How to Help People through the Limboland of Change

One of my clients is working on a huge project. Lots of systems, lots of data, lots of change. The reality of such complexity is that they can’t make all of the change happen at once. Some things must happen in sequence, so staging is necessary.

Staging has one big advantage: it reduces the volume of change, making it easier for people to adapt. Well, most people…

The downside of phased change is that there are interim states. Some people end up with a foot in two worlds, having to:

  • Maintain data in two systems, doubling their work
  • Go to different places for similar information 
  • Learn, unlearn, relearn at each phase

Being in limboland between stages creates cognitive strain. It makes people irritable!

While the first objective is to avoid these interim states wherever possible, if you must have them then support those impacted by: 

  • Ruthlessly working to minimize the duration of these periods
  • Keeping their eyes on the prize: Point to the end state and all of the benefits it will provide
  • Reassuring them about the investments made and people committed to getting to the goal
  • Clearly identifying what is temporary
  • Temporarily allocating the duplicate and interim work to a limited number of staff where possible
  • Reminding them of the support they have along the way
  • Publicly celebrating the small wins and the unsung heroes who are most impacted 

With the complexity of our organizations, it’s not always possible to take a ‘big bang’ approach to change. What are you doing to ease the pain of those in limbo?

Thoughtfully yours,
Jeff Skipper

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