Transition (Oxford Dictionary)
noun: The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.
verb: Undergo or cause to undergo a process or period of transition.
It seems every organization, whether corporate, non-profit, or public sector, is fixated on change these days. “Transformation” programs abound, and adaptability to change is table stakes for success in any role. That said, I often observe that not enough attention is paid to the transition phase. We obsess on the CMO (current mode of operation,) and the FMO (future mode of operation) – but spend too little time on the TMO (transition mode of operation).
I would argue that the TMO is a key phase that needs to be planned, managed, and harvested if you wish to have the best results in any change initiative. In fact it is the TMO that dictates the success of your transformation initiative. If the TMO is too uncomfortable or poorly designed your organization will not have the ability to let go of their old ways and adopt your new process or design.
I met an author, Gail Blanke, a number of years ago who had written a great book on life changes “Between Trapezes – Flying into a new life with the greatest of ease”. I loved the analogy she painted of change through the example of circus performers. She told me that the thing that people often fail to think about when thinking of trapeze artists is that they have to let go of the bar they are hanging on BEFORE they grab the new bar. For that tiny instant they are holding on to nothing at all. What courage it takes to let go of something and be completely helpless for that split second before you grab the next bar!
If you are managing a change initiative, have you spent enough time preparing your organization for that period of transition? Are you prepared for the anxiety and fear in that moment when the organization has to let go of the old way of doing things, but has not yet fully grabbed the new mode? Are you ready to help people understand what is required during transition, communicate their fears and support each other? I would suggest that all of these things are critical for a successful change program.
In short, when driving transformation – Mind the Gap!