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The Change Designs Blog is a collection of insights, personal stories and real life experiences from people working in organizations. In this blog you will find real life stories depicting magical experiences and struggles, where the truth is richer, stranger and more practical than any theory or model. If you've ever wanted to read the diary of a leader, strategist, change agent, consultant, facilitator or a coach, or you are grappling with problems at work, then you will enjoy reading this practical blog.


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Dec
18

The End of Transformation By Susan Ksiezopolski

Ruth Tearle - Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The end of the beginning sounds like a song or even a great title for a poem.  It seems like an ominous stage full of drama, anticipation and mystery regarding the upcoming unknown. The beginning starts to set you up for the end, already getting you ready to let go.  

stairs

And yet the end is a confusing place to be. It is the emotional roller coaster state of transformation, the emotional stage in the process of change. The ending implies that there is a deadline approaching and this creates a sense of urgency and a call to action. It brings forward a number of different feelings, the feeling of relief from the exhaustion of work to the feeling of excitement about the final product or outcome. At the same time it also brings feelings of dread of the awaiting unknown and also some sadness of missing the work, process, team and people that were involved in the “Doing”.

It is the hardest of all in transformation – this is where reckoning occurs regarding the quality and outcome of results that have been achieved and matching them up against the original grand vision and expectations. What also makes it difficult is that there needs to be a shifting of mind set and a focus on how to sustain and maintain the transformation without reverting back to old ways.

The end is about the ebbing and flowing of tasks completed that often give rise to new tasks.

Just utter the word – the end – it sounds finite, implies completion, closure– but in reality it is really a much more fluid experience.

It is easy to see why we often want to put off the ending by dilly-dallying or delaying and we may find ourselves bartering for more time. There can be an avoidance towards the ending, because with it comes the void of the great unknown. If we stay in the “Doing” we are moving and searching still for the end – being AT and IN the end implies that we have figured it all out, and need to move on.

The end is about letting go and being open to the next beginning.
We need to change our perspective and see that the ending is the first step into a new journey. If we see this then EVERYTHING CHANGES and stirs excitement and creates anticipation of what is to come. It can transform our perspective from dreading being last, and the image of being left behind. Instead we can focus on the momentum to propel us forward.

Sometimes the ending is a foreign place, leaving us with no recollection of how we got here. It feels more like another beginning.

In starting this transformation journey - my vision was to emphatically abandon the “to do” list and embrace the “to be” list. Over the middle and certainly by the time the end has rolled around the distinction between the two has become less clear – after all where does “doing” stop and “being” begin? Even being requires doing! It is the ying and yang of existence, tugging at us relentlessly. Certainly what has helped me with “being” is embracing the flow of life, embracing what comes and living in a state of wonderment, awe and gratitude regardless of the circumstances. Also what has helped along my journey of transformation is taking stock monthly, a reminder to help keep my focus and a way to keep myself open and flexible to adjusting as required.

3 key success factors for managing the end of transformation.

To survive the final stage of transformation, a key success factor is scouting out the next “new“ beginning.  Throughout the journey there is a strong need to know what is next, what awaits on the horizon. Whether we are at the beginning moving to the middle or in the middle heading towards the ending, what keeps us going is the anticipation of what is waiting for us around the bend.  

Accept you may only have a short glimpse of the path ahead.

Another success factor is accepting that we may only have a short glimpse of our paths ahead. Like driving a car late at night on a dark country road, the headlights can only illuminate so much on our life journey.

Be okay in not knowing.

At the ending of transformation, I learned that a third key success factor is to trust the process and being okay in the not knowing. All we can do is to prepare and be equipped to make the road trip. Yes, there are detours in the middle and all along the way that may in fact lead to peaceful places unexpectedly. We need to be prepared to accept the surprises, after all that is the wonder and spice of life.

Reflect on your journey.

The ending is also signal that you have achieved another milestone, you have arrived at your destination and the journey is complete.  It is a time for reflection and enjoying the view from the horizon. It is a time to start planning the next destination. If it is not the right ending you can still change your story, just program the next destination and recalibrate. After all, the ending is a fluid process versus a hard stop. It is like a revolving door – an entrance and an exit all at the same time!

Yes we all know that the end signals the finish line, but it's also a time to take stock on the process of getting here. Did you put in your best, giving it your all and not feeling as if you got shortchanged in your journey? It is important to recollect, reflect and document. This helps to gauge and validate your journey by documenting the learning and passing it over to the new state – can help us to embrace a continuum, which forms the cycle of the beginning, the middle and the end.

The ending is more about that first step past the finished line. The glory of making it to the end and the celebration that awaits on the other side. The ending can be place of happiness, excitement or sadness and dread, depending on our state of mind and our state of being.

At the crossroads of the end I realized that I need to stand and look both ways before crossing to the next phase.

At the crossroads of the end I realized that I need to stand and look both ways before crossing to the next phase. 

  • I need to look left to see were I have been, what I have accomplished.
  • I need to look within and see how far I have come and who I have become.
  • Then I need to look right to see what lies ahead and what is possible.
Being unattached to the outcome, letting go of control and steering through the choices that are presented along the path allows me to be more present and focused on the here and now and not on the past or the future.

And what I have learned is that anything is possible if I am willing to BE.

Being at the end is having the freedom to start again and arriving at the way forward. The end may not be what I expected. It has had many twists and turns and in the process has put in motion a more fascinating journey than I could have ever anticipated. But by being open and accepting what has evolved creates great freedom.

This is a long way away from the beginning where goals were set, checklists were made and I was tied totally tied to the outcome and always looking to the future instead of remaining tethered to just “being”.

To summarize the transformation journey: Have a plan, but be okay with dropping both your plan and routine. Be present in full awareness and accept what shows up. Be open and flexible. The end is really about moving on into new possibilities and letting go. It’s about not looking backward but looking forward towards a new beginning – what is next.

The ending is just another beginning. The real question is when is “the end” really the END.

No two journeys are the same. Through it all we need to define what our unique process is in our terms then embrace it and own it. The real key in any transformation is to not resist the process of change.  


susan-ksiezopolskiSusan Ksiezopolski is a project and change specialist. She is currently taking a break from 30 years of working in the public service and recently published her book. Check out her blog or visit her Facebook page

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