An Unconventional Step For Organization Change

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.

19 thoughts on “An Unconventional Step For Organization Change

  1. Terri, Your post reminded me of Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli singing, Time To Say Goodbye.

    Time to say goodbye.
    Places that I’ve never seen or experienced with you.
    Now I shall, I’ll sail with you upon ships across the seas,
    seas that exist no more,
    it’s time to say goodbye.

    We can’t really say hello to the opportunities that change brings our way until we first say goodbye.

  2. This is such an important post, Terri. On an organizational and individual level, we cannot truly move on or embrace the new unless we have let go of the old, and saying goodbye helps us do that. Sadly this step is often overlooked in organizations — another reason why the post is so useful. My mentor has said, “A life well lived is a life well grieved.” Here’s to great hellos everywhere.

  3. Thanks Blair for sharing your mentor’s words. They really signify the importance of taking the time to grieve properly. Sometimes organizations just want to push the change forward and not do what is best for the employees. Of course with individuals, the same goes, that it is essential to take the time in reflecting on the loss before embracing the new reality. I appreciate your comments.

  4. Love the lyrics, Dan and a great addition to my post! Saying a proper good-bye paves the way for a healthy and successful transition. Organizations that forget this piece will take a longer time to move forward with change. People need time to say good-bye to what will never be again. Thanks for all your insights!

  5. Great post Terri.
    Taking the time that is needed to recognize and thank is part of human dignity.
    Change is not always easy, however the way in which change is managed often says a lot about people.
    I really appreciate your healtfelt message.
    Brings closure.
    Take care.

  6. Thanks Johann for taking the time to share your thoughts about change. It is so true that change can be very difficult and it is human to have feelings about change. Being able to use those feelings and say how you will miss the past is critical. In fact, not saying how you feel can cause a change to drag on. Thanks again!

  7. Terri, Saying goodbye honors our shared connection, accomplishments and reflects back with gratitude so we can embrace the future with both closure and hope. You have to let go of the old before you can fully step into the change ahead. Good-bye is such a beautiful and meaningful way to do it while acknowledging the emotional impact of the change. Great post from you! A must read for leaders and orgs about to start (or in the middle of a struggling) change process.

  8. I agree, Terri. I believe their is something “cleansing” about saying goodbye to the old guard or the old ways, recognizing the good while welcoming in the changes ahead. It may be a step of acceptance and greater energy for the positive change ahead. Great thoughts! Thanks! Jon

  9. I can imagine how hard this may be for an organization entrenched in its history. The leadership being stuck in a past that only weakens the future for them. I think this is a great post and agree to move on with a proper good bye is essential in our success in both personal and career type changes. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Alli, I so agree that there is an element of gratitude when we look back and say good-bye to what was. We do need to appreciate and learn from our experiences so that we can be even stronger and more knowledgeable after a transition. And I love your addition that it is a “shared connection” because there is some comfort in going through a change with others. Thanks again.

  11. Thanks Jon for sharing your comments. What a great metaphor- cleansing! That is kind of what we need to do in order to be open-minded and accepting of a transition and change.And yes, we need to welcome change! So appreciative. Terri

  12. Thanks Chris for offering your insightful comments and additions to my post! While it can be challenging to march forward with a change, the key is for leaders to get “unstuck” with the world of their past.Leaders must model the way for openness and innovation. Thanks so much!

  13. Terri, great post to highlight the importance of saying goodbye to the past, honoring it and celebrating what was good about it, before embracing the new. I think part of what makes change so scary for people is how the transition is managed. There’s usually nothing in place to help employees through it, as your story of the 4 hospitals merging exemplifies so well. Thank you for calling out the importance of having this “ritual” of letting go!

  14. You are so right Alice that change can be frightening. People are oftentimes anxious how they will fit in and even if they will like it. I think most people have a healthy outlook on change with a touch of uncertainty. But great leaders help others make the transition by learning from the past and getting excited about the future. Thanks for your thoughtful additions!

  15. Saying good bye to the past is an important step in making change. I like the poungbuiyvhavd made take the good, learn from your experience, bid goodbye and move forward.. Instead of getting overwhelmed with the transition, it is important to manage it properly. Good post Terri.

  16. Bidding goodbye and letting go is sometimes the most difficult. I like the taking the good from the past, learning from experiences and moving on to enable change and openness in ourself.

    Transitions especially some are difficult to handle and you have to train your mind to face the change.

    Good post Terri.

  17. I agree Lalita that we are most successful during transitions when we can bring the good from our past experiences forward. People can get “stuck” and become paralyzed in moving forward. Change is a constant in our lives, so to march forward we might want to reframe our thinking and welcome the transition. “Just do it”! Thanks again.

  18. Love the idea of “training your mind to face the change”, Lalita! A mindshift can be very helpful during times of change. Instead of looking at the change as the worst thing, it may be helpful to look at it as a challenge and an opportunity. So happy you stopped by to share your wonderful insights.

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