Fisher’s transition curve


Provides an insight to how individuals respond to change.

Also known as

The tool

Fisher’s Process of Transition, and its associated Personal Transition Curve (see following diagram), provides an insight into how individuals respond to change.

The diagram shows the stages of transition, from anxiety, through happiness and depression, to moving forward.

The Process of Transition shows how the change process affects individuals. Being mindful of the Process of Transition enables you to manage change as effectively and painlessly as possible, helping you to plan ways to provide communications, information and support at the most appropriate points in the change process.

Although the Process of Transition provides a generalised view of how change affects individuals, you should bear in mind that individuals experience change in different ways and some people pass through the stages of the transition faster than others. Also, past experiences of change influences how individuals react in the present.

At the core of Fisher’s model is a curve which indicates the eight stages individuals pass through during a change process, along with their varying levels of positivity over time. Fisher suggests that all people pass through the eight stages, but some of the stages may be fleeting enough not to be noticeable.


  1. Anxiety
  • Individuals are aware that events are happening outside of their understanding or control.
  • Individuals are unable to picture the future.
  1. Happiness
  • This may be a simple stage of relief that something is going to change at last.
  • It may also include the individual becoming aware that their viewpoint is recognised and shared by others.
  • In this stage, individuals expect the best and anticipate a bright future. There is a danger of individuals developing unrealistic expectations.
  1. Fear
  • Fear, along with a feeling of being under threat, are two key reasons why individuals resist change.
  1. Threat
  1. Guilt
  • Arises as individuals question their perception of themselves and their place in the grand scheme of the change.
  • Once the individual begins to explore their perceptions, along with how they have acted in the past, they begin to redefine their sense of self.
  • Where individuals recognise that their previous actions were inappropriate, individuals will feel guilt.
  1. Depression
  • Follows on from guilt.
  1. Gradual acceptance
  • Individuals see a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
  1. Moving forward
In addition to the previous table, individuals may also experience other feelings.
  • Anger may arise as people pass through the transition, particularly where individuals feel that change is being forced on them and that they have no control over it.
  • Individuals who have passed through the change process may develop a new world view.
  • They become accustomed to a ‘new normal’, and are not interested in what is going on around them. This may be seen as a return to the beginning of the curve, before anxiety about the next change project sets in!.
  • Individuals act as if the change has not happened, continuing to use old practices and processes.
  • Individuals become aware that their values, beliefs and goals are not compatible with those of the organisation.
  • Employees may become unmotivated, unfocused and increasingly dissatisfied.
  • They may withdraw their labour, either mentally or physically, in the latter case, by resigning.
  • New processes are ignored or even actively undermined.

Why use it

  • Enable individuals to understand change.
  • Enable managers and organisations to help staff deal with change.

When to use it

How to use it



Similar to

  • Kubler Ross’ change curve.

Use in conjunction with

Complemented by


Additional information