In the course of development work assisting Organisations and academic students to implement successful learning and change programs, I have developed a simple but powerful model which reflects the impact of change on the individual, and vice versa.

Many individuals throughout the Agencies involved, as well as the organisations themselves, have found the model particularly useful. It places the individual at the centre of the change process, it highlights the element of choice and it provides a structure for the empowerment of the individual.

The model describes four stages through which we can expect to progress when we change, develop and learn.


The overall design rests upon a simple model of change which includes four phases. It takes learning a stage further than the Kolb model, in that it integrates learning into change and development in its wider sense.

The first phase is I KNOW. I am aware of a need or desire to change or improve, but this does not necessarily predict successful change. Eg I may be aware that I should give up smoking, but that does not make it easy to do.

I OWN, is the stage at which I determine, consciously, or otherwise, if I will own the change, what is my commitment, my motivation?

If I have the required ownership, then I DO. This is a phase of conscious application of new skills or knowledge.

When I can do without consciously thinking, I AM. I have successfully integrated the new behaviours into my personality.

Effective change facilitation aims to engage the individual by taking them through the four phases, so that they can gain an authentic insight into their own development. It is insufficient to stay at the I KNOW level, at which individuals are merely informed. True change only occurs where the deeper levels of ownership and application can be elicited.

I KNOW I am aware of a need, or I have an experience which might make a difference

I OWN I commit myself to changing something

I DO I consciously try out new behaviours

I AM I now perform the behaviours unconsciously

We can apply this way of looking at change to countless everyday examples eg

Learning to drive, or swim

Learning to be assertive

Giving up smoking

Hopefully the examples ring some pretty familiar bells. It is this intimacy which appeals to most of the people who have been exposed to the model. By establishing clear and familiar patterns in their behaviour it can be powerful in unblocking change in people's lives. It helps to diagnose the individual's particular state of stuckness - and points to appropriate next steps. Because the appropriate next step depends on which phase the individual is in at that time.

1. Stuck in I KNOW

Here I need information about the situation, and about my position.

2. Stuck in I OWN

Here I need to explore my commitment and motivation, find out what's in it for me ?

3. Stuck in I DO

Here I am learning by doing - and making mistakes along the way.

4. Stuck in I AM

Here I am mistakenly thinking it's all over and that I can be unconscious again - go back to sleep !

We can see therefor that each stage has appropriate, and inappropriate, interventions. For ourselves, and organisations which aim to support their people through change, this has clear significance. It is no use to keep on giving information if the individual's issue is one of commitment. Similarly it is not appropriate to question someone's commitment if they are conscientiously doing the new things, but struggling for lack of support or direction.

The model can be used from the diagnostic phase of organisational change right through to implementation, or as a personal development tool. It has been particularly useful as a part of mentorship programs and to give structure to Continuous Professional Development programmes. I am continually refining the model and its applications, as the number and range of personal and organisational issues it addresses grows.

The model is underpinned by a belief that responsibility for our lives remains with us. The changes which are taking place around us can only make sense when we have the awareness to become conscious of what those changes mean to us.

Organisations seem to be unanimous in demanding empowered and responsible personnel. We can choose to see that as a challenge, an opportunity, or we can see it as a threat. As far as possible our lives should be a chosen path in which we consciously engage our judgement over how we wish to change. The model reflects the crucial role which ownership plays - a key factor for individuals in a time of change, but also for organisations which underplay the human element at their peril.

If, in change situations, we can consciously inhabit all of the phases in the model, we too can believe that change is easy. In today's world it is trying so hard to stay the same which is increasingly difficult !

Feedback and opinions are as welcome as commercial enquiries. Ideas are only as good as the people who give them currency.

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