Space, Timeout & Patience – What the Books Don’t Tell You About Change Management

Do you find the change theories you read different from the real pace we must adapt to in our lives?  Do they seem out of touch with the realities you face?  I recently gave a presentation at the BAPT conference (British Association for Psychological Type), sharing my own personal (and difficult) journey in 2015 of imposed change, and comparing it with the more linear theory of change (Lewin’s model).

The theme of the BAPT conference was ‘Evolving people, organisations and concepts’. Ultimately, I wanted to share with the audience, as I am doing with you, the three ingredients that enabled me to successfully navigate change, which I didn’t find in the books!

In my own journey, the changes I experienced brought:

  • The clash of endings and new beginnings
  • The drain of challenge couples with opportunity
  • The fatigue of painful loss and grief
  • The adrenaline of risk and reward

When things got particularly tough for me, a friend gave me a card, which said “Every ending is a new beginning – even if you don’t realize it at the time”.  New beginnings were the last thing on my mind – until I allowed myself to be creative in my approach to dealing with change. I took a 9 month sabbatical, which sped up my recovery for the long term. It gave me opportunity to:

  • Think and grieve for what I had known (SPACE)
  • Gain a new perspective and get rid of anger (TIMEOUT)
  • Learn at a pace I could cope with (PATIENCE)

Ultimately,the  SPACE, TIMEOUT & PATIENCE I donated myself in the form of my sabbatical gave me privacy to cope with change, to learn a new mind-set, see things from a different perspective, “let go” and create new goals. The creativity in this space was huge. I returned with new networks, new product ideas for my clients and my energy tank “full” once more. I now find that the benefits of my own journey are very relevant in my work as a Change and OD practitioner.

Change is never linear – it is messy and unpredictable.  Change is complex, tiring and exhilarating.

Throughout my talk I created a picture of what and how change really impacts people in organisations, as well as illustrating how the reality compared with the theory – Kurt Lewin’s model of change. In essence, change without SPACETIMEOUT and PATIENCE has limitations. You can download the visual that was drawn live during my talk here.

What does this mean for organisational change?

When times are tough our resilience can be tested. Our ability to focus on others when our own needs are being all consumed is limited. Our logic knows we have to “face the music and dance”, however our behaviour can be quite the opposite. I can now see, with some distance and perspective, my own reaction and response was not dissimilar to Change Leaders I meet in organisations when they experience imposed change. These leaders are driving change for the organisation whilst also coping with the impact of those same changes on their own personal and professional lives.  They have to “let go” too!

Tools like MBTI can help us understand this experience, but when our own energy “tank” is empty our focus naturally becomes fixed on our own safety and attachment. We have limited capacity for teamwork or focussing outward.

How do we slow down to speed up?

Things like quarterly Away Days, Coaching, physical exercise, all contribute to slowing down the pace to cope.  Focus on what gives you energy and store it up!  Without these platforms in organisations we can feel unsupported, lack self-belief or, at worst, just burn out!  Connection, belonging and networks grow in important when change is imposed.

“Some times we need help to slow down in order to be able to speed up and perform at the top of our game in the future”

If you would like to find out more about our change management support or how to best use “space, timeout and patience” to sustain your people on their change journey, please do get in touch.