Letting Go–The First Stage of Leading Change

(Part 1 of 3)

A project manager reported to me, “My team was very excited about our software upgrade.  We were having a lot of issues with our old system.” 

“I hear a ‘but’ coming,” I responded. 

“Yes, even though we noticed immediate improvements, some were reluctant to use many of the new features.  I guess people just don’t like change.”

Change consultant, Bill Bridges, explains that it is the transition, not the change, that some resist.  And Richards offers three stages of transition to the new:  letting go, the neutral zone, and the new beginning.

Whether change is perceived as good or bad, all changes require that people let go of something they are familiar with—a daily routine, contact with a peer, a meeting time, a routine report, etc. At this stage, people may feel fearful, saddened, frustrated or uncertain.

The first step in engaging members to accept the new is to help them let go of the old.  Encourage talk about memories and stories of the old while providing meaningful training and support for the new.  Most of us fear the unknown.  Show how skills and knowledge of the old will be essential in making the new work.  Accept that struggles in letting go are real.

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