Navigating The Messy Middle: How to Create Successful Change

by Rita E. Garwood Mar/Apr 2024
Transformation projects rarely involve a simple journey from current state to future state. TomorrowZone and the ELFA explored how to navigate the messy middle in their most recent Innovation Roundtable.

Rita E. Garwood,
Editor in Chief,

Change is messy. When many teams start a transformation project, they often believe that they can forge a direct path from their current state of being to their intended future state. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Factors that just cannot be known will emerge as a project unfolds, so every transformation journey will include an inevitable “messy middle.”

On Feb. 15, the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association and TomorrowZone hosted a virtual event, “Navigating the Digital Frontier: Overcoming Barriers to Innovation,” which explored how to navigate the messy middle of transformation.

Deborah Reuben, founder and CEO of TomorrowZone, led a panel that explored what the messy middle is, where it shows up and how to implement practical solutions to minimize its impact.

A panel consisting of Tawnya Stone, vice president of Strategic Technology at GreatAmerica Financial Services; Moto Todha, vice president of Information Systems at Tokyo Century (USA); and Lisa Fitzgerald, senior vice president of application development and support for Equipment Finance at First Citizens Bank shared their experiences, emphasizing the importance of adopting a true leadership mindset and demonstrating emotional intelligence to help all stakeholders through the hard parts of change.

The panel shared the following strategies that can help leaders and teams overcome the messy middle:

1. Continuously revisit the “why” of your project. Sometimes the big picture gets lost when a team is in the thick of transformation.

2. Manage expectations. Prepare management and team members for uncertainty and potential detours ahead of time.

3. Measure incremental success. Continually reassess a project from a holistic point of view and avoid becoming reactive.

4. Go visual as soon as possible. Ensure everyone in meetings sees the same page so they can get on the same page.

5. Communicate honestly and openly. Be transparent and brutally honest in your communications. Remember that communication is an ongoing project, not an event.

6. Assemble the building blocks of management. All successful change requires vision, skills, incentives, resources and an action plan.

7. Don’t forget the human side. Creating successful change starts with people. Get people on board with change and ensure they have the right skills for the project.

The next ELFA Innovation Roundtable is scheduled for May 9. •

Rita E. Garwood is editor in chief of Monitor.

Leave a comment

No categories available

No tags available