Opinion » 8 Keys to Managing Transitions

8 Keys to Managing Transitions

By: Mary L.
September 2, 2013

Sure things:  Death, Taxes & Change.  Benjamin Franklin was right that death and taxes are sure things in life, but he forgot to include in that list one very important thing – change.  Whether or not you recognize it, all things are in constant state of change.  Even the seemingly static is decaying in its stagnation.  Recognizing stagnation and need for change can give you an opportunity to influence its course.

However, people are often uncomfortable with and resist change.  Even if you are comfortable with surfing the crest of the wave of change, others around you may struggle to maintain their balance.  They may passively or actively hinder or frustrate your efforts, holding you back or reinforcing your own reluctance to make change.

There are many reasons people do not like change.  A major hurdle is entropy.  Even if the status quo is uncomfortable, effort is needed to make change, and this additional effort may seem daunting in the course of an already stressful everyday life.  Ironically, effort is also required to maintain the status quo!  Some people make great efforts to maintain the status quo, despite its futility (as all things are already in a constant state of change).  They may fear the discovery that the status quo is not okay as it, or they may fear other things such as the unknown outcomes of change, failure, or even success.

In order to ease your fears, motivate and propel you through change, here are eight things you can do.

  1. Determine goals and expected outcomes.  This is a critical task.  Assess the status quo and clearly define – on paper – what you want to accomplish by making changes.  Then define success by describing what the changed situation will be like once a transition has been made.  Review to ensure that the planned outcome will accomplish the defined goals.  Do your research and do not make assumptions.
  2. Plan ahead.  As you lay the plans for making the changes needed to achieve your goals, include in your plans extra time that routine tasks will take due to the changing environment in which they will be done.  Plan for normal activities to be disrupted.  And, plan for new activities to take longer to accomplish until they have become routine.  Plan for cost overruns and budget shortfalls.  Plan for resistance and negativity from others around you.
  3. Let go.  Once your plans are set into motion, let them go and give up your need to control. Like an arrow once it is shot out of the bow, there is very little you can do to influence where the arrow lands.  Trust that there will be a favorable outcome.  Any worries or further effort to control will only be wasted energy.
  4. Expect chaos.  Once the wave of change is set into motion, unplanned and uncontrolled things will happen.  Setting this expectation ahead of time reduces the stress of experiencing chaos.  Frustration and upset over the unplanned events and chaos will only make the situation more difficult for you and those around you.
  5. Manage stress.  Be sure to include in your plans time for self-care.  Exercise, eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, take your vitamins and get enough sleep even if it means taking a half-hour nap in the afternoon.  Taking a few deep breaths when things get hectic can calm you in the moment.  Make time for fun activities to rejuvenate you during the transition.  Having something to look forward to in the short term can buoy you during a transition.
  6. One thing.  You only have to do one thing.  Know your priorities and focus only on the next thing that needs your attention.  Multitasking is the stuff of myth; it is physically impossible to pay attention to more than one thing at a time.  Bouncing back and forth from one thing to another is actually an inefficient mode of operating.  Like baby steps, do one thing, then do the next one thing. Every journey begins and ends with a single step.
  7. Be flexible.  When the going is rough, you are exhausted and unsure of success, revisit your goals and reassess how much progress you have made towards your planned outcome.    If things are not headed in the right direction, determine what is most problematic – how you are going about getting to where you plan to go, achieving your overall goal for change or your vision of the future.  You may need to tweak or overhaul your plan of action, your goal and/or your planned outcome.  Do not get stuck by refusing to make these changes in the process of transition.
  8. Take stock.  After planned changes have been made, again revisit your goals and planned outcome to assess if you have achieved what you set out to do.  If you have made a successful transition, celebrate it.  If you have not, celebrate your effort and a new opportunity to try something else.   In either case, take time to determine what you have learned during the transition process, about yourself and your actions.  Consider what went well and what you might try to do differently next time.

Above all, remember that more change is on its way.  Change is always happening; you can either plan for it and try to influence its direction, or have it happen to you!



All opinions expressed are those of the author. Strategy Business Group Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.

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