Transtheoretical Stages of Change

Not the smoothest of model name, hey. Often abbreviated to TTM, for Transtheoretical Model.

It's used in the field of healthcare, stemming perhaps from general behavioural change psychology as published in 1983 by Prochaska and DiClemente.

Over many years helping salesteams with 'change', I can vouch for the liberating effect describing such processes can have for them.

A great way to help dispel the fear of change. Reframe the plan with positivity. And provide a map to envisage it happening.

For context, I'll briefly set out some of the winning frameworks you can bring up in such scenario.

The grand-daddy is perhaps Kurt Lewin's three phases. With hidden depths that truly help get inside the process. In it's simple form; unfreeze - change - refreeze.

Perhaps the entry 'phasing' point is for the skeleton of change; denial - resistance - acceptance - commitment. Which incidentally, make for a terrific slide design with each quarter equating to one of the four phases, jigsawing clockwise.

Which simplifies - maybe a little too reductively - the long-standing individual contributions from the Late 60s. These introduce nuance from the change curve of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and Victoria Satir model of change. Both show five stages. The former looking at self-esteem, the latter more ability and performance. Their backdrops also slightly differ, with Kubler-Ross involved with handling grief, and Satir with family therapy. Whilst these models share some similarities, if you're about to commence on a workplace change, they're both well worth drawing up with those also about to be affected - best first to choose solely your chief advocate for a run-through though. An added layer especially useful is in understanding trigger points and their 'extra' stages.

One point from experience I would make, is that when it comes to deciding on a path, picking a single model alone - the one suiting your situation most closely - before broader 'team' rollout is the way to go.

Which is where TTM provides another option.

You'll find it listed by 4, 5 and 6 stages.

The full cycle pretty much features these;

Preparation / Determination

In a way, these can dovetail with the aforementioned five-stagers. Termination here is a seldom seen step where the also vital construct of Relapse (often cited instead as the sixth stage of the cycle) is no longer possible. In part bridging the 'moving on' aspects from Acceptance of Kubler-Ross and Satir's New Status Quo. And noting the original authors noted the possible Upward Spiral following Relapse too.

A further angle I'd add colour for, is how I've heard the Preparation or Determination stage described; where you’re psyching yourself up to make a change.

As with any such modelling, timescales, stage delineation and eternal impacts can all cause curtailment, confusion and chaos.

Beyond the internal lens, I'd also add the ability to uncover where a prospect is at too.

For instance, I've long bemoaned - especially in my ever-present 'selling new' roles - those not yet recognising the onrushing next wave. Ignoring that the tide has turned.

Choices for this traditional label mainly offer pejoratives.

The classic "unconscious incompetents". Luddites. Head-in-the sand like an ostrich; I love the word struthonian. Non-innovators. Laggards. And one of my own terms; inertians. In short, those at the 'status quo' state featuring in the models above of Denial.

Yet here from TTM, we have a much softer, empathetic, disarming even, phrasing.


Here's but one definition.

"In this stage, people do not intend to take action in the foreseeable future (defined as within the next 6 months). People are often unaware that their behaviour is problematic or produces negative consequences. People in this stage often underestimate the pros of changing behaviour and place too much emphasis on the cons of changing behaviour."

The term's a cracker.

It's nigh on impossible to force someone from nowhere to Contemplation. But you can get them to start moving there with their own lightbulb spark, momentum, and purpose.

A useful, vital addition to the language of initial engagement.

Subscribe to Salespodder

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.