Analysis: The Transition Manager's Creed

September 30, 1996
The following analysis is abstracted from a dialog by Matt and Gail Taylor during the Seven Domains Workshop, July 22-25, 1996.
The Transition Manager's Creed was written by Gail and Matt Taylor and is Copyright ©1982, MG Taylor Corporation.

Transition Management is a specific kind of management

Transition Management is not the only kind of management. And when we use the term "management" we do not mean "manager." We mean management as "a hand in." Management as a process. Naturally, organizations will require other kinds of management before, during and following the transformation. We're not claiming any exclusive contract.

It is required at specific historical moments in the life of an organization, corporation, city, country or planet.

Transition management is required at specific historical moments. We're anticipating a kind of change that is organic and whole, not mechanical and fragmented.

The opportunities for transformation are rarely created. Instead, they are discovered. Transformation is an emergent property of a complex system and is usually well underway before its subsystems are aware of what's happening. The person who "creates" a transformation, is really the one who identifies and frames it. So the transition manager--all of us really--are on the lookout constantly for the opportunity to discover a state change in progress. When we discover one, we have to paddle with the energy, but we can still have a lot of influence over how the boat moves in the stream.

That moment is the transformation from one state of being to another.

The transformation is a state change. It will be immediate when it happens. The kind of radical change we're talking about is discontinuous -- taken all at once in a great leap, and also quantum--there is usually no stop in-between two states. It is change of "an order of magnitude." The transitions between Toffler's three waves provide a good example, but there have been more transitions through history than just these three. 

I argue that we only assume that we're the same person each day. In reality we die and are rebirthed often. Even on a purely physical level, the cells in our body are being replaced all the time. As we go through these cycles of enterprise building and collapse, death and rebirth, we remember and connect to our past experiences so that nothing is lost. But we are physically very different individuals. And so it is with our organizations.

The Transformation manager facilitates the process of the transformation by combining the vantage points of strategic planning and project management, and forging an environment in which the creative energies of a group of people can function for mutual and planetary advancement.

By the word "facilitate" we mean "to make easy." The Transition Manager builds and maintains a tool kit. He or she uses that toolkit to forge and create an environment that supports transformation. This environment is a unique manifestation of the Seven Domains. What if your toolkit is restricted to that of a traditional meeting environment? The big oblong table; limited space to share ideas visually; a rigid agenda that allows for no exploration or experience. Can you use the Seven Domains effectively in this kind of environment? Perhaps. But in the end, you cannot beat the system. Structure wins. You have no choice but to introduce a new system, even if it is on a small scale. Small but whole. There must be a radical departure from the old structures otherwise they will continue to dominate. 

When problems are solved during a period of transformation, their solutions involve the rapid co-evolution of whole systems or value webs. The stakeholders collectively solve a problem by advancing it as a whole system towards the vision. This contrasts markedly with problem solving during stable, nontransitory times, when solutions can be applied piecemeal to an existing organizational ecology -- in effect "re-solving" the problem in bits and pieces on the level of an existing way of work.

The role and duties of the Transition Manager are specific; and the ethical framework of the Transition Manager is of the highest order


The Transformation Manager may or may not be in an apparent position of authority or power; he or she may not be recognized for the work performed--these issues are circumstantial and a matter of practical consideration.

Much of the work of a transition manager will be invisible and covert.

The Transition Manager works for no agency alone; he or she pledges allegiance to life, planet Earth, humankind, and the community within which he or she works.

This sentence is more practical than it may at first seem. Beneath it lies the assumption that in order to understand any one system, you must outframe to the supersystem of which it is a part. Because transition managers are involved in sweeping, ecosystemic changes, they must engage their work from a broad enough vantage point. At the close of the 20th century, the only reasonable vantage point to design from is a planetary one. Such a vantage point will lend the transformation process and the transformers the maximum leverage and understanding.

The Transition Manager is responsible to life's quest to reach a higher order of being, manifested in specific accomplishments.

This higher order of being is not mystical. It's based, instead, on the understanding that a transformation may increase the level of complexity in a system by an order of magnitude. The result of this increase in complexity should be expressed in the attainment of radical improvements or in the realization of new inventions.

No matter what work role or position the Transformation Manager assumes, he or she functions from sapient authority in performance of the duties.

Transition managers can be anyone. The CEO, a manager, a secretary, a project leader, a customer or stockholder. Their authority comes from the clarity of their vision and understanding. People ought to follow the one who can see the way. But because of this sapient nature of leadership in times of transition, the strategies of the transition leader or transition manager must of necessity differ from those of the traditional leader or manager.

Organizations in transformation are in the mature phase or exist in an environment that is in a mature phase of its life cycle. In those circumstances, human credibility, certification and authority are based on the assumptions of the old paradigm that is undergoing severe stresses.

In mature organizations or ideas, all of the rules of the game--the economics, if you will--are known. All that's left is to make incremental or marginal improvements in a finite game--a zero sum game. 

During periods of transformation, new games are being created and the old rules don't apply to the new game. This can lead to conflicts and there is danger in getting trapped in the conflict. The transition manager discovers and invents the rules to a new game, but still has one foot firmly planted into the world of the old game.

The old game is based on rule-based authority. For authority to exist, the game must be defined. As long as the new game remains undefined, there will be no authority in the way most of us understand the word. Creative people define a new authority. Part of what the transition manager struggles to understand is how feedback, design and decision making operate in the creative process where there is no central authority.

The Transition Manager maintains the ability to operate in two different, and often hostile environments; this ability is essential to creating the bridge necessary for successful transformations.

Throughout history, creative people disconnect from their society at some point in their lives. Often they return to society as social critics in art or poetry. Creative people are in the vanguard of transformation but they are rarely transition managers. Transition managers cannot afford the luxury of disconnecting with society in order to explore new frontiers. They must instead build the bridges or provide the means for other people to build the bridges to a new way of work or a new way of life.

The Transition Manager must remain free from entrapment by either the old or the new; the correct vantage point is from both, and from a healthy transformation with no commitment to a predetermined outcome in the specific.

Transition management is not all that a transition manager does. He or she may be responsible for a variety of other roles with specific deliverables. The transition manager role transcends these other roles.

The Transition Manager's fiduciary responsibility requires that he or she gain no undue advantage from the experience.

In order to gain undue advantage, the transition manager must choose to step firmly into one world or the other, but cannot remain with a foot planted in both the old and the new at once. So this requirement is not so much one of asking the transition manager to behave ethically, but of understanding that it is impossible to extract undue advantage when straddling two paradigms.


Journal Assignment: Chances are, you're facing a transition management problem right now. You may even have drawn up a plan for handling it. Take a few minutes to play "Spoze". Assume that you've solved the problem but without authority, protocol, any of the traditional organizational supports. How did you create the environment for change without going up against the organizational structure?


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iteration 3.5