Spokane Regional Networking, Social Media, Professional and Business Development
Anymore it seems organizations are forced to undergo almost constant change simply to remain competitive. As former Chief of Staff of the US Army, Erik Shinseki, said, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.”
I want to help you understand how people process change. Because if we don’t know how we process it, we’ll have a harder time adapting to it or leading others through it. I will also share some tools that will help you lead and manage change in more positive ways.
In his best-selling book, "Managing Transitions" William Bridges provides a clear understanding of the psychological transitions people go through when they experience significant organizational change.
According to Bridges, “change” and “transition” are not synonymous. He defines change as an event that is external to us. Something OLD stops and something NEW starts. And it’s usually just a moment in time.
Bridges defines transition as a “gradual, internal, psychological reorientation process” we go through as we adapt to external changes. So, his work focuses on helping us adapt our identities to new situations. He maintains that external changes are not as difficult for people as the internal psychological transitions.
Bridges describes transition as a process in which people "unplug from an old world and plug into a new world." Therefore, the starting point for dealing with transition is NOT the outcome, but the ending we have to go through in order to unplug from the old situation.
Bridges describes three phases we go through during a transition. In phase one, endings, people must let go of the old ways of doing things and who they were in the old situation. We can’t begin a new project or a new stage of life until we have let go of the old. We only have so much energy and if a great deal of our energy is consumed by holding onto the past, we won’t have enough energy to create a successful new beginning. So, mourning our losses rather than avoiding them is the first step toward transitioning to something new.
When initially confronted with a change, people often experience emotions such as anger, sadness, fear, and anxiety. Leaders and managers often confuse these natural, normal emotional reactions as resistance to the new program, policy or strategy. However, what people are likely resisting is not the change itself, but rather having to give up who they are and how things have been.
To help people through the ending phase, leaders and managers should:
Once people have begun to let go of the past, they enter what Bridges calls the neutral zone. This is a confusing, in-between state. This phase can feel like floating adrift in the sea. The shore we left behind is longer in sight because we have accepted that things must change and the new shore has yet to appear because we have not fully identified and integrated the new beginning.
Here, people can feel disoriented, apathetic, disconnected and insecure. Because people are so uncomfortable here, they are often willing to be creative, try new things and make new choices in their efforts to reach the new normal and feel comfortable again. This phase is the heart of the transition process because it is the chaos from which new beginnings can emerge.
Bridges provides a way to engage people in this stage to co-create the new beginning. Since the neutral zone can feel like floating aimlessly at sea, Bridges offers a way to create sign-posts for progress. He offers the four P’s.
The first P is Purpose. Making sure everyone clearly understands the purpose of the team or organization can provide the direction and momentum to move forward and make the most of the change.
The second P is Picture. Once grounded in a shared sense of purpose, people need a clear picture of what the outcome of the change will look like. It is important to create as detailed a vision as you can.
The third P is Plan. Break down the steps it will take to reach the outcome you envision. This needs to be as concrete and comprehensive as possible.
And finally, the fourth P is Part. Each person needs to know what their specific roles and responsibilities are for reaching the outcome.
In phase three, the new beginning, people start to take hold of and grow familiar with the new reality and can begin to identify with the situation. If you have done an effective job of dealing with the endings and the neutral zone, this phase can be relatively easy to manage.
A few things you can do to help ensure a successful new beginning are to keep track of those plans you made in the neutral zone and be willing to make adjustments. Build momentum by achieving a few quick wins. And finally, celebrate and symbolize the new identity.
Remember that you have to end before you can begin. And between the ending and the new beginning, there is a transition that if handled properly, can be a source of creativity and renewal.
Understanding change from a personal perspective builds a foundation for managing change in broader contexts. I will be offering a workshop on "Dealing with Change and Transitions" at the LaunchPad INW Training Center on December 15th from 12pm to 2pm. . This workshop is aimed at helping participants understand how change occurs for individuals and for organizations, identify attitudes and skills needed to manage change in a positive way and develop strategies for dealing with change in our personal and professional lives. Go to the LaunchPad Events page and register today.