Home > enterprise, entrepreneurship, strategy, Uncategorized > Cycle of Change – Prochaska and Diclemente – and Enterprise

Cycle of Change – Prochaska and Diclemente – and Enterprise


  • When we are encouraging individuals to become more enterprising we are encouraging them to consider the merits of changing.
  • To consider replacing one pattern of attitudes and behaviours with another.
  • So if we are going to succeed in helping people to change in this way what can we learn from other professions and professionals who have been working overtly on changing behaviour for years?

This was one of the questions that we set out to explore when we asked Vicky Sinclair from the substance misuse unit in Leeds Prison to work with a group of enterprise professionals in Leeds as part of the Sharing the Success Capacity Building programme. Vicky shared with us the Cycle of Change model developed in 1982 by Prochaska and Diclemente – which seems to have tons of relevance to enterprise professionals.

The cycle of change has 6 phases:

Cycle of Change - Prochaska and Diclemente

  1. In ‘pre-contemplation’, the person does not see any problem in their current behaviours and has not considered there might be some better alternatives.
  2. In ‘contemplation’ the person is ambivalent – they are in two minds about what they want to do – should they stay with their existing behaviours and attitudes or should they try changing to something new?
  3. In ‘preparation’, the person is taking steps to change usually in the next month or so.
  4. In ‘action’, they have made the change and living the new set of behaviours is an all-consuming activity.
  5. In ‘maintenance’, the change has been integrated into the person’s life – they are now more ‘enterprising’.
  6. Relapse is a full return to the old behaviour. This is not inevitable – but is likely – and should not be seen as failure. Often people will Relapse several times before they finally succeed in making a (more or less) permanent to a new set of behaviours.

A couple of things require thinking about when we look at this model in relation to encouraging people to change to more enterprising behaviours.

Firstly, most enterprise professionals think that the path to entrepreneurship is (or should be) a fairly linear one if the client has a half decent business idea. We just need to give them the right training at the right time and bingo! This model suggests that there are a whole range of factors that are liable to lead to lapses – if not relapses – on the enterprise journey and we should be aware of this. Lapse or Relapse does not mean failure – and should not be taken as indicators that the person is not capable of making the change. Indeed they should be EXPECTED as a normal part of the cycle of change in relation to new behaviours.

Secondly, the change cycle will often operate over a timescale of years rather than months. When we are designing enterprise services we need to take account of the fact that different individuals move at a different pace. Any attempt to group people into cohorts and move them at the same pace through a change process needs to take this challenge very seriously.

Thirdly, and perhaps MOST IMPORTANTLY, enterprise services generally seem to market themselves at those that are already contemplating or have already decided that ‘enterprise’ is for them. They recruit those who are already at Stages 2, 3 or 4. If we are serious about really changing the enterprise culture then we also need to find ways to engage and work with those who are at Stage 1 – Precontemplation. This stage requires a very different approach to marketing in terms of both the message and the media. It also requires a different type of service.

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  1. Sue Talbot
    June 27, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    A really useful adjunct to Prochaska and di Clemente is Motivational Interviewing (Rollnick and MIlner). It’s an interactional way of assessing and promoting motivation to change; identifying barriers; and addressing ambivalence; that’s applicable at each stage of the Change Cycle. It requires a level of skill on the part of practitioners – they need to be able to be genuinely empathic attentive listeners, who can ultimately enable change-seekers to formulate clear, boundaried, self-determined actions that move towards change.

    I think the most useful thing about MI model is the recognition of ambivalence as a normal human state. It’s something that we are not encouraged to acknowledge, most of the time. Most us proceed on the assumption that: “If x happens, I will do y”. Frequently we find that when x does happen, y isn’t an available/attractive option and it’s quite difficult to know whether d,m ,t or the rest of the alphabet are …easier,better,wiser,healthier, more consistent with our core values/community/self-belief/?….

    In terms of enterprise, I’d argue that MI can be adapted to be used at any stage. The important thing is to identify the stage – assessment is always the key .

    A subject I’d love to explore at length.

  2. June 28, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Thanks for that Sue.

    Vicky suggested we have a good look at motivational interviewing and it sounds to have some relationship to other client centred interviewing and facilitation approaches we have explored.

    Can you point us in the direction of a great MI trainer?

  3. July 8, 2008 at 10:14 am

    Really interesting way of looking at learning about enterprise. Thanks for this. As a related point, I am really interested in the emerging field of behavioural economics and how one might better incentivise activity in a way that more people are encouraged to see enterprising behaviour as the norm.

  4. July 8, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    I think we need to be very careful with behavioural economics. The problem as I see it is that economists understand economics – not people! Most economists pretend that people are like Skinner’s pigeons and rats!

    We tend to want to find “incentives” that will encourage people to learn and engage in new behaviours, but these incentives are often external, such as prizes, financial incentives, good performance reviews, etc. Alfie Kohn’s research indicates that linking learning to external rewards actually has impacts that are the opposite of what we are generally trying to achieve.

    http://www.alfiekohn.org/business.htm

    Instead, we need to appeal to intrinsic motivators, such as people’s desire to help themselves, their loved ones and the wider community, getting enjoyment and fulfillment out of the enterprise journey, feeling like they belong to a cohesive group and that they’re contributing to something meaningful.

    When we teach people to get in touch with their basic internal motivations (inspiration?)they can become
    unstoppable!

    Am I being unfair? Should I take another look at behavioural economics? Where would you suggest I start?

  5. November 15, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    The Cycle of Change is useful but I think it could be more useful with a “family” dimension added. In the broadest sense we are all a part of a family and it’s our relations to this that affects us significantly.

  6. February 3, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    This approach is very interesting and directly correlates with our practical experience in delivering enterprise programmes for the public sector, a quote from an article I recently wrote helps sum it up:

    ”most programmes and schemes fail to stimulate cultural change – don’t get me wrong most start out with good intentions only to default back to the status-quo, delivering the same old approach to the same old people……………..The old approaches can be effective in helping those who already have a desire for an enterprising future, but they are never going to generate awareness, aspiration and belief in those to whom enterprise is off the radar.”

    Often an underlying cause is that public sector funded schemes start with the best intentions only to buckle under pressure to generate short-term outputs. I am not sure if we can ever expect the political cycle to allow for a long term approach, hence if we are to stimulate lasting change in ‘pre-contemplators’ a new approach is required that does not rely on public sector funding (over the long-term).

  7. annelouise pemberton
    February 3, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    I have stumbled across you whilst looking for some extra info on the cycle of change.
    I am unable to resist your comment about searching for great MI trainers, even though it was 6 months ago. I have been working now for 6 months with clients, delivering MI training, reaction and feedback has been very positive. So if you are still looking, do get in touch

  8. February 3, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Useful information. I use this often with some of my exec clients. We go over it and over it and over it so that eventually they can start to predict the consequences of their maladaptive behaviour – should they so choose.

    Thanks for making this resource available and clear.

  9. January 7, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Eventually, if you “maintain maintenance” long enough, you will reach a point where you will be able to work with your emotions and understand your own behavior and view it in a new light. This is the stage of “transcendence,” a transcendence to a new life. In this stage, not only is your bad habit no longer an integral part of your life but to return to it would seem atypical, abnormal, even weird to you.

    When you reach this point in your process of change, you will know that you have transcended the old bad habits and that you are truly becoming a new “you”, who no longer needs the old behaviors to sustain yourself.

  10. February 29, 2012 at 4:56 am

    MI is a great way to seeing that your client enters a path of which they are able to lead a more happy and sustanible life, I would highly recommend MI as I have found it to be a great tool in my line of practice.

  1. September 3, 2008 at 12:06 pm
  2. July 22, 2009 at 7:46 am

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