When managing change it’s important to recognise that transition is an individual reaction.
The role of managers is to help others through to new beginnings whilst maintaining the level of activity or service. Here are some points to bear in mind when assessing where people are on the transition curve:
- Some people repeat sections of the curve to best handle transition (there’s no right or wrong sequence).
- People will exhibit different emotions depending upon the nature and number of changes occurring to them at the same time and their ‘emotional intelligence’. This is normal.
- Realising where you and the people around you are on the curve will help you initiate appropriate actions and respond effectively.
- Teams may travel the curve together but individuals will arrive at ‘beginnings’ at their own personal rate.
- It’s OK to be slow so long as you’re moving and not stuck somewhere.
- It’s OK to be slow so long as you’re planning on arriving sometime.
- It’s OK to be fast so long as you’re tolerant and supportive of slower travellers.
- It’s OK to be fast so long as you honestly acknowledge your own ‘endings’.
In the ‘endings’ stage, staff may want to deny the existence of the initiative and other related change events. Their denial can move them to fear and uncertainty about the future. This diminishes their level of activity and readiness to deal with the accelerating pace of change as the process starts to impact on the organisation.
Staff may acutely feel the loss of the familiarity and security they felt in the organisation before this and other changes occurred. They are likely to be trying to reconcile or accept the fact that things will now be different from the way they have been. They will be trying to accept that they will have to let go of their current sense of identity in the organisation.
Understanding the neutral zone
The neutral zone or exploration stage is the time between the current and the desired state. Staff will be attempting to orient themselves to the new requirements and behaviours. During this time, they will be confused about the future and will feel overloaded with competing demands.
This can have a negative impact on activities. Because things can be chaotic at this stage, staff may question the status quo or the accepted way of doing things. It is important to note that with encouragement this stage can be a time of exploration that is ripe with creative opportunity.
Understanding new beginnings
The new beginnings stage of the transition curve is that time when people are ready to commit to the new direction and the change. They feel secure in the new organisation and are ready to function as a significant contributor. This typically occurs as the initiative starts to achieve some of its desired goals.
Checklist of actions to consider in the endings zone, neutral zone and new beginnings zone: