Transitions Management Mandy Taylor
y background is in large scale transformation within blue chip organisations. My role has been to support business leaders in clarifying the vision – and generating a programme of activities that realise that vision. “People. Process. Tools.” This is what we are taught as programme managers, yet I am still staggered by how many organisations still hold the belief that if they focus on getting the process right, success will ensue. How many transformation pieces have at worst completely failed or at best caused significant disruption to business by not considering the people aspect? Once upon a time the people element was addressed by training. Mass attendance of dull, unexciting courses on processes and tools – followed by change being “done to them”, usually by which time the people have forgotten the training and are sometimes too belligerent to use it anyway. Now we have the discipline of Change Management, which I am pleased to see is now being certified by bodies such as the APM Group which means that some standardisation and professionalism should emerge how great would it be to embed elements of NLP into those offerings? The discipline as it does stand is usually executed by a group of HR professionals following simplistic and sometimes too theoretical models of change, in
the exactly the same way we do as programme managers ( I put my hands up here, I’ve been just as guilty in the past), who in my experience really don’t get the people bit. Yes, I know that is a generalisation – I did say it was my map of the world. Within Change Management, there is one area that is
NLP, for me, has a great part to play within organisations
Summer 2008 - rapport
emergent and starting to play a more significant role in transformation, and that’s Transition Management. If you want an easy read on the subject “Managing Transitions, Making the Most of Change” by William Bridges is a good place to start. At it’s heart Transition Management is changing people’s behaviour, dealing with the individual – helping them to let go of the old, safe comfortable world taking them through a time of uncertainty to a place of new beginnings. Please don’t be fooled into thinking that Transitions Management is a soft discipline. It’s far from it, as a Change Leader myself, I have had to make tough decisions, deliver some really hard to face messages and sometimes deal quite clinically with the conflicts that arise. It gained me the personal strapline of “Firm yet Fair”. So where does NLP fit into the picture? Transition Management needs strategies for changing and embedding the behaviour,
depending on the time and scale of the change these may be completely directive through to completely participative. The balance is usually somewhere in between. I’ve found NLP used in a business context to be extremely powerful in motivating and triggering the required behavioural changes helping the change initiatives to gain that critical mass that is needed for the New Beginnings to become the cultural dogma of “that’s how we do things around here”. For me the starting point is having some really clear, powerful outcomes that engage the Change Champions and Change Agents. Often, the Change Leadership need support to articulate these. I sometimes find it useful to use animal behaviours as a metaphor for describing human behaviours, a great example was with one executive when he described his team as a group of sheep dogs – constantly awaiting instruction, he needed them to be the sheep dog handlers, taking the lead so to speak. Doing this allows us to move easily on to describing the evidence we need to see, hear and feel to convince us that we have arrived at the ‘New Beginnings’. This executive now has his handlers. Ralph Watson, of Dynamic Communication, the trainer on my NLP Business Practitioner course kindly shared a pattern that he designed and has used with many of his corporate clients with fabulous success. It combines the use of a Timeline, with perceptual positions, a designer swish and a convincer pattern.
By Ralph’s kind permission, I too now incorporate this is into my work both with groups and individuals and I must say with some staggering results. A group I recently used this technique with had been through a number of transitions – and never allowed to find their ‘New Beginnings’ before the next change was trust upon them, were being overlooked and perceived as poor performers. My task was to awaken them, motivate them – and get them to a point of taking responsibility for themselves. From victim to victor – an uncomfortable title for most. Utilising this technique really awakened them to the possibilities – creating powerful outcomes, and an action plan of how to achieve them and most importantly the courage to take those actions. During the three phases of transition, some sources advocate counselling services to allow a period of grieving for that period letting go. Personally, in my experience, this is where I have found that NLP really comes into it’s own – allowing the individual to explore the possibilities, see the positive aspects that can come out of change and to help them depersonalise the change even when it means certain redundancy in their current role. NLP, for me, has a great part to play within organisations. It does however, need to be delivered with creativity, passion and a real sense of purpose. My key message to all those CEO’s and Change Leaders out there is put your people first, you may just be surprised to find that your processes and tools will fit much more easily.