A comprehensive explanation of the Satir Change Model

Overview of the Satir Change Model

The Satir Change Model, also known as the 5-stage change model, is a highly regarded approach to change management extensively utilized by organizations to evaluate and implement transformations. Virginia Satir, a prominent family therapist from the United States, is the visionary behind this model. Central to her approach is the strong belief that change managers have the responsibility to optimize outcomes during any change process. Unlike some other change management models, the Satir Change Model primarily focuses on monitoring and tracking performance rather than attempting to directly influence it during the change implementation. It stands out as one of the most effective change management models, providing change managers with insights into how their teams are coping with change, enabling them to manage changes more efficiently and reassuringly. Initially developed based on the dynamics of change in families, this model has proven adaptable and applicable to various changes occurring within businesses.

The Satir Change Model introduces a graph that charts team performance on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis. This graph tracks how employee performance evolves over time through the five stages of change proposed by this model.

What is the Satir Change Model?

The Satir Change Model, formulated by Virginia Satir, offers a comprehensive framework for understanding and managing organizational change effectively. It acknowledges that change is an essential aspect of growth and improvement and emphasizes the role of change managers in optimizing the change process for the benefit of the organization and its members.

Moving forward, the five stages of the Satir Change Model are illustrated below

  • Late Status Quo: This stage gives a description of the present state of things immediately before the change process is initiated. In simple terms, this phase in the model relates to business as usual before a change occurs. After this stage, when the change process sets in, there will be major disruptions in the usual state of things.
  • Resistance: In this stage, people know that there are upcoming changes in business as usual and they begin to show great resistance. As the awareness of the upcoming change increases the resistance also amplifies among those who want to deny the change or avert it.
  • Chaos: When the change process begins to transpire and old processes start getting replaced, there are large disruptions leading to chaotic situations. The employees have doubts and are unsure about how they have to respond to the change or what they can do to adjust to it. Employees find themselves in uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations that keep adding to the chaos. To add, in this stage employees experience high levels of performance downfall and discouragement.
  • Integration: The next stage in the Satir Change Model is that of integration. In this stage, employees start participating in the change process. They move out of chaos and begin to acquire the necessary skills that are needed to integrate the change into their working styles and make it a part of the new normal. Contrary to the chaos stage, performances begin to improve in the integration stage.
  • New Status Quo: This is the final stage in which the change after moving through the first four stages becomes a part of the new status quo. By this time, employees have acquired the skills, have found their comfort with the change, and work on institutionalizing the change.

Application of the Satir Change Model

Given below is the description of how organizational leaders and change managers can guide their teams effectively through the different stages of the Satir Model for successful change management.

Satir change management model

Step 1: Managing the Late Status Quo Stage

In this stage, the project managers or the change managers need to have open communication with team members. The communication needs to clearly define the upcoming change and the reasons behind it. The key is to effectively communicate to the employees that the change is necessary and will be beneficial for the organization as well as the employees. This is a highly significant stage with respect to introducing the organizational change by creating a favorable scenario for it beforehand. The change managers should be focusing on the following aspects while defining the upcoming change.

  • The need for altering the status quo (for that change managers must highlight risks and opportunities)
  • The vision and core values associated with the upcoming change
  • The impact of the upcoming change on individuals and the organization
  • How the success of the change will be defined and tracked with metrics
  • A well-defined objective of stakeholder analysis
  • How the communication strategies will be planned and executed

Step 2: Managing Resistance

Managers have to be compassionate to deal with resistance from team members when they learn about the upcoming changes. Managers need to manifest empathetic attitudes and meet resistance from team members with effective feedback sharing and clearing doubts regarding the change. To manage the resistance better, change leaders need to apprehend beforehand the possible reasons for resistance in employees. These factors can be identified better via transparent communication and promoting a greater sense of self-advocacy among employees.

Step 3: Managing Chaos

To manage this stage, the change managers should embrace falling productivity and high levels of disengagement during disruptions. To control that, managers should introduce training programs and mentoring programs to help the employees understand the change and acquire the prerequisite skills to align with the change. Besides, feedback sharing needs to become more regular and managers ought to lead by example to take the team out of chaos. Change managers and leaders can work on the following strategies to manage chaotic situations that come in the way of change management.

  • Closely monitoring productivity and engagement metrics to identify the extent of the chaos
  • Helping employees set realistic goals for themselves and guiding them through the same
  • Having one-to-one interactions with employees to understand their concerns, insecurities, and emotions
  • Promoting greater empathy and optimism in the workplace
  • Clearly defining what is expected of employees and the KPIs with which their performance will be measured
  • Presenting the change as an opportunity to them for advancing their careers.

Step 4: Managing integration

This will be a crucial phase in the entire change process and if this stage is mismanaged then things may go back towards chaos once again. Leaders have to encourage team members to participate in the change process and to show greater learning engagement to develop skills and knowledge. Further, change managers can also make integration more successful by appreciating positive behaviors and the achievement of small milestones by team members. Employee recognition can play a major role in boosting employees’ morale to see the change as a new opportunity to prove their mettle. In fact, it is crucial for leaders to know that as per Hubspot, 69 percent of employees feel that they will be willing to work much harder when they receive appreciation.

Step 5: Managing The New Status Quo

In the final stage, the top management needs to work on making the change a part of the new status quo. In simpler terms, the change has to be incorporated into the organization in its entirety and has to be sustained. Also, managers have to plan for bringing incremental improvements in the results of the change. At last, managers need to celebrate the successful implementation of the change to keep spirits high such that team members stay motivated to drive better outcomes from the change. Also, to advance the change and optimize its results, change managers need to identify if there is a need for employees to acquire new skills, new hiring prerequisites, bringing changes to the leadership, facilitate mergers and acquisitions, or invest in new technologies.

Satir Change Model Application example taking Lego’s case

Lego is a Denmark-based toy manufacturing company with its retail operations spread across the world. In fact, it is the world’s most valuable toy manufacturer with a market capitalization of more than 6.5 billion Dollars. However, for Lego, its effective change management abilities have been among its greatest success factors. Things were not always this prosperous for the company and it took exceptional change management strategies to bring the turnaround.

To substantiate, in 2003, the company was under heavy debt and the sales had fallen by 30 percent. The leadership of the company realized that to survive in the long run and to keep itself immune from the rising competition, it must digitally revolutionize its operations and bring extensive product differentiation to the floor. The company decided that it is not going to solely depend on physical toys but also blend virtual and augmented reality into its products to offer fascinating experiences to make children fall in love with their toys.

So, let’s see how the company went about this mammoth change by applying the Satir Change Model to steer its employees along the change process.

Managing the Late Status Quo Stage

Lego’s top management and change managers promoted open communication with employees in the design and manufacturing units about the upcoming changes linked to AR and VR. They explained to the team why this change is necessary and how it could save the company from evident bankruptcy and help employees sustain their livelihoods. This is how they created a favorable environment to introduce the changes.

Managing resistance

Employees in the production or design teams who did not have enough expertise on digital transformations like AR and VR integrations and hence, resisted the change. The change managers and project managers acted with empathy and made employees believe that they understand their emotions. They encouraged them to give up their resistance and in doing so, feedback and open communication were of great help. Also, the resistance was countered by explaining to employees the positive consequences of the change.

Managing Chaos

The new manufacturing processes coming into the company led to widespread disruptions and chaos initially. To manage the chaos, the change leaders introduced training programs in virtual reality and augmented reality for production engineers, quality engineers, and other teams to understand how these features can be added to physical toys and digital gaming experiences. Further, the change leaders ensured that changes are not hurriedly enforced on the employees and they get their fair share of time to understand the change and adjust to it. Moreover, the feedback of training progress was shared in a more regular way. The leaders did all that was needed to manage the chaos and lead the employees to the next stage of the model.

Managing Integration

The integration of the change was handled with extra caution by top leaders and project managers. The top management helped employees to manage their stress effectively and master the new processes in an incremental manner. Also, they set small milestones and celebrated the quick wins to keep the morale of the employees high when they finally begin to show commitment to adapting to the change. They did everything possible to make the integration effective and progressive. They also rewarded positive employee attitudes and hard work in alignment with the change process.

Managing the new status quo

The next step was to make toys and games with augmented reality features the new trademark of the company’s products. This required sharing of expert knowledge with the team members and finding ways to encourage improvements in games and toys based on augmented reality. Also, new marketing strategies were developed to promote Lego’s strategic shift to the new class of products and its digital revamp. Also, managers created a work environment that promoted better creativity and innovation among employees to add more value to the change. At last, the top management initiated a system to celebrate the success of the change as well as that of the employees to keep the morale positive with respect to sustaining the change. Even today, Lego is constantly innovating on these changes and adding great efficiency to its digital transformation strategies to stay ahead of its competitors. Lego invests large amounts of money in research and development to keep improving its products and to broaden the range of its offerings.

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Kathy denis


I'm Kathy Denis, a seasoned writer specializing in management and research blogs. If you're passionate about sharing insights on research topics, exploring the marketing niche, or discussing technology trends, I invite you to contribute as a guest blogger on our platform. We're actively seeking submissions to enrich our content and provide diverse perspectives to our audience. For those interested in showcasing their expertise and writing skills, please contact us at kathyrdenis@gmail.com to discuss your guest blog ideas. Join us in shaping the conversation and making an impact - write for us and be part of our guest blogging journey!