Using the Principles Behind Roger’s Stages of Change Theory

What Is Change Management?

Changing Seasons Morgue File

Change management is really a project management methodology in and of itself. In the project management world, changes can come in processes, team member assignments, deadlines, milestones and even goals or outcomes.

What this management methodology really does is to allow project managers to help individuals, teams, and even entire companies or organizations to “accept” the change. In Carl Roger’s stages of change theory, he looks at personality traits to help managers determine how to deal with resistance to change.

The Bright Hub article, Create and Use a Plan for Change Management offers much information regarding this management methodology, including how to implement your own change control plan.

What Is the Roger’s Theory?

Screenshot Carl Rogers Theory Courtesy of Value Based Management

According to Value Based Management, Roger’s stages of change theory is a “Multi-Step Flow Theory” or “Diffusion of Innovations Theory.” This theory is simple in context and analyzes why some people are more willing to accept change than others.

In the screenshot to the right (click to enlarge), you can see that Roger’s bases his change theory on five personality traits:

  • Innovators – Usually the implementers of change
  • Early Adopters – Cautious about change
  • Early Majority – Adopt to change quickly
  • Late Majority – Change skeptics
  • Laggards – Stick to tried and true methods

Because I recently implement many new processes within my car dealership business, I decided analyze each of my employees to determine where they fall on the scale in Roger’s stages of change theory.

From Innovators to Laggards!

Laggart Morgue File

Not surprisingly, I saw all five of these types of personalities at my dealership, especially when the new processes were implemented. Here’s a look at where certain employees fell in Carl Roger’s change theory stages based on their characteristics.

To give a bit of a background here on the new processes implemented, we basically found our customer service index (CSI) was poor in our service and parts departments, the business office workers were considered rude by customers, and the sales team process; well there really wasn’t any specific process other than which salesperson can get to that customer first.

The new processes that were put in place were written policies developed by a business management company that helps dealerships improve their bottom line. Because the dealership was in total chaos, I thought written policies would go smoothly—boy was I wrong.

To better analyze the Roger’s Theory of Change, let’s examine how some of my workers adapted to change processes at my dealership.

Service & Parts Department


Before the management company came in to revise our policies, I did attempt to fix the unsatisfied customer problem by implementing an Agile process in our service and parts department—it didn’t work. Part of our new changes were incentives and pay rates based on work performed, up-selling, and obtaining more labor hours and part sales per invoice.

All of the new processes called for employee changes and accepting accountability for their actions; here’s what I found:

  • Technicians – Their new process was to keep a clipboard right in their service bay showing the number of jobs assigned for the day where they had to record in and out times and repairs completed. Right off, my lead technician hated the idea. “What If I don’t get the work assigned done? Everyone will see it in black and white!” I placed him in the category of Late Majority as he was not only skeptical about the change, he hated the change. As far as being accountable for “fixing cars right the first time,” this same lead tech said, “I already do the best I can,” again I felt he should be placed in the Late Majority category. At this time, because he has not improved and is a constant complainer, he is turning into a Laggard really fast and could be replaced.
  • Service & Parts Manager – My service and parts manager is what I would call a traditionalist and hates change in processes. Her new policies meant she had to be accountable for the sales in both service and parts to achieve an incentive. Goals were set and she was to offer daily tracking reports on her goals. This manager also never greeted service or parts customer and basically hid in her office, which the new policies were supposed to change. My service manager fell in the Carl Roger’s stages of change theory as an Early Adopter. She was indeed cautious about the change and actually thought about quitting her job based on the new policies. But, she is hanging in there and I see her rapidly changing to an Innovator.

On Page 2, we’ll look at my sales department and business office and analyze where they placed on the Roger’s change theory scale.

Sales & Business Office

Sales 02 FreeDigitalPhotos

Now came time to put the Carl Roger’s theory of change to test in my sales department and business office.

  • Sales/Finance Manager – This guy was onboard before the management company hit the ground. He loved the new processes, felt he would gain more respect, and had definite rules to follow. At first, he placed in the Early Majority category but after a few weeks of actually using the new processes, he is now an Innovator!
  • Sales Associates – Here we had two employees I judged. One was a traditionalist as far as his age, almost 65, and another was very new to the world of sales at only 21. Here, I was really surprised because I felt new written policies would not be followed by the traditionalist (Laggard), especially since he refused to utilize our computer system. I thought the 21-year old sales associate would fall in the Early Majority category because he was eager to sell and wanted to gain as much knowledge as possible! I was wrong in both cases here. The 65-year old actually fell high on the Roger’s scale in the Early Majority category meaning he adapted quickly to all the changes placed before him. He actually thanked me for implementing needed change. The eager 21-year old ended up on the Laggard scale. His comments, because his father was in sales were always along the line of, “My Dad says this way is best!” or “You guys are trying to reinvent the wheel here!” Actually, I don’t think he’ll last long.
  • Business Office – Here I only judged one employee, my Office Manager. She has been an office manager at a car dealership for over 30 years and she did indeed come in as a Laggard. Not only does she refuse to implement any changes, she constantly says, “We’ve always done it this way!” Little by little however, she is becoming an Early Adopter, but I doubt she will ever be an Innovator.

Summing Up Roger’s Lessons on Change

Carl Rogers Wikimedia Commons

The entire idea behind Carl Roger’s stages of change theory really involves determining what type of characteristic the person has which gives the project manager the ability to predict where they will fall on the scale of his five personality traits.

What Roger’s suggests managers do is first identify team members by his five characteristics and then use effective communication and decision-making skills to help your team adapt to change and understand accountability and consequences.

After the mock analysis of my employees, I think the Roger’s stage of change theory will help me find solutions to resistance to change as well as who can be leaders and those who will never change and can even harm the new processes through defiance.

Effectively using the Roger’s stage of change theory means you must look at the personalities of employees first to determine how and at what level they will accept change.

Image Credits

  1. Changing Seasons (Morgue File)
  2. Screenshot of Roger’s Theory courtesy of Value Based Management
  3. Laggard (Morgue File)
  4. Customer Service Rep (Free Digital Photos)
  5. Sales (Free Digital Photos)
  6. Carl Rogers (Wikimedia Commons)