Welcome to the Neutral Zone


There is no doubt that COVID-19 is already impacting our infrastructure, institutions, and delivery systems. It will also mean life will likely never be the same again as individuals, organizations, and governments evolve and transform, often after working through a grieving process and learning to let go of “the way things used to be”. 

William Bridges describes the process of change in three distinct phases:
  1. the ending of the old approach or system;
  2. the neutral zone (when the old has been dismissed but the new hasn't yet been fully implemented), and
  3. the beginning of the new approach or system.

As he explains it, change begins with an ending, and ends with a beginning, because while transition is stressful, it can also be an opportunity for new beginnings.

In this recent article Scott Eblin suggests we’re at the end of Phase 1 of the pandemic and the beginning of Phase 2.

Eblin also suggests Phase 2 will require more “What if?” agendas moving forward.

For example, meetings where we ask such questions as:

  • What if we were starting this over from scratch, how would we do it?
  • What if we stopped doing that, what could happen?
  • What if we had to do this for a couple of years, what would we change?

He also suggests engaging other stakeholders and tapping into their perspective, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. This makes a great deal of sense because regardless of how smart anyone is, or thinks they are, no one is going to be able to determine the next best steps on their own.

Other important questions that can prompt new direction will result from a focus on: 

  • What happened? (sharing our own experiences and stories);
  • So what? (our insights and observations);
  • Now what? (ideas that could help us plan for change).

Specific questions could include:

  • What did your organization do well?  
  • Did surprising assets or sources of strength emerge?
  • Did your values help you deal with the challenges?
  • Where were the weak links?
  • What possibilities surfaced as a result of making do or being resourceful? 
  • How can you plan for future uncertainties now?

And my favourite, simple yet powerful, set of questions:

What should we: 

  • Stop doing?
  • Keep doing?
  • Start doing?

 Scary times for sure, but also a door opening to exciting possibilities. Welcome to the neutral zone! 



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