Understanding the Three Transitions of Change

It has become almost a cliché that the only constant today is change.

What moves it from a cliché to a truism is that the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said the same thing – 2,500 years ago.

In spite of that historical background, we all feel that change is different today: it is without end, and increasingly complex. We talk not of a single change, but of change as an ongoing phenomenon. It’s a collage, not a single simple image; one change overlaps with another, and it’s all change as far as the eye can see.

To some degree, the downside of change is inevitable. Whenever human communities are forced to adjust to shifting conditions, pain is ever present. But a significant amount of the waste and anguish we’ve witnessed in change management is avoidable.

The typical church has not operated well in a rapidly changing environment. Structure, systems, and culture have often been a drag on change rather than a facilitator.

The failure to sustain significant change recurs again and again despite substantial resources committed to the change effort, talented and committed people “driving the change,” and high stakes. In fact, leaders feeling an urgent need for change end up right: organizations that fail to sustain significant change end up facing crises.

This isn’t the sort of challenge you take on because it sounds good.

Adapting to and mastering change is not a choice. A significant part of a leader’s responsibility deals with being a change agent in the organization’s culture. In a time when changes come so fast and from so many unexpected angles, change is no longer a luxury but an imperative.

Even though change is a must for your organization, the “how-to’s” can often prove a problem. Many people lunge into change with no idea of its rules, its guiding principles, its nuances – and its dangers. Quite often disaster is the result. The only thing worse than ignoring change is leaping into it willy-nilly.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Managing Transitions by William Bridges

The business world is constantly transforming. When restructures, mergers, bankruptcies, and layoffs hit the workplace, employees and managers naturally find the resulting situational shifts to be challenging. But the psychological transitions that accompany them are even more stressful. Organizational transitions affect people; it is always people, rather than a company, who have to embrace a new situation and carry out the corresponding change.

As veteran business consultant William Bridges explains, transition is successful when employees have a purpose, a plan, and a part to play. This indispensable guide is now updated to reflect the challenges of today’s ever-changing, always-on, and globally connected workplaces. Directed at managers on all rungs of the corporate ladder, this expanded edition of the classic bestseller provides practical, step-by-step strategies for minimizing disruptions and navigating uncertain times.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

If you were to gather a group of 10 to 20 people together, and ask them to discuss changes they are going through (or have recently gone through), before long you will notice all different types of change provide people with the same basic experience.

Three main similarities begin to present themselves:

  1. An ending, followed by
  2. A period of confusion and distress, leading to
  3. A new beginning.

However you deal with them, endings are the first phase of transition. The second phase is a time of lostness and emptiness before “life” resumes an intelligible pattern and direction, while the third phase is that of beginning anew.

That is the order of things in nature. Leaves fall in autumn, winter sets in, and then the green emerges again from the dry brown wood in the spring. Human affairs flow along similar channels, or they would if we were better able to stay in that current.

But endings are fearful. They break our connections with the setting in which we have come to know ourselves, and they awaken old memories of hurt and shame. Growing frightened, we are likely to abort the three-phase process of ending, lostness, and beginning.

Sometimes, we even twist the pattern around so that beginnings come first, then endings, and then…then what? Nothing.

It is when we turn things around in that way that transition becomes so unintelligible and frightening.

It isn’t the change that will do you in – it’s the transitions. Getting people through the transition is essential if the change is actually to work as planned.

The Three Phases of Transition

Endings – Letting go of the old ways and the old identity people had. This first phase of transition is an ending and the time when you need to help people deal with their losses.

Neutral Zone – Going through and in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. Called the “neutral zone,” it’s when the critical psychological realignments and repatternings are taking place.

New Beginnings – Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning. This is when people develop the new identity, experience the new energy, and discover the new sense of purpose that make the change begin to work.

William Bridges, Managing Transitions

A NEXT STEP

On the top of a chart tablet, list a change in your organizational life that you have been considering.

Underneath this, divide the rest of the chart tablet into three columns, and write the headings “Endings,” “Neutral Zone,” and “New Beginnings” at the top of the columns.

Before you move forward, ask yourselves these three questions developed by the William Bridges Associates team:

  1. What is changing? Until any vagueness you have about change can be clarified and until the leaders of the change can explain it clearly, in a statement lasting no longer than one minute, there is no way that they are going to be able to get other people to buy into the change. Longer explanations and justifications will also have to be made but it is the one-minute statement that will be the core of people’s understanding.
  2. What will actually be different because of the change? Many change projects are designed and launched at such a high level in the organization that all the planning is unrelated to the everyday, operational details that make up the lives of most workers. In such cases, the decision-makers often have no idea how changes will actually make anyone’s life or job, or even the function of a whole department, different. Yet that is all that people need to know before they can embrace and support a change.
  3. Who’s going to lose what? There must be a hundred other versions of objections to dealing with endings and losses, but they are all variations on a single theme: the mistaken idea that the best way to get people through a transition is to deny that they are even in a transition. In fact many internal communications projects are based on this central misconception that you can (and should) talk people out of their reactions to the change.

Transition management is based on another idea: that the best way to get people through transition is to affirm their experience and to help them to deal with it. It is simply a question of understanding how the world looks to them and using that as the starting point in your dealings with them.

With an understanding of the dynamics covered in these three questions, spend at least one hour working through the three phases of transition, writing down words or phrases under each heading.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 102-2, released October 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

Launch Change by Replacing Complacency with Urgency

It has become almost a cliché that the only constant today is change.

What moves it from a cliché to a truism is that the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said the same thing – 2,500 years ago.

In spite of that historical background, we all feel that change is different today: it is without end, and increasingly complex. We talk not of a single change, but of change as an ongoing phenomenon. It’s a collage, not a single simple image; one change overlaps with another, and it’s all change as far as the eye can see.

To some degree, the downside of change is inevitable. Whenever human communities are forced to adjust to shifting conditions, pain is ever present. But a significant amount of the waste and anguish we’ve witnessed in change management is avoidable.

The typical church has not operated well in a rapidly changing environment. Structure, systems, and culture have often been a drag on change rather than a facilitator.

The failure to sustain significant change recurs again and again despite substantial resources committed to the change effort, talented and committed people “driving the change,” and high stakes. In fact, leaders feeling an urgent need for change end up right: organizations that fail to sustain significant change end up facing crises.

This isn’t the sort of challenge you take on because it sounds good.

Adapting to and mastering change is not a choice. A significant part of a leader’s responsibility deals with being a change agent in the organization’s culture. In a time when changes come so fast and from so many unexpected angles, change is no longer a luxury but an imperative.

Even though change is a must for your organization, the “how-to’s” can often prove a problem. Many people lunge into change with no idea of its rules, its guiding principles, its nuances – and its dangers. Quite often disaster is the result. The only thing worse than ignoring change is leaping into it willy-nilly.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – A Sense of Urgency, by John Kotter

Most organizational change initiatives fail spectacularly (at worst) or deliver lukewarm results (at best). In his international bestseller Leading Change, John Kotter revealed why change is so hard, and provided an actionable, eight-step process for implementing successful transformations. The book became the change bible for managers worldwide.

Now, in A Sense of Urgency, Kotter shines the spotlight on the crucial first step in his framework: creating a sense of urgency by getting people to actually see and feel the need for change.

Why focus on urgency? Without it, any change effort is doomed. Kotter reveals the insidious nature of complacency in all its forms and guises.

In this exciting book, Kotter explains:

· How to go beyond “the business case” for change to overcome the fear and anger that can suppress urgency

· Ways to ensure that your actions and behaviors — not just your words — communicate the need for change

· How to keep fanning the flames of urgency even after your transformation effort has scored some early successes

Written in Kotter’s signature no-nonsense style, this concise and authoritative guide helps you set the stage for leading a successful transformation in your company.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

You know your organization needs to change.

You may even know what the change needs to be: a new strategy, new personnel, new technology, or a significant change in direction.

But somehow, change comes too slowly, or it feels like you are pushing a boulder uphill, or that the implementation of that great new idea has stalled – again.

What’s missing, and is needed in almost all organizations today, is a real sense of urgency – a distinctive attitude and gut-level feeling that leads people to grab opportunities and avoid hazards, to make something important happen today, and constantly shed low-priority activities to move faster and smarter, now.

The real solution to the complacency problem is a true sense of urgency. Real urgency is an essential asset that must be created and re-created.

This set of thoughts, feelings, and actions is never associated with an endless list of exhausting activities. It has nothing to do with anxious running from meeting to meeting. It’s not supported by an adrenalin rush that cannot be sustained over time.

True urgency focuses on critical issues, not agendas overstuffed with the important and the trivial. True urgency is driven by a deep determination to win, not anxiety about losing. With an attitude of true urgency, you try to accomplish something important each day, never leaving yourself with a heart-attack-producing task of running one thousand miles in the last week of the race.

Increasing a True Sense of Urgency

Strategy

Create action that is exceptionally alert, externally oriented, relentlessly aimed at winning, making some progress each and every day, and constantly purging low value-added activities – all by always focusing on the heart and not just the mind.

Tactics

  • Bring the Outside In
    • Reconnect internal reality with external opportunities and hazards
    • Bring in emotionally compelling data, people, video, sites, and sounds
  • Behave with Urgency Every Day
    • Never act content, anxious, or angry
    • Demonstrate your own sense of urgency always in meetings, one-on-one interactions, memos, and email and do so as visibly as possible to as many people as possible.
  • Find Opportunity in Crises
    • Always be alert to see if crises can be a friend, not just a dreadful enemy, in order to destroy complacency.
    • Proceed with caution, and never be naïve, since crises can be deadly.
  • Deal with the NoNos
    • Remove or neutralize all the relentless urgency-killers, people who are not skeptics but are determined to keep a group complacent or, if needed, to create destructive urgency.

John Kotter, A Sense of Urgency

A NEXT STEP

Author Jon Kotter has developed a set of useful questions to consider when facing complacency and false urgency.

Discuss the following questions with your team, and identify – and eliminate – sources of complacency and false urgency.

  • Are critical issues delegated to consultants or task forces with little involvement of key people?
  • Do people have trouble scheduling meetings on important initiatives?
  • Is candor lacking in confronting the bureaucracy and politics that are slowing down important initiatives?
  • Do meetings on key issues end with no decisions about what must happen immediately (except the scheduling of another meeting)?
  • Do people run from meeting to meeting, exhausting themselves and rarely if ever focusing on the most critical hazards or opportunities?
  • Do people regularly blame others for any significant problems instead of taking responsibility and changing?
  • Are failures in the past discussed not to learn but to stop or stall new initiatives?

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 102-1, issued September 2018.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

Success Brings Unintended Consequences

During a recent Auxano All-Staff call, founder Will Mancini brought up a conversation that he, Auxano Managing Officer Jim Randall, and noted church consultant George Bullard had that revolved around a book by Jim Collins – How the Mighty Falland its relevance to church and denominational settings today. This post from 2011 came to mind, so I’m reposting it.


Starbucks’ battle back from mediocrity is well documented in CEO Howard Schultz’s 2011 book Onward. Pairing it with Jim Collins’ 2009 book How the Mighty Fall gives ChurchWorld leaders a sobering lesson in how to handle success.

Collins’ 5 Stages of Decline begin with “Hubris Born of Success.” He describes it in a short paragraph:

Great enterprises can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward, for a while, even if its leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline. Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. When the rhetoric of success (“We’re successful because we do the specific things”) replaces penetrating understanding and insight (“We’re successful because we understand why we do the specific things and under what condition they would no longer work”), decline will likely follow.

Here’s what Starbucks’ Schultz had to say in looking back to early 2008:

If not checked, success has a way of covering up small failures, and when many of us at Starbucks became swept up in the company’s success, it had unintended effects. We ignored, or maybe we just failed to notice, shortcomings.

We were so intent upon building more stores fast to meet each quarter’s projected sales growth that, too often, we picked bad locations or didn’t adequately train newly hired baristas. Sometimes we transferred a good store manager to oversee a new store, but filled the old post by promoting a barista before he or she was properly trained.

courtesy sodahead.com

courtesy sodahead.com

As the years passed, enthusiasm morphed into a sense of entitlement, at least from my perspective. Confidence became arrogance and, as some point, confusion as some of our people stepped back and began to scratch their heads, wondering what Starbucks stood for.

In the early years at Starbucks, I liked to say that a partner’s job at Starbucks was to “deliver on the unexpected” for customers. Now, many partners’ energies seemed to be focused on trying to deliver the expected – mostly for Wall Street.

Great organizations foster a productive tension between continuity and change. On the one hand, they adhere to the principles that produce success in the first place, yet on the other hand, they continually evolve, modifying their approach with creative improvements and intelligent adaptation.

When organizations fail to distinguish between current practices and the enduring principles of their success, and mistakenly fossilize around their practices, they’ve set themselves up for decline.

By confusing what and why, Starbucks found itself at a dangerous crossroads. Which direction would they go?

Questions for ChurchWorld Leaders:

  • Is your organization locked in on your vision, core values, purpose, and culture?
  • Or do you move in first this direction, then that, just to have “success”?

Beware the unintended consequences of success.

an updated post on a series reviewing Onward, by Howard Shultz

Onward

preparation for a new series coming soon on Leading the Starbucks Way, by Joseph Michelli

Print

Transformation Hurts

If you are comfortable where you are, or if things are okay as they are, you wouldn’t go through transformation.

Only when the pain of changing things overcomes the pain of status quo would you ever consider transformation.

That’s where Starbucks found itself in early 2008. Chronicled in CEO Howard Schultz’s 2011 book Onward, Starbucks – at the apparent height of its success – was declining inwardly, and on the edge of declining outwardly. Onward details the transformation Starbucks went through in 2008-2010, utilizing a Transformation Agenda developed by the senior leadership team at Starbucks as the primary guide.

The Transformation Agenda featured 7 “Big Moves” – innovations and advancements designed to return Starbucks to its core practices. The Big Moves also contained one final, painful set of actions designed to reverse sales trends and bolster stock value.

600 stores closed.

12,000 partner positions eliminated in these stores.

1,000 non-store positions eliminated.

Schultz called it the most painful decision he has ever made. Only the certainty that closing the stores would keep Starbucks operational in the long run allowed him to make the decision. He understood the reasoning, but it was impossible to take the emotion out of the equation:

For all the flak about Starbucks’ ubiquity, almost every store maintained a devoted following inside and out. A soul. With each closing, we would be erasing a fingerprint, and that was a reality I could not possibly ignore.

Fast forward to the fall of 2010: Starbucks regained a healthy balance with a culture that celebrates creativity and discipline, entrepreneurship and process, as well as rigorous innovation. Their fiscal 2010 operating margin was the highest consolidated one in their 40-year history. The transformation worked.

But according to Schultz,

…perhaps the most valuable thing that came out of the two-year transformation was the confidence we gained knowing that we could preserve our values despite the hardships we faced. Holding fast to those values steadied us throughout the tumultuous journey, and the ways in which we conduct our business will continue to bring our partners pride and fuel their engagement as we continue to grow.

Success is not sustainable if it’s defined by how big you become. Large numbers are not what matter. The only number that matters is “one.”

brewed coffee in cup

One cup.

SB customer

One customer.

barista handing drink over counter

One partner.

SB interior

One experience at a time.

 

Question for ChurchWorld leaders:

What’s your “one”?

an updated post from a series reviewing Onward, by Howard Shultz

Onward

preparation for a new series coming soon on Leading the Starbucks Way, by Joseph Michelli

Print

Transformation Initiatives at Starbucks

A previous post was a brief look at the bold Transformation Agenda that Starbucks put into place early in 2008 to overcome their decline. The Agenda contained a mission statement and 7 Big Moves designed to return Starbucks to success.

Within a few months, at their April 2008 shareholders meeting, Starbucks rolled out the following six transformation initiatives:

  • The Mastrena – a finely crafted, Swiss made espresso machine that would provide baristas with the ability to give customers a high-quality consistent shot of espresso second to none, transforming the espresso experience in their stores. By the end of 2008 the machine was in 30% of stores, and by 2010 a majority of Starbucks had the Mastrena.
  • Conservation International – a partnership with CI, begun in 1998, was expanded so that Starbucks could buy fair-trade coffee, produced in shade-grown conditions with fair compensation and safe working conditions for coffee farm workers. By 2009, all Starbucks espresso beans and espresso-based products would qualify for a new marking designed to articulate their practices: Responsibly Grown. Ethically Traded. Proudly Served.
  • The Rewards Card – designed to recognize their most loyal customers with freebies, the Card addressed an emerging need for value. Existing Starbucks Card holders could register their cards online, instantly turning it into a Rewards Card.
  • MyStarbucksIdea.com – an interactive website designed to listen to customers suggestions, rants, and comments. Moderated by 50 veteran Starbucks employees, the website was launched live by uploading ideas submitted by shareholders that morning. Within minutes, more ideas came streaming in from people listening to the meeting’s broadcast or following rolling blog posts. In the next 24 hours, over 7,000 ideas were posted.
  • Pike Place Roast – announcing that Starbucks would once again grind whole beans in their stores, two master baristas introduced Pike Place Roast, a smooth, well-balanced, lighter blend of coffee, designed to give full flavor while not being as bold as traditional blends.
  • Clover – a commercially viable way to replicate the benefits of the French Press method of brewed coffee, Clover was a local invention acquired by Starbucks early in 2008. It created a fantastic cup of coffee at a pace designed to keep up with the demand of most Starbucks stores.

SB turnaround menu fastcompany.com

Seven Big Moves.

Six Transformation Initiatives.

All of these engaging tools that helped Starbucks navigate through a very unpredictable journey, one milestone at a time.

The initiatives introduced at that meeting each heralded a return to the core values of Starbucks – coffee, customers, innovation, and values – but they weren’t enough by themselves to bring the company back from the brink.

Painfully personal decisions were the final step in the transformation.

Lessons for ChurchWorld

  • Take a look at the initiatives above, and translate them into your world. What actions can you dream up – and then put into action – that would help you accomplish your transformation agenda?
  • Are you secure enough in your core values to put anything – and everything – on the table?
  • Transformation is not just about nuts and bolts, about systems and processes. Is your vision lived out in the lives of your people?

an updated post from a series reviewing Onward, by Howard Shultz

Onward

preparation for a new series coming soon on Leading the Starbucks Way, by Joseph Michelli

Print

 

Ones Add Up

Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz’s 2011 book Onward details the amazing comeback story of Starbucks: after more than three decades of success, in 2008 they found themselves with sales sliding at a distressing rate, a falling stock value, and relentless competition. Compounding the problem, the world’s economy was in a tailspin.

With aggressive, sometimes painful moves and a powerful transformation agenda to guide them, they were able to reverse their decline, and by the end of 2010 were once again on top of their game.

What happened?

Here’s an excerpt from the book that gives you a big clue:

Like a doctor who measures a patient’s height and weight every year without checking blood pressure or heart rate, Starbucks was not diagnosing itself at a level of detail that would help ensure its long-term health. We predicated future success on how many stores we opened during a quarter instead of taking the time to determine whether each of those stores, would, in fact, be profitable. We though in terms of millions of customers and thousands of stores instead of one customer, one partner, and one cup of coffee at a time.

With such a mind-set, many little things dangerously slipped by unnoticed, or at least went unacknowledged. How could one imperfect cup of coffee, one unqualified manager, or one poorly located store matter when millions of cups of coffee were being served in tens of thousands of stores?

We forgot that “ones” add up.

courtesy freemarketmediagroup.com

courtesy freemarketmediagroup.com

Lessons for ChurchWorld:

  1. What “business” are you in?
  2. What are the roots of that business?
  3. It’s okay to have a 30,000 foot view, but eventually you’ve got to land the plane.
  4. You’ve got to produce results.
  5. You may see the crowds, but never forget the “ones“.

an updated post from a series reviewing Onward, by Howard Shultz

Onward

preparation for a new series coming soon on Leading the Starbucks Way, by Joseph Michelli

Print

 

It’s Time to Change the Way We Change

We’re going through a great new series at my church, Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, called “The New Rules of Resolution – Changing the Way We Change.” The first rule: It’s not a project, it’s a process. The second rule: It’s not achieving, it’s receiving. To listen to the current message, go here.

It’s a great topic for the new year, and it’s brought to mind a blog series I did last year on “Change.” The message yesterday reminded me of this particular post – I hope you find it helpful.

 

In our generation the rate of change has gone hypercritical.

Change has changed.

Other centuries were convulsed by famine, disease, and war, but never before have so many things been changing so rapidly. We live in a world that seems to be all punctuation and no equilibrium, where the future is less and less and extrapolation of the past. Change is multifaceted, relentless, seditious, and occasionally shocking. In this maelstrom, long-lived political dynasties, venerable institutions, and hundred year old business models are all at risk.

Today the most important question for any organization is this: Are we changing as fast as the world around us? In industry after industry, it’s the insurgents, not the incumbents, who’ve been surfing the waves of change. But they, too, are just as vulnerable to change as their victims. Success has never been more fleeting.

Given all this, the only thing that can be safely predicted is that sometime soon your organization will be challenged to change in ways for which it has no precedent. Your organization will either adapt or falter, rethink its core assumptions or fumble the future – and to be honest, a fumble is the most likely outcome.

Of course, change brings both promise and peril, but the proportion facing any particular organization depends on its capacity to adapt. And therein lies the problem: our organizations were never built to be adaptable.

Especially the church.

Honest leaders will look at the Church, and more importantly their church, and see the words above lived out all too often. Churches are built as organizations of discipline, not resiliency. Efficient ministry comes from routinizing the nonroutine, adapting a management philosophy to the real life of people. As the old saying goes, the 7 words of a dying church are “We’ve always done it that way before.”

Adaptability, on the other hand, requires a willingness to occasionally abandon those routines – but in the church, there are precious few incentives to do so. So especially in ChurchWorld, change tends to come in only two varieties: the trivial and the traumatic. A review of the average church’s history will produce long periods of incremental fiddling punctuated by occasional bouts of frantic, crisis-driven change.

It’s time to change the way we change.

Inspired by Gary Hamel’s What Matters Now as part of my research for a presentation at WFX Atlanta 9/19/12