Honoring the past

This is a funny topic. When we want to change something, ie ourselves, a system, our attitude, whatever, we first need to be ready to let go of the old way, old identity, old system, old beliefs.  And that letting go involves grief. Yikes, I sound a little a counselor. I am not a counselor. The net net is that even if you (or your team ) don’t see yourself as someone who grieves about stuff, you will still go thru this at some point – and need to help someone else thru this process.  And it’s better to process the change consciously than to later be surprised that you feel mad or sad about it.

William Bridges in his book “Managing Transitions” uses the word “Endings” to describe this phase. As summarized in an Organizational change booklet by MITRE, Endings are Emotional in nature, and include grieving in the form of: anger, bargaining, anxiety, sadness, disorientation, feelings of loss, etc. Examples of individual loss include: their peer group, the roles that gave them a sense of competence, their chances of promotion, the strategies that fit with their values, or their old expectations. To coach others (or ourselves) thru this phase here are a few of the MITRE/Bridges suggestions:

  • Acknowledge the losses openly and sympathetically;
  • Expect and accept signs of grieving;
  • Give people information, again and again;
  • Treat the past with respect;
  • Explain that change involves not knowing all the answers, listen to your employees and validate their feelings;
  • Be empathetic, encouraging and supportive, draw out staff questions and provide answers where you can, provide direction, know when enough is enough Research past change and analyze it to see what was done right and could be done better – lessons learned;
  • Ensure efforts are undertaken to protect people’s interests while they are giving up the status quo;
  • Give people access to the decision makers;
  • Make sure you sell the problem before trying to sell the solution

Processing grief during an “ending” can also include journaling or talking with a friend about these types of questions:

  • How do you feel about the situation?
  • What are some things that trouble you most?
  • Could you tell me how the new job (new system, new responsibility) is going?
  • Could you give some concrete or specific examples?

I also found it interesting to read how the Organizational change booklet by MITRE integrated the Adopter categories from Diffusion of Innovations  to show that people have different rates of change adoption.  I am an Innovator – in this model.  Lots to learn!




2 Responses to “Honoring the past”

  1. Danelle Peddell Says:

    Good Day.
    I’m reading through your blog and am thinking I am living a similar career life here in London Ontario Canada.
    I am a PMP trying to bring Agile (scrum) practices and principals to a 200 year old insurance company. Some days I think it is easier to cure world hunger.
    I have read through some of your blogs and really enjoy reading what you are sharing. Thank you for that!

    I have applied for the ACP exam and am being audited as well.
    Just wondering if you happen to have any tips for getting through a successful audit?

    Thanks in advance.

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