Monday, May 16, 2016

Talking About Change: Getting from One Trapeze to Another

Guest author, Doug Leonard writes about change in this interesting post.

"It’s not so much that we’re afraid of change or so in love with the old ways, but it’s that place between that we fear. It is like being between two trapezes. It’s like Linus when his blanket is in the dryer. There’s nothing to hold onto."
                                        --- Marilyn Ferguson, American Futurist


Your boss is getting impatient, she asks ‘how long is it going to take you to implement those changes?’ and you can tell from the tone of the voice that in her opinion it has already taken too long. Be careful how you answer, you don’t want to make promises you cannot keep!

Change creates issues, but it is not the change that does you in, it is the transition that kills you.
 I’ll start by level setting you with a quick definition of change and transition. I do so following the counsel of an old Chinese proverb that states ‘the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.’

Changes are external and situational adjustments that organizations constantly make. To customize this to the readers of this technology blog – all technology upgrades, system replacements, replacement of a legacy systems with a new systems and similar scenarios would be defined as a change. Others examples would be a new manager, a new policy, a new compensation plan and the like.

Transition is internal and behavioral. Transition is the internal process that people go through to –personally come to terms with the new situation (the change).

Many change efforts fail because people focus on the situational business issues of the change and forget to manage the strong behavioral issues that emerge due to the change.  There is a lot of behavioral angst involved in change because change means loss.  That is why navigating the transition is the hardest part.

Before you begin something new you have to end what used to be.  Before we learn a new way, we need to unlearn the old way.  If we are flattening the organization the loss could be your next promotion.  You could be mourning the loss of friends if the organization has to downsize.  If we are reorganizing, relationships are jumbled; people you used to trust and rely on may not work with you any longer.

Changes of any sort, even those fully justified by economics, market conditions and the like, finally succeed, or fail on the basis of whether the people affected do something differently. 

I daresay that many of the readers of this technology blog are either feeling the pain of confusing change and transition or are nodding their heads as they ponder this reality.

Change is especially frequent in your world. Technology has a short life-cycle; breakthrough products are being introduced at a faster and faster pace. You are marshaling users from old to new over and over again. Your challenge and the challenge of the organizations leadership is to shift the mind set from making a change to managing a transition.

The bottom line is that while it may be critical to achieve technological transformation for an organization to:

  •  Be competitive in the marketplace,
  •  Make doing business easier for your customers/clients/employees  or 
  •  Because you need to fend off hackers and other potential cyber-attacks.

Your role needs to include helping people move from the ‘old trapeze’ to the ‘new trapeze’ —to support the behavioral adjustments necessary for people to get them feeling safe and comfortable to grab onto  the new technology and let go of the old.

How do you do that?  Well, paradoxically it fairly straightforward ‘easy’ yet complex and varied as people are. That will be the topic of another blog on another day in this forum. But here is a teaser – In my role as a consultant I solve it through data and technology.


Mr.  Doug Leonard is a consultant with expertise in creating solutions for his clients based on big data analytics. He has helped many clients in the technology sector meet complex enterprise objectives including transitioning their employees through change. He can be reached at

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