs to have access to the evidence that helped them make the project decisions and confidently express the reasoning behind the change being implemented. Without a solid rationale behind the change and a clear outline of the project benefits, there is a chance that the project may be successfully challenged. Careful and decisive leadership is required at this stage from the project team to reduce anger and allow the change process to move to the next step. This stage can also incorporate depression and bargaining as people try to understand what is expected of them as part of the transition while also suggesting alternative ideas that better suit them. In the concept of grief, we bargain by saying things like, ‘If I survive this, I will never be depressed again, I promise.’ In the workplace, it can be things such as ‘We will improve performance as long as we don’t have to go through this change,’ it cannot be relied upon as a solution in place of the new change. The change curve shows that the curve moves upwards after this stage as people embrace the change, so getting through this stage is difficult, but the positives are soon realised.

Stage 3 – Exploration

During the third phase, stakeholders will begin to accept the idea of the change, and this gives way to the ‘testing’ phase, a stage where feelings will become more positive and the team members delivering the change can breathe a sigh of relief. During this phase, stakeholders will be more willing to explore what the change means for them and start to prepare for transitions in procedure and question how they can better work with the changes. Anger is reduced, and the affected employees work with each other and the project team to understand the change. At this stage, Project Managers can give people some insight into what the change means for them and begin to initiate training that will support them with the implementation of the change and prepare the organisation for the change rollout. People will now be willing to address their knowledge gaps and work on problem-solving to help initiate the change.

Using our example, at this stage, you would begin to see employees asking more positive questions about the change and trying to find out what this means for them and how they start to adapt to the change and use it in their work. They will be willing to attend training sessions and begin to adapt early changes into their work, and overall communication becomes more positive and in control. They will show resilience and understanding as they adjust.

Stage 4 – Rebuilding

At Stage 4, the change is initiated and integrated into the organisation as acceptance of the change is found more frequently among the staff. People embrace the change, and the benefits set out at the start of the project are realised as productivity increases. Benefit realisation workshops can help the Project Manager identify the project’s success, get positive feedback from stakeholders and begin to close down the project.

Using our example, we now have fully integrated digital services in the organisation, and the remaining staff members are trained on how to integrate this into their work. They understand their role, can see the benefits, and their performance will improve. They are pleased that the procedures are more straightforward, customers are also pleased that they can use digital services, which have reduced waiting times and improved their overall customer experience.

The Change Curve – Conclusion

Across organisations, change is always inevitable. As technology advances and the requirements of organisations change over time, organisational change needs to be secured to ensure businesses are running efficiently for both staff and the customers. Change management is frequently not appropriately run and is a leading cause of project failures.

Using the change curve model helps organisations who are undertaking change understand how people are likely to handle the journey through the change on an emotional level, broken down into easier to understand phases. It helps predict behaviour, mitigate the risk of disruption and increase the likelihood that the change will be implemented successfully following acceptance from staff. The change curve is an excellent tool for change management professionals to review at the start of any project. It helps to identify likely questions, risks, and reactions to change, allowing them to curve the change procedure in their favour.

The change curve is a guideline, and there are situations where employees’ response will not precisely mirror the Kubler Ross change curve model. Still, it is a valuable guideline for reducing frustration and confusion and helping the project leaders control the change process. It has a track record of being a highly successful model. There are variants of the Kübler-Ross change curve, some with additional stages added to the curve to highlight each stage people might go through during the transition in more depth. Many businesses have widely accepted the change curve as a change implementation tool. The curve is a great visual indicator of the journey people go on as they experience change. Therefore, the change curve is a handy tool and should always be considered when embarking upon a change that will impact others professionally and emotionally.

Elite are experts in change management training. We train change management practitioners worldwide, and in 2020 Elite was awarded Sole Supplier status to the Scottish Government for Project and Programme Management learning. Do you want to upskill or refresh your change management knowledge? Browse our change management portfolio. Alternatively, if you’d rather speak to a training consultant, call us on 0141 222 2227.

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Project Initiation Document - The Ultimate Guide

Use this easy-to-follow step-by-step guide to producing a Project Initiation Document to increase the chances of your project running to plan, on time, within budget, and delivering the product to the right quality.

A Project Initiation Document, or PID, is integral to effective project management planning and is key to the success of any project. It is completed at the project initiation stage.

The PID is a vital component of the PRINCE2 methodology (PRojects IN Controlled Environments), a widely recognised process-based project management method.

Several project management frameworks exist with slightly different approaches to the PID documentation. Increase the likelihood that your projects run to plan, on time, and within budget with this step-by-step PID guide, featuring common elements and best practices found in different project management frameworks.

What is a Project Initiation Document (PID)?

A Project Initiation Document is a powerful project management planning tool. It can be one document, or a set of documents, used by project managers to define a project's:

  • scope,
  • objectives,
  • business case,
  • risk,
  • team,
  • deliverables,
  • parameters,
  • and outcome measurements.

Your project approach provides a solid starting point from which the project manager and project board can assess and monitor performance during the project lifecycle.

What is the purpose of a Project Initiation Document (PID)?

The ultimate purpose for Project Initiation Documentation is to get funding approval for projects from the project board. The PID establishes a clear way forward and measures project delivery progress and success. It also provides one point of reference where people can find vital information about the project.

Why is Project Initiation Documentation (PID) necessary?

Quite simply, the best ideas cannot come to fruition without proper project management planning. Project Initiation Documents are an essential starting point and can mean the ultimate success or failure of a project. The Project Initiation Documents sets the parameters, context, and expected outcomes from each team member.

What are the benefits of a Project Initiation Document (PID)?

Project Initiation Documentation provides the following benefits:

  • Projects run according to a plan, on time, and within budget
  • Everyone understands the objectives and their role in achieving those objectives
  • You're able to manage risk and can monitor progress regularly
  • It provides a baseline against which the project can be monitored and controlled

Compiling a Project Initiation Document (PID)

Follow this comprehensive Project Initiation Document template for your project planning:

1. Scope and objectives

Much like a Project Charter, this section of the PID is a broad introduction that defines the project scope, objectives, and participants' key roles. Information in this document should outline the following:

  • The project brief – Note, in PRINCE2, this is a separate document to the PID.
  • The project definition
  • What problem you are solving
  • The purpose of the project - what you want to accomplish
  • The project objectives - How will you achieve the project purpose. Use SMART goals, which means they should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.
  • The project deliverables - the project results. Include timings for each deliverable so that you can monitor each milestone.
  • Constraints - the influences which may affect your deliverables and outcomes
  • Assumptions - The assumptions you are making that may affect the project outcome. Include how you will manage these assumptions.

2.Specifics and approach

Stipulating the specifics and approach is an integral part of resource planning and creating timelines. What project management method will be adopted? Everyone in your project team should understand what is expected from them to achieve deliverables and ensure a successful outcome. The project specifics and approach bring you closer to achieving your goals by breaking down and allocating the tasks required for each team member to complete. It is imperative to take the team through this planning to fully understand what is expected from them, when expected and how they should do the job. This will ensure the project team's buy-in and gives them accountability.

The project approach in PRINCE2 is specifically about how the project will deliver the product. So, for example, in-house or through third parties, will it be an off the shelf product or bespoke.

3. Business case

The business case document justifies the project and shows how it supports the broader strategic business goals of the company. It should provide information that explains the reasons for the project and the impact it will have on the business. A business case should answer the following:

  • The benefits of the project and how these benefits will be measured.
  • Other options considered when developing the project management plan – including the do-nothing option.
  • The possible risks and how these will be overcome.
  • A breakdown of costs.
  • A detailed timeline for each job to be completed.
  • An analysis of costs versus expected return on investment.

4. Role descriptions

The role descriptions section of the document explains how the project will be executed and managed. It provides information around the key roles and responsibilities of each project team member and the reporting structure. This ensures no functions are duplicated and sets out clear parameters and expectations from each member of staff. This section should include:

Organisation Breakdown Structure (OBS):- The OBS diagram illustrates the reporting structure and where each team member fits into this structure.

Project sponsor: - The project sponsor is the head authority designated to the project.

Project manager: The project manager manages and is responsible for the overall project.

Project team: A list of project team members' names, job descriptions, the department they are from, and what role they will fulfil within the project. This list should include their contact details (email address and phone number) and reporting lines.

Outlining role descriptions in the Project Initiation Documentation will avoid any potential misunderstandings. It will establish the project process for consultation and the time required at each sign off stage.

RACI chart

An effective way of clarifying roles and responsibilities is through a RACI chart, which outlines who is:

  • Responsible (who performs the actual task)
  • Accountable (who makes the decisions)
  • Consulted (who needs to weigh in)
  • Informed (who needs to updated)

This can be completed by mapping out each project task and allocating the roles and responsibilities next to each task.

[caption id="attachment_3898" align="aligncenter" width="700"]The RACI acronym stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. RACI charts are an effective method of identifying roles and responsibilities within a project. (Image: Wikimedia) The RACI acronym stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. RACI charts are an effective method of identifying roles and responsibilities within a project. (Image: Wikimedia)[/caption]

5. Risk analysis

A risk analysis document is a risk log that identifies potential project issues, dependencies, and assumptions, such as budget constraints, unknown factors, or timing issues. It sets out a specific project management plan on how to address these risks, should they arise. A risk analysis should provide the following information:

  • Identifying the risks within the project
  • Explaining how you plan to prevent or manage the identified risks
  • Outlining the contingency plan for dealing with those risk you cannot prevent should they arise
  • How you will routinely monitor the processes put in place to assess the project risks continually

With PRINCE2 specifically, there is no Risk Register contained within the PID. In PRINCE2, the PID should explain how risks will be managed and reference a separate Risk Register document.

6. Implementation

The project implementation section of the Project Initiation Document broadly defines how the project will be implemented and outlines the project rollout plan by detailing the timelines, resources, and management stages. – for me, this would all be covered in the project plans below - Further planning documents to provide more information are often required to support this stage.

7. Project plan

The initial project plan document is the crux of the Project Initiation Document. It analyses the resources available to the project and provides detailed information about the schedule and budget. It also provides a timeline to measure project development and progress. An initial project plan includes the following:

  • Assignments - What the milestones are for the project.
  • Schedule - A report of the estimated time involved to complete the project, which you can pull from a high-level Gantt chart or similar project management software tool.
  • Human resources - The staff allocation needed for the project
  • Project control - how project progress will be monitored and communicated to stakeholders.
  • Quality management - what the quality assurance and checking processes will be for each deliverable. Some businesses have existing corporate governance, which you will need to follow to ensure quality management.

8. Controls

The project controls in PID stipulate the rules put in place to ensure you have identified potential project constraints, such as remaining within budget and on schedule. Measurement and reporting on project progress should be completed regularly to confirm that the project conforms to the project controls. – the project controls section would set out the Project Boards controls that they want in place so they have overall control but can delegate day to day management to the PM. So, for example – communication between the PB and PM, the number of stages, how tolerances will be used, how issues and exceptions will be escalated.

9. Change control approach

However well considered your project controls, changes can happen during a project. It would help to be well-prepared for handling any changes required, or they can completely derail the project. This is why change control needs to be managed. The change control approach stipulates the project tolerance for any deviation and sets out an exception process should you want to put exceptions forward. This document sets out clear policies and procedures for change.

10. Communication plan

This document sets out the project communication plan and details when stakeholders will receive project updates and in what format they'll receive them.

Project Initiation Document checklist

The PID checklist is a helpful project management tool to ensure you've created a quality PID. The checklist should answer and verify the following questions:

  • Is the project scope achievable?
  • Does the project support the strategic business goals?
  • Have optimal human resources been allocated with all roles considered?
  • Have control and reporting structures been stipulated?
  • Have appropriate timelines and budget been given?

Project Initiation Documentation approval and sign off

Once you have completed the above documents and you are happy with the PID, it's time to get approval from stakeholders and the project board. The approval process should include:

  • Emailing the PID to all project management team members and stakeholders and asking for their review and comments
  • Revising the PID to incorporate these comments and changes
  • Meeting with all project management team members and stakeholders to go through the revised version and to discuss the PID in detail
  • Making further changes and then presenting the final PID to the project board for approval

There could be several reviews during the approval process, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

Share the PID

The best project management plan means nothing if you don't share the document information with the broader project team. Following the stipulated guidelines and procedures and implementing the project according to your plan will decide a successful outcome or not. Use the Project Initiation Document regularly for check-ins and monitor progress to ensure the project is on track.

Project Initiation Document review

Throughout the project, it's essential to continually assess the Project Initiation Document through a combination of formal and informal review sessions. Informal reviews can be conducted monthly and formal reviews at the end of each quarter, depending on the project's complexity. How often these take place can be up to you. What's important is that regular reviews are held to identify potential problems as soon as they arise.

Update the PID

Project Initiation Documents are living documents, which means they should be reviewed and updated regularly. Any updates required are completed at the end of each stage, explaining why and by whom.

Elite are experts in project management training. We train project management practitioners worldwide, and in 2020 Elite was awarded Sole Supplier status to the Scottish Government for Project and Programme Management learning. Do you want to upskill or refresh your project management knowledge? Browse our course portfolio. Alternatively, if you'd rather speak to a training consultant, call us on 0141 222 2227.

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