April 2014: Making the Most of the Wilderness Zone

In this Issue

Opening Remarks

How an organization deals with change and helps its people move through transition is an important part of organizational life today.  In this edition of Transforming Challenges, Senior Consultant Maureen Gallagher describes a process of transition that recognizes and honors the past while anticipating a new and exciting future.

At The Reid Group, we have a passion for helping leaders and organizations transform their challenges into opportunities to create a better world. One of the ways we do that is through this e-letter, Transforming Challenges. Is there someone you know who could benefit from receiving it? Forward this edition to them and encourage them to subscribe for themselves. They’ll thank you—and so do we!

The Reid Group News

  • A team of 15 women and men worked with the Archdiocesan Advisory Group in the Archdiocese of New York at the end of March, helping them to prepare 75 Preliminary Recommendations in response to the Suggestions made by each Cluster. Next steps involve conversations in the Clusters and the preparation of Responses to the Preliminary Recommendations by June 8.
  • We are pleased to welcome a new Consultant to The Reid Group: Anne Skorski will start her work with us April 14. She has extensive experience as a business consultant and director of sales in several video game production and distribution companies. In her letter of interest to the company, Anne says, “I strongly believe that joining the Reid Group will allow me to grow a business directly aligned with my core values.” Welcome, Anne!
  • John Reid and Karen Castellon facilitated a Catholic School Summit in Topeka (in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas) on March 30. More than 250 parents, teachers and administrators joined for lively discussion about Catholic identity, tuition & stewardship, and enrollment with the goal of strengthening the five elementary schools and one high school in the city. A good time was had by all.
  • Gesu School in Detroit has hired Greg Cascione for a second fund development contract.
  • Maureen Gallagher is conducting a Leadership Search for a Director of Mission and Values for the D’Youville Life & Wellness Community in Lowell, MA.
  • John Reid facilitated a four-hour session for more than 150 participants at St. Nicholas and St. William parishes in Los Altos, CA in late March. These two parishes have been told by their bishop that by July 1 they will share one pastor and one assistant pastor, and they are exploring possibilities for alignment. Grand Gathering #1 was a huge success with meaningful conversation, great food and new connections among parishioners. Grand Gathering #2 is scheduled for May or June, after the new pastor is appointed.

So as you look at your individual or organizational future, what are your challenges? Could you benefit from skilled support? Give us a call at 206-432-3565 or send us ane-mail to start transforming those challenges into opportunities.

We are pleased to announce the next in The Reid Group teleseminar series.

Date: April 16, 2014
Time:  2 p.m. PT, 3 p.m. MT, 4 p.m. CT, 5 pm ET
Topic:  Dealing with Change, Loss and Grief

The call will be hosted by John Reid and Maureen Gallagher both Senior Consultants with The Reid Group.

As the season of Spring is upon us, it is a good time to ask: How well is your organization or community working with change, moving through loss and toward growth?

April’s Teleseminar, held in the middle of Holy Week, will focus on the journeys all people and organizations take: the struggles, the death moments, the need to let go, the transitions, the losses and the joys of new life. We will pay attention to the importance of endings and new beginnings as well as the work of the “Wilderness Zone.” This conversation will be practical and will have personal, relational and organizational emphasis.

Feature Focus

Making the Most of the Wilderness Zone

Maureen Gallagher, Senior Consultant

Maureen Gallagher, Senior Consultant

On the “change spectrum” people are “wired” differently to deal with change. Some are explorers looking for challenging transformations. “Bring it on” is their motto. At the other end of the spectrum are the settlers–“if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” They struggle with change in a big way.

Most of us are somewhere in between. We have cherished things we do not want to see changed, but generally can deal with organizational change, even welcome transitions, especially if we are involved at some level in creating and implementing the new beginnings.

While there are many experts out there offering counsel to leaders of organizations in transition, one we have found to be particularly helpful is William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. The chart below illustrates not only Bridges’ thinking about endings, times of grief and loss that throw us into a “wilderness zone,” from which we gradually emerge into a time of new beginnings, but also the work of the late J. Gordon Myers. Myers dealt with corporate transitions in terms of:

  • remembering the past
  • articulating the present
  • grieving and letting go
  • knowing what is remaining the same or deepening
  • engaging the hopes and dreams for the future

transformation diagram smallRemembering the past is critical to making it successfully through the wilderness. Recalling the past does not mean idealizing or romanticizing practices or traditions that are lost. They need to be remembered for their challenges as well as for the values they represented. In some cases the past needs to be remembered so that it will not be repeated. This is especially true if people were treated poorly, without dignity or respect, or if they were oppressed and dealt with unjustly.

During the transition time it is important to encourage conversation about strengths and struggles. This helps individuals and groups articulate meaning, to focus on the “heart of the matter” rather than on trivialities. Dialogue in the wilderness zone mobilizes the “wanderers” and helps them feel connected.

The chaos of the wilderness often presents opportunities to regroup and come to a new or renewed realization of the meaning and purpose of a job or a relationship, or of life itself. It is a time to grow and be nurtured by the strengths, starkness and beauty of the unknown. It is a chance to question basic premises and come to new realizations. New cultures are created in the wilderness zone and new relationships are formed.

Discovering hopes and dreams for the future is the last of Myers’ areas, which if attended to, helps people emerge from the wilderness zone. When people are swirling in a morass of change and transition, it is sometimes hard for them to envision a positive future. Given time, patience, and invitations to create something new, those experiencing transitions will begin to get energy to help build something new. At first it may just seem as a glimmer of light, then it will grow to be a beacon of hope and new life.

People who love change often start here, with imagining the future. They instinctively dream of what could be and are often not sympathetic to the “settlers” among us who would rather not budge. Effective leaders give time and resources to travel the wilderness zone at a reasonable pace. If this is not attended to, people will spend more energy trying to return to the past.

Changes which are handled well, transitions in which leaders engage all involved, and allow time for new beginnings to emerge from within, can produce amazing and transformative results.


The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning

Think about what your organization could do if the process of planning met the inevitability of change head-on—and it resulted in significant success.

Organizations large and small, religious and secular, for-profit and not-for-profit, successful and unsuccessful, go through change. John Reid and Maureen Gallagher of the Reid Group have been instrumental in helping many groups discover the power of Prophetic Planning. This book presents a complete overview with detailed information that any organization will find useful in understanding how to plan for change.

The Art of Change: Faith, Vision and Prophetic Planning, and its companion CD are now available from Liguori Publications as well as from Amazon.com.

And that’s it for this month. Look for Transforming Challenges next month–and until then, have a good day and a great week.Kathy Johnson, Editor, Transforming Challenges
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