‘Leave and cleave’ is a phrase talked about in some religious communities and traditions when people are getting married. It is one of the rituals or rite of passages. In simplistic terms, the concept means the new couple is separating from their parents, siblings, and so on to join together. It’s not about cutting ties with them completely, but rather the relationship with your partner takes priority over them. And at the same time, the newly weds are creating a new identity for themselves as a couple, but also as individuals. New traditions, new ideas, new ways of doing things.
It can be helpful to think about organisational change in a similar way, but without the religious overtones. Part of the process of change involves leaving the past and forging a new identity. Sometimes the past we are leaving is negative, but often the past can be honoured as things that help to get us here. The other part of change is the new identity, new processes, new culture and so on.
Often change processes focus on the new, without honouring the past. Or we don’t talk about intentionally breaking from the past. These could be symbolic rituals i.e. burning a manual for the old system or painting the walls the new brand colours or something else. The options are endless, but it needs to be meaningful and relevant for the change you seek.
And here’s the thing, if we do these intentional acts together it still might feel silly, awkward, and strange. But it is being done together. We are passing through the awkward ritual together. And that. That act helps leave the old and cleave to the new identity.
It is a rite of passage. And isn’t that what change is?