Whether it’s professional, personal, or organizational, every change is triggered by a decision or an event. When it’s a planned change, you or someone else decides to do something differently. For example, implement a new human resource system, hire a new team leader, or work out regularly.
However, the decision or event that created the need or desire for something different is only one dimension of the change process. There is another important and often overlooked dimension of the change process. It is the Whitespace.
The Whitespace impacts every aspect of what happens after a decision is made or an event occurs.
Leaders who can comfortably and confidently navigate within the space have a unique advantage.
Defining the Whitespace
The Whitespace is the space between where you are when an event or decision is made and where you need to be to achieve a desired new state. William Bridges defined this space as the transition. He described it as the psychological process people must go through to reach the desired outcome.
In this space, you turn your knowledge, perception, and beliefs about the event into action. Actions that will either move you toward a new steady-state or activities that will protect and retain your current state. It’s in this space where new activities are adopted.
That’s why recognizing and accounting for the Whitespace in your planning is so important. Without it, your change efforts are doomed to fail.
In our Living and Leading Change Leader’s Certificate Course, we teach and give leaders tools that enable them to see and work within this space. For example, they learn how to create a map of the Whitespace for their change initiative. With an understanding of the boundaries, they can create a realistic plan for adoption.
Three Reasons to Navigate the Whitespace
Leading and navigating within the intangible elements of the Whitespace can be challenging. However, it is worth the effort. Here are three unique advantages you have when you can comfortably and confidently lead within the Whitespace of change.
- Each person’s Whitespace determines every reaction and response you see when launching and enabling change in your organization. When you understand the Whitespace and confidently guide people, you prevent resistance to change and build readiness.
- Almost 80% of your organization’s value comes from its intangible assets. The failure to lead within the Whitespace means that almost 80% of your change initiative’s potential to deliver a return is lost.
- You develop higher levels of change capability, which makes future changes easier. Leaders who lead comfortably and confidently in the Whitespace experience less frustration because people in the organization have a higher acceptance for change. The result is a greater return on the current change investment and increased capability for future changes.
The Whitespace of change exists whether you navigate it or not. But when you learn how to navigate and guide people through it, you can prevent resistance, create healthy and sustainable change. The result is a higher return on your change investment.
[i] Caruso., D. (2008). The Real Value of Intangibles. Strategy & Business. Retrieved from https://www.strategy-business.com/article/08302?gko=47f49