I am not one for warranties when it comes to change within organizations, but experience tells me differently. I have been involved in several large institutional changes that actually went well. When I evaluated what elements these transitions possessed, it became apparent what was most critical for the acceptance of a new team or vision- a proper good-bye. You might be wondering why saying good-bye has anything to do with change. Actually it is everything. It sets the most comforting tone for welcoming in the new change.
Saying good-bye is an important step in how people react to change. It is how people begin the grieving process of “letting go” of what was once familiar and routine for them. It is a way to honor the recognizable world of their soon to be past. Here are two examples of why thoughtfully ending one change is critical for the beginning of an organization’s next chapter.
I partnered with a hospital system to help the employees deal effectively with a massive change. Four different hospitals with four different cultures merged into a new and large hospital system. Many healthcare workers were being asked to transition into new types of jobs with new teams and new bosses. The place they worked in for many years, and the routine that they were so use to, was taking on a new feel and look. They were being asked to take on new tasks and responsibilities that seemed foreign to them. Their hours of work were changing; they had to adjust their personal schedules. Where does one begin this process of heralding in a new era?
By saying good-bye to what no longer exists, but what once defined us. By taking the time to validate all the good in the past and honoring the world of yesterday. Kind of tough. But a step worth taking.
In another organizational change, there was a transition in a senior leadership position. For 36 years, one individual ran the show and was retiring. This was very frightening for many people, and the uncertainty created extensive conflict. Before even thinking about the future leader, it was decided that a formalized and respectable good-bye for the current leader was essential. There was a year to plan and begin the process of saying good-bye. The strategic planning involved both past introspection and thinking what part of the vision and mission to bring forward. Again, what was the best way to begin this overwhelming change?
By saying good-bye to what no longer exists, but what once defined us. By taking the time to validate all the good in the past and honoring the world of yesterday. By having gatherings to roast and toast an important leader of the institution. By acknowledging that our daily lives would look differently but that there was hope and opportunity with the new leadership. When we properly escort out the old before welcoming the new, we create closure for an organization. Leaders who focus on the good-bye will enhance the success of a great hello.
Have you ever created a proper good-bye for a change? I welcome your stories and comments.