It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. They aren’t the same thing. Change is situational: the move to a new site, the retirement of the founder, the reorganization of the roles on the team, the revisions to the pension plan, etc. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological; it is a three- phase process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about.
One observation author William Bridges makes is this: people “seem to overreact” to a change situation. But, maybe, it is not “overreaction” at all. Maybe it is predictable, understandable reaction after all. (From the book):
Don’t Be Surprised at Overreaction. “Overreaction” also comes from the experience that people have had with loss in the past. When old losses haven’t been adequately dealt with, a sort of transition deficit is created—a readiness to grieve that needs only a new ending to set it off. What they are actually reacting to is one or more losses in the past that have occurred without any acknowledgment or chance to grieve.
Overreactions also take place when a small loss is perceived as the first step in a process that might end with removing the grievers themselves. Someone whose job seemed secure is dismissed, and 100 coworkers begin to wonder, Am I next?
Learn to look for the loss behind the loss and deal with that underlying issue.
Mr. Bridges identified the three key elements in the process of managing transitions:
- ending/losing/letting go
- the neutral zone
- the new beginning
All three are important, critical to the success of managing transitions. The place to start is here: What are the people losing?
There are important lessons we can draw from this excellent book.
- People are people—with human fears and human needs. Among these are: people need someone to know, and something to do. Don’t ignore these basic human realities/needs. Treat your people like people, especially in periods of transition.
- Remind your people that every organization’s lifecycle is one of constant change, thus constant transition. Some are major, some not-so major. In other words, constant, perpetual, “nonstop” change is the way of the world.
- But, this fact—that the way of the world is nonstop change and transition—does not mean that people can “skip the process” of letting go, “floundering/wondering,” and new beginnings. And leaders ignore this understanding and skip necessary steps at great peril to the health of the organization (and the psychological health of the actual people).
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis