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Teambuilding Through the Transitions

“It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions,” observes internationally known consultant and author Dr. William Bridges. Change, he explains, is situational, while transition is psychological process people go through as they come to terms with the details of a new situation.

Here at Corporate Events Indianapolis, we know. Often, when a major change is underway in an organization, that’s when Christian and Katalina are called upon to use teambuilding to help employees adapt to those changes.

“Even though you won’t find it in the change document,” Bridges notes, “transition isn’t some optional ‘if-you-get-around-to-it’ add-on to the change.” Getting people through the transition is essential if the change is to work as planned.

There are three transitional stages organizations go through:

  1. Letting go of the old ways and the old identity.
  2. Going through an in-between time or “neutral zone” when psychological “repatterning” takes place
  3. Making a new beginning.

Most important, the author stresses, organizations don’t “go through” anything; people do. That’s the reason Bridges advises:

  • giving everyone a training seminar on how to work as a team
  • holding regular team meetings
  • changing annual individual targets to team targets
  • rewarding team performance

Bridges tells the story of a food processing plant at which the leadership wanted a faster way to involve everyone in the transition. Events were planned that mixed line workers with leaders and middle managers.  Managers worked hard to reassure the families of the people who worked for them.  The results were very positive – less anxiety, more solidarity between exempt and nonexempt workers, and improved productivity all around. That food processing plant created a teambuilding success story.

The same principles Katalina and Christian use in corporate trade show marketing apply in creating teambuilding experiences for employees. “We are an extension of the company,” Katalina says. “It is our job to assist in generating revenue for the company. Now, we don’t do this in the traditional way that sales people or employees do,” she explains. “What we do is contribute to the emotional health and well being of the company’s clients by creating for them a positive experience that becomes associated with the company.”

Teambuilding guidelines:

  • Learning must be take place in an ambiance of mutual respect and caring for all participants.
  • Learning happens in an environment of fun and humor. At the same time, the very real concerns employees have about what the organizational changes will mean in terms of their own situations must be dealt with as part of the discussions.
  • Messages are wrapped in unique presentation formats and exercises.

On the surface, it might appear that because our Corporate Events Indianapolis team comes in from “the outside”, that employees and managers would be more reluctant to reveal their true concerns. In fact, the opposite almost always occurs; participants are less reticent and readier to respond during the discussions, exercises, and role-plays. 

William Bridges comes back again and again to the all-important in-between stage of organizational change, that “neutral zone” between the old era and the new when psychological “repatterning” takes place. ”Painful though it is,” he remarks, the neutral zone is the individual’s
and the organization’s best chance to renew themselves and develop into what they need to become.

Teambuilding is an integral part of that renewal and development process, we’ve learned at Corporate Events Indianapolis. The old “levels” are still entrenched in everyone’s mind, with individuals still trying to get things done with the help of their old hierarchy of team members and supervisors. The teambuilding processes provide an all-important opportunity to test and refine new groupings and new thinking.

Since, as Bridges points out so cogently, It isn’t the changes that do you in, but the transitions, the teambuilding process can make the difference between getting “done in” and “getting the job done” by progressing to the new reality.


– by Rebecca of the Corporate Events Indianapolis blog team

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