William Bridges' Transition Model - Guide Employees Through Change

Fri, 06/06/2014 - 00:41 -- Gulzar Ahmed

Many people often feel uncomfortable while facing the change, this usually leads them to resist and oppose change. So this is very important for the management of the company or for a project manager to understand how different employee are feeling as change proceeds, only by understanding this management or manager can guide them through it and so that – in the end – they can accept it and support it. Bridges' Transition Model helps management or a project manager to do this.

History of Bridges' Transition Model

The Transition Model was developed and published by change consultant, William Bridges in his 1991 book "Managing Transitions." This model clearly highlights the difference between change and transition.  The best part of the model is that it focuses on transition, not change. The difference between change & Transition is very minor but very important. Change is something that happens to people, even if they do not agree with it. While transition on the other hand, is something internal: it's what happens inside people's minds when they are encountered with change or while they go through change. Change may happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs slowly with the passage of the time. Management of the company or project manager can use the Bridges' Transition Model to understand how company’s employees or project tea feel as you guide them through change.  This model highlights three distinct stages of transition which are:

  1. Ending, Losing, and Letting Go.
  2. The Neutral Zone.
  3. The New Beginning.

William Bridges says that different employee will go through each stage of change according to their own pace. For instance, those employees who are comfortable with the change will likely move ahead to stage three quickly, while others will stay behind at stages one or two.

Stage 1: Ending, Losing, and Letting Go

Employees of the company or project team first enter this initial stage of transition model when management or project manager first presents them with change. This stage of Bridges' Transition Model is often marked with resistance and emotional upheaval, because employees are being forced to let go of something that they are comfortable with.

At this stage, company’s employees may experience these emotions:

  1. Fear
  2. Denial
  3. Anger
  4. Frustration
  5. Sadness
  6. Uncertainty
  7. Disorientation
  8. A sense of loss

william bridges transition model

Employees or members project team have to accept that something is ending before they can begin to accept the new idea. If management or project manager don't acknowledge the emotions that employees or team are going through, management will likely encounter resistance throughout the entire change process.

Guiding company’s Employees through Stage One

It's important for management and project manager to accept employees/team resistance, and understand their emotions. Management should allow them sufficient amount of time to accept the change and let go, and try to arrange conversation and group talks among employees to know what they're feeling. In conversations or group talks, make sure that representative of management should listen empathically and communicate openly   about what's going to happen.

Emphasize how people will be able to apply their skills, experience, and knowledge once company implemented the change. Management of the company should explain how you'll give employees what they need (for example, training and required resources) to work effectively in the new changed environment.

Employees usually fear what they don't understand, so the more management should educate them about a positive future, and also communicate about how their knowledge and skills are an essential part of handling change and transition. This will more motivate and inspire company’s employees to move on to the next stage.

Stage 2: The Neutral Zone

In this second stage of Bridges' Transition Model employees affected by the change are often uncertain, more confused, and impatient. Employees may experience a higher workload as they get used to new systems and new ways of working so management need to best mange at this stage.

Consider this phase as a bridge between the old system and the new one; in some ways, employees will still be attached to the old, while they are also trying to adapt to the new.

Employees or project team might experience the following:

  1. Disliking towards the change initiative.
  2. Low morale and low productivity.
  3. Anxiety about their role, identity or status.
  4. Doubts about the change initiative.

In spite of all these, management can handle this stage of Bridges' Transition Model by great creativity, renewal and innovation. This is a great time to encourage employees to try new ways of thinking and working.

Guiding company’s employees through Stage Two

The guidance of management is incredibly important as employees go through this neutral process. This can be an uncomfortable time for management as well as employees, as it can seem unproductive or seem that little progress is being made.

As employees or project team might feel a bit lost, management of the company or project manager should provide them with a solid sense of direction. Remind them of team goals about projects, and also encourage and motivate them to talk about what they're feeling.

Regularly get feedback from employees on how they're performing, especially with regard to change.  It is also important that management should set short-term goals during this stage, so that employees can experience some quick achievements. This will help to improve motivation as well as giving everyone a positive perception of the change effort.

Stage 3: The New Beginning

The last stage Bridges' Transition Model is a time of acceptance and energy. Employees of the company have begun to embrace the change initiative. They start to learn and taking interest in building the skills they need to work successfully in the new way, and they are also starting to see early achievements from their work and efforts.

At this stage, employees or project team are likely to experience:

  1. High energy.
  2. Openness to learning required skills.
  3. Improved commitment to the group or their role.

william bridges transition model manage transition

Guiding employees through Stage Three

As employees begin to adopt the change, it's essential that management or manger help them to sustain it. Use different management techniques such as Management by Objectives   to link employee’s personal goals to the long-term objectives of the company, and also regularly highlight stories of success in the new change.

Celebrate the change company or project team gone through, and reward employees or team for all their hard work and efforts.

Summing up I would say that William Bridges' Transition Model is best tool which serve management or project manager to successfully tackle all hardships or difficulties of new change in the environment.