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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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The Middle of Transformation. By Susan Ksiezopolski

Ruth Tearle - Thursday, February 21, 2013

Ahh, the distant memories of the beginning, the start of the vision, the dream, the promise of what lay ahead. The moments in the beginning are filled with anticipation and excitement. The end seems far away in the beginning but in the middle some how time accelerates. There emerges a sense of urgency. Time seems to be more prevalent. In the beginning creative state, time seems to be irrelevant and actually feels like it is standing still.

I like to refer to the middle as the “muddle”,

where things get muddled up.

I like to refer to the middle as the “muddle”, where things get muddled up. The excitement and energy associated with starting something new has long been forgotten. What settles in are the endless doubts, why did I start this, how am I ever going get through it, what am I doing, how am I ever going to get back to what I was doing before?

The road to “where do I want to be in the future” doesn’t look so clear or breezy from the middle. In fact in the middle it begins to look more and more daunting. There are more questions than answers, raising not only doubt but also testing perseverance. Trudging through the middle takes reinforcement of the vision. – THIS is why it is a critical success factor to establish up front in the beginning a compelling vision that propels us through the muddle. The vision becomes the beacon of light in the darkness leading us on.

stairsThe middle is a place of confusion. It is important to remember to stay the course and to garnish up every ounce of motivation and gumption to stay focused – not to get distracted by the things along the journey.

Stay the course.

Don't get distracted by things along the journey.

Barriers appear and complexities arise that whether they were anticipated and expected or not cause chaos. Shiny objects appear and can lead to distraction. The distractions raise questions regarding the approach and its validity in the middle. Nonetheless, there is a compelling feeling to see the approach through – however the reality is that the approach envisioned in the beginning may not longer be relevant given the current environment. To be successful in the middle calls for the need to be flexible, the need to be able to let go of an approach that is not working and opt for something new.

To be successful, you need to be flexible. To let go of an approach that is not working.

It is hard to let go of a direction once the path seems set, however if you are not getting any traction, then it is counter productive to stay in that state. It is like being in stuck in the mud, the more you fuss and ram the gas the more stuck you get.

This means taking a time out, to investigate new options and consider a detour from the original trajectory.  However difficult it is to start new in the end the pay off is well worth the detour. It is better to face up to the fact that a new approach is required instead of getting further and further down the road on the wrong path and then have to backtrack!

In transformation, the middle is where chaos lives. Awareness of the magnitude of what is juggled on a day-to-day basis can feel overwhelming.  To survive the chaos requires a safe haven, where reflection can take place, taking the time to nurture and build the strength and stamina required to continue the journey. Success in the middle requires taking a step out and re-evaluating and re-calibrating.

Getting through the middle is all about FOCUS, remembering the goal and taking steps forward despite the confusion and drudgery that can be associated with the middle.
  • What direction do I need to go?
  • Am I going in the right direction, should I make a change?
  • What is the right way? Is there only one way?

The path you follow becomes important and pivotal. Remember that many roads lead to Rome.

The middle is where the doing takes place.

Even though the middle can be muddled, the middle for me is also a place of comfort. The middle is where the “doing” takes place and the comfort zone for a task driven, doer like myself.

In the beginning of transformation its about the definition and painting the compelling vision, in the middle we need to pick an approach and be flexible enough to change when the approach no longer serves us or the outcome. If we don’t do this we can get perplexed and waste precious resources. It is ok to admit that the approach is not working and may be wrong. Success in the middle depends on having the courage to reach out and seek advice from the experts, and then adjust the approach and trajectory as necessary.
How do you know it is the right approach? It becomes effortless, synergy begins to happen and the momentum of energy that is created becomes an unstoppable force.

When the approach is the right approach, things will fall into place and align! Let yourself be drawn in and carried by that energy!

The middle marks the familiar territory of getting the vision done, executing the plan and getting to the finish line!

The focus should not be on the finish line. It should be in the journey and what opportunities are presenting themselves.

However, the finish line can become the focus, when in reality the focus should always be in the journey and what opportunities are presenting themselves. If we are too focused on the finish line we miss the possibilities and alternative avenues that show up. For me for example, it was coming to the realization that the photo images that I desperately wanted to include in my new book didn’t belong there. In letting that go I was then able to get to the realization I could use those photos on my website for my blogs instead. This generated a whole other set of unexpected positive outcomes!!

The middle of transformation is no doubt the muddle phase. To survive and get through this phase, reach out to resources, re-energize, and be flexible and open to possibilities that present themselves, be focused on the end result.

The last part of the middle of transformation is the realization that the end is around the corner and that opens up a whole other set of learning opportunities – stay tuned for the final steps and insights in the journey.

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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