An Unbalanced Focus

Organizations begin ambitious initiatives everyday. These initiatives may come in the form of:

  • System implementations,
  • Process reviews,
  • Compliance campaigns,
  • Organizational redesigns, or
  • A combination of any or all of the above.

These initiatives attempt to drive potential change of varying impact. While their launch may drive a flurry of activity for months, quarters or even years; their true purpose is to realize an envisioned set of benefits as efficiently and effectively as possible. That realization is impossible without the support of the people impacted by the potential change.

Unfortunately, we have come to focus almost exclusively on the trite tactics thought to drive individual changes themselves (i.e. – CPOE Adoption, or Performance Management usage) versus concentrating our attention on facilitating the individual transitions required to move impacted individuals from a known past to an uncertain future. Modern project management principles have been a primary culprit of this unbalanced focus.

Due to its dominant core value of accomplishment, project management principles tend to degrade the transition process into the aforementioned series of tactical steps in the name of order and the false hope of perceived control. These steps and their durations may fit nicely on a project plan; but as evidenced by the well documented 70% failure rate of project based initiatives, they clearly do not lead to the adoption and subsequent full benefit realization.

William Bridges, PhD presents a strategic, people centric approach to driving sustainable change in his bestselling book “Managing Transitions” (Bridges, William (2009 – 3rd Edition). Managing Transitions. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press). In this book, Bridges asserts that people pass through three distinct phases prior to arriving at true change:

  • Phase 1: Ending, Losing, and Letting Go – Letting go of the past and dealing with the associated loss.
  • Phase 2: The Neutral Zone – Where realignments and repatternings take place.
  • Phase 3: The New Beginning, or True Change – Where envisioned benefits begin to be realized.

With this intuitive approach, Bridges attempts to realign our focus from the activity of tactical steps to the strategic transitional support that will lead to true change.

As individuals move through the three phases of transition, they can easily stagnate in the Neutral Zone as they realign their activities and expectations. This stagnation can derail an individual’s transition and ultimately lead to their resistance and/or flight. Either of which will slow the organization’s realization of envisioned benefits. Change leaders can reduce the possibility of this stagnation of their staff by answering the “Four P’s” of successful transition for them as the outset of any initiative. These are:

  • P1: Purpose – Define the logic that stands behind the case for change and why there is a real sense of urgency.
  • P2: Picture – After connecting logically, creatively illustrate a vivid picture of how the envisioned future will look and feel in order to connect on an emotional level.
  • P3: Plan – Articulate a straightforward personal plan for how an individual is to proceed through this journey.
  • P4: Part – Finally, honestly define the part that the individual will play in the plan and the picture of the envisioned future state.

Regardless of the change type or scope, change leaders can enhance the ability of their people to embrace true change and enhance their organization’s chances of realizing the benefit of any initiative by focusing on answering these four straightforward questions.

Would you like to speak to someone about how to regain your balance in your approach to realizing true change? Please feel free to contact me at