“The certainties of one age are the problems of the next.” (R.H. Tawney)
These are changing and turbulent times that challenge men’s, women’s and children’s hearts and souls. Fear and uncertainty are abundant; and loss of normalcy and identity traumatize. Death, individual and collective health uncertainty, financial insecurity, competitiveness decline, education regression, depressed economy, loss of jobs and freedom, and other pandemic inspired chaos demand proactive and positive responses to its challenges and opportunities.
Unfortunately, many changes have been and will be made with little concern for how they will affect people or for what people will have to do to make them work. It has been assumed that if changes are necessary, people will adjust to them. Experience and literature suggest that the psychological process that change initiates is more like distress and disruption—protests—than adjustment. It is no wonder that most changes will take longer and cost more to implement than anyone anticipates. But that is not the worst problem: many of the changes that are meant to strengthen cultures will weaken them: leave folks resentful, afraid, feeling guilty, self-absorbed, stressed, demotivated, and confused at a time when commitment and creativity are essential. Fortunately, there is an effective way to keep this from happening: good leaders and management of transition. Quite simply, this is helping people minimize the distress and disruption that accompanies change; and facilitating making necessary changes work.
“It is a terrible thing to look over your shoulder when you are trying to lead-and find no one there.” (F.D. Roosevelt)
Transition is psychological adjustment and the process that cultures, institutions, and individuals go through to come to terms with a new situation. It is the process of moving from an ending to a new beginning and it implies a systemic change that incorporates behavioral and cultural changes. Change is a new situation; and transition is a new outlook, new identity, new mind set, new reality. Transition is different from change because it goes on inside the person-psychologically in the conscious and subconscious minds, takes longer, starts with an ending, and finishes with a new beginning. The neutral zone is transition and is mental process between the ending and the new beginning.
Dr. William Bridges (Seminar Outline: “Managing Organizational Transition,” William Bridges & Associates, 38 Miller Avenue, Suite 12, Mill Valley, CA 94941) contends there are six steps in leading and managing a transition: 1) identify the transitions; 2) manage the endings; 3) lead people through the neutral zone; 4) use the neutral zone creatively; 5) orchestrate and support new beginnings; and 6) assess and enhance transition resources.
“Beginnings are always messy.” (John Galsworthy)
A nice place to start with managing transition homework is with questions:
-What are the coronavirus changes being experienced?
-What are the endings that need to be let go?
-What are the new beginnings that need to be embraced?
-With respect to the changes: What is going on inside of you?
-What can you do to facilitate creativity and transition through the neutral zone to the new beginnings?
-What can you do to inspire the new beginnings?
-What are the resources you need to smooth the bumpy neutral zone and make the changes work?
“The best way to be ready for the future is to invent it.” (John Sculley)
While managing a transition process at the Coors Brewing Company in 1993, the author wrote, “The ‘glue’ that will bind Coors Brewing Company together in an uncertain world, and will provide our people the stability necessary to encourage constant experimentation, is TRUST. Our leadership, business, and communication processes will provide a degree of stability, and the resulting trust, for our people. This will encourage the greatly increased day-to-day risk-taking necessary to deal with instability in an industry and a world turned upside down.”