I wrote about liminality a couple of years ago, as a framework for thinking about change and transition. I was in my own period of in-between at the time, and it writing it has helpful for me, and arguably resonated for many others. The thing about liminal transitions is that typically it’s personal or organizational. Today, it is societal. We are all going through the same transition, together, at the same time. That can be a bit daunting.
Given our current reality, many of us would like to hit the reset button. But we need to define just what we are resetting. And where we would like to reset to. Our currently reality is one of stress and uncertainty. It is also one of opportunity. Played right, we have the opportunity to reframe what we do, how we do it and who we do it for. That’s an opportunity we are rarely faced with; the opportunity lies in taking advantage of it.
We all work through change at some point in our lives. More to the point, we frequently experience change, and often several changes at the same time. As universal as the experience is, there is precious little guidance on how to make it through. This is not a rational, linear process. There is a starting point and an ending point, and what happens in between is anything but predictable and easy. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t structures that we can understand, and ways through that we can find. We just need to know where to look.
It is a little astonishing how often people presume that change can be forced. In particular, there’s an assumption that all that’s required is for senior management to tell everyone what to do, and they’ll do it. You can try. I guarantee it won’t work; at least, it won’t work for long. Leadership has a role, but it’s not the one you think.
The idea of liminality is a simple one. It describes a progress by which significant transformation can occur. But within a simply presented model, there are a lot of moving parts. Attempting to navigate through in-between spaces takes work and effort. Knowing what to look for and what to expect helps make that a little bit easier.
Beliefs and principles are useful. They guide us when we are dealing with unknowns and uncertainty. They also get in the way, because they blind us to being aware of when they stop working. This is particular true of process, where ideology often gets in the way of adaptation and a recognition of what works here (or what won’t).