Perhaps we should focus more on “good endings” instead…
In amongst the flurry of well wishes I received just after Hogmanay, a message from one of my friends stood out. The text read “Happy 2012…a year of new beginnings for us!”.
This slightly cryptic message made me wonder about its meaning. I thought: “Maybe his wife is pregnant? Or maybe he finally secured his Green Card to the USA? Perhaps he got that big promotion he was after…”
This then got me thinking about change and ‘transitions’ more generally.
There often seems to be a disparity between people’s ability to cope and deal with change in their everyday personal life and their experience of change in the workplace. On the whole, people seem to manage change in their personal lives pretty well, but in the workplace, staff often complain of their organisation’s poor management of change, experience higher stress and anxiety during periods of change and even encounter change-fatigue from a seemingly never-ending cycle of the dreaded “re-s”:
I am a great admirer of the work of William Bridges – an internationally renowned authority on Change Management. Bridges suggests that organisations often fail to manage change effectively because they fail to consider the psychological effects that change can have on people. Specifically, in the ‘forward thinking’ so often associated with change management, organisations may forget about the attachments people have made over time. In doing so, organisations can often overlook the pain/loss experienced when a person is transitioning. Bridges suggests that there are 3 important, interdependent and parallel stages of transition that individuals are required to go through in order to make a successful transition. He calls the three stages: Good Endings, the Neutral Zone and New Beginnings and these are described briefly below:
- Good endings: This stage requires not only the marking of, but also the letting go of the past.
- Neutral zone: This stage is often difficult and uncomfortable but is also full of creative possibilities, as the old is gone but the new isn’t quite in operation.
- New beginnings: This stage is about having clarity of purpose, a picture of the future and creating a plan to get there.
From my experience of working with people through change, it is often the first stage, Good Endings, that has previously been omitted by the organisational change programme.
Admittedly, people tend to not like endings; but new beginnings can only happen if people let go of some aspects of their past or their old ways of being or doing. The good news is that people can change, can be supported through transition, and change can be a positive experience. Some questions that I like to ask individuals and teams to consider as part of this change journey are as follows:
- What are you specifically losing?
- How do you feel (angry, sad, confused, depressed)?
- What is “over” and what is not over?
- How can you mark the ending?
- How can you bring a piece of the old with you?
- What really matters to you now and going forward?
One final thought…Robert Burns’ famous “Auld Lang Syne”, as sung here by well known Scottish folk singer Dougie Maclean (and which many of us undoubtedly sang at “the bells”) is a case in point.
The song stresses the importance of appreciating the past, before moving forward into the New Year. Not surprisingly, Scotland’s Bard had it right all along…
Gavin Speers has been a Lead Facilitator with Maximillion for 5 years and specialises in organisational, leadership and team development.
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