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Ascending the golden bridge: an implementation tool for changes and new KM technologies

1 December 2022
Noga Chipman-Steinwartz
Golden Gate bridge

Bridges are one of my favorite metaphors to describe handling change, and I use it a lot in interventions and reflections I conduct in group sessions. I use them to describe the transition from one stage of the group's life to another and to try to optimize the settings required for a worker or group or workers to overcome barriers and progress, to illustrate the connection and closeness that is formed between two individuals, and to reflect on emotional associations that people experience during change and their feelings towards them (for example, a stable concrete bridge compared to a flimsy rope bridge). I sometimes that metaphor by discussing it and the change at hand, and occasionally ask a group member to draw the bridge they are presently on or write a description on it.

My connection and appreciation of the bridge metaphor were enhanced when I was exposed to Elon Walhead's Unifying Bridge (an acronym in Hebrew, 1991, 2000). This model is the result of Walhead's desire to make tools and therapeutic coping methods to individuals experiencing states of uncertainty, stress and crisis. This model has been implemented to emotionally guide entire populations, such as people living in the area surrounding the Gaza strip who live in uncertainty regarding their safety, or medical and nursing teams during the harsh and exhausting stages of the battle against Covid19 in hospitals. At the same time, I found the model suitable for the business organization setting, especially units implementing new Knowledge Management solutions, which mean changing and discarding of old habits and experiencing new technologies and required methodologies. This article will cover the latter use of this model.

Walhead's bridge model to cope with stressful situations offers six resources one possesses and may assist them in finding the strength to cope with change and uncertainty: body, mind, emotion, belief system, society, and imagination. These resources serve as cognitive, social, and emotional bridges that enable one to leave your familiar comfort zone and experience a new challenge. These bridges are actually the forming of a sense of continuity for one or more of the six resources in a manner that enables, despite the fear, to experience a new way and enjoy the creativity and excitement it involves (Mirror above the bride, Dr. Ofra Ayalon, Nord Institution).

When applying this model to Knowledge Management solutions, we can pre-assess and design an implementation plan for managing this change, considering all six resources and identifying the resources the organization and its workers to promote change management, or those that require promotion and cultivation:

  • The body resource component, according to Walhead, means exercising new behaviors to accommodate to the change. The work plan to implement the change will utilize the resource by observing workers' current abilities and maintaining the new behavior expected from them while designing an instructional exercise and experience plan to enhance workers' confidence in their ability to maintain it.

  • The cognitive component is described in Walhead's model as developing one's resourcefulness skills, understanding rules so to be able to expect what the future may bring. In the change management implementation plan, the cognitive component can be making the new method and tools' work procedures more accessible and clearer, thus dispelling the ambiguity regarding their conduct in different situations in work processes.

  • The emotional component that Fox and Walhead present relates to creating a possibility for venting, unpacking and emphasizing with positive characters. The change management plan for implementing a Knowledge Management solution will relate to this component as creating channels for encouraging sharing among workers through discussion meetings and round tables on the subject, for legitimacy purposes and a sense of a universal fear and its relief, as well as granting hope and generating a common sense among workers that change may be positive, interesting and exciting.

  • The belief system component in the therapeutic model relates to social ideals and perceiving the world as harmful and dangerous as opposed to optimal and safe, to moral ethics and opinions, and believing and trusting ourselves. An optimal change plan would be wise to refer to this component and the way the change is presented as promoting values such as protecting the environment and saving paper, developing closeness, getting to know colleagues, positive influence and mutual assistance using tips and insights based on past experience, etc.

  • A social component in the typical model relates to how relationships with significant others, rituals and traditions stabilize personal functioning when facing uncertainty. Many Knowledge Management and sharing solutions enhance the possibility to form relationships with significant others at work, and thus coherently relate to this component. For example, using a launching ceremony and other group elements in an instruction process, purchasing the tools and the experience will also enhance workers' ability to successfully implement the change together as a team.

  • The imagination component is the last resource in this model. It means that using our ability to liken and compare, we can link past, present, and future, bridge over gaps in the day-to-day reality towards a better future that now seems possible. The vision for this change is a bottom-up process involving management and workers as partners in setting the future designation to aspire to. This may be an optimal implementation of the imagination component in the organizational process.

In conclusion, using the bridge metaphor enables us, Knowledge Management consultants, to illustrate and understand the essence of the way the organization is required to go to transition from old method to new. Furthermore, an organizational application of the Walhead model that has been proven effective in emotional therapy, may also assist the organization and consultant in the business field by implementing and managing change while paying attention to the six resources: body, cognition, emotion, belief system, society, and imagination.

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