The Two Transition Zones in a Growing Organization

The Two Types of Transition Zones Between Each of . . . 

These chaotic, transition zones are evident also in nature, to which many of the concepts of the 7 Stages of Growth are compared. Nature tells us a lot about change, and the necessity of that change is the same in organizations as it is in nature. The caterpillar’s transition to the butterfly is a classic example.

A butterfly will have to go through the chrysalis stage of change and experience a lot of chaos before it emerges as a beautiful monarch butterfly. If something interrupts that change, the transition will never occur and the butterfly will die before it’s able to emerge from the cocoon.

Between each stage of growth is what are called Transition Zones. Those Transition Zones are actually a phase of chaos that the organization moves through to prepare itself for the next stage of growth. Literally without that chaos, the organization would not be able to sustain itself or be able to compete in the next stage of growth.

As humans, we tend to gravitate toward what’s safe, and what can be explained. We look for a state of equilibrium that is safe and understandable. As companies move through these stages of growth they experience two transition zones.

Flood Zones
Flood Zones are transition zones that show up when the level of activity in an organization increases – literally the company tends to feel like there is a flood of activity. The people in the organization quickly feel overwhelmed by the activity occurring. There are more projects and more confusion. During these zones, performance and productivity can quickly erode. When this occurs, there tends to be a knee-jerk reaction by the leadership to hire more people. In fact, hiring more people simply creates more activity and employees in the company continues to feel like they are drowning.

Flood Zones occur between Stages 1 and 2, Stages 3 and 4 and Stages 5 and 6. If you are in any of these stages of growth, the first reaction of the leader should be to slow everything down and have people evaluate what exactly is going on. Instead of hiring more people, which adds to the complexity of the organization, the company should get employees involved to examine what it is doing and how it is doing it.

Wind Tunnels
Wind Tunnels are very different than Flood Zones and occur between Stages 2 and 3, Stages 4 and 5 and Stages 6 and 7. A Wind Tunnel requires the organization to let go of methodologies that no longer work and create new ones that do. The leadership will have a difficult time recognizing that what worked before isn’t working now. Because of the increased complexity, the company must re-evaluate how they are managing the many different aspects of the company and find new ways that will work better. To believe that what worked before will continue to work is sure path to frustration.

Flood Zone occur between Stages 1 and 2, Stages 3 and 4 and Stages 5 and 6. Wind Tunnels occur between Stages 2 and 3, Stages 4 and 5 and Stages 6 and 7. Both Flood Zones and Wind Tunnels are a part of growth. You can’t ignore these chaos zones but you can begin to understand them and create a language of growth that will help your employees understand what is going on. You can also enlist their input to develop solutions to the challenges of that particular stage of growth.

Time to Implement Team Leader Skill Development

Effectively managing these transition zones requires the work of leaders skills of Vision, Alignment, and Execution.

Click on the following link to view a short video about developing the work of leaders skills:


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