Managing transition with William Bridges’ change model

Dr Elissa Farrow
October 7, 2013

In previous blog posts I outlined the Kotter and Lewin models of change. Here I will give an overview of William Bridges’ Managing Transition model. I will also give some examples of how I have applied Bridges’ model in practice.

Bridges’ model has 3 steps:

  1. Ending
  2. Neutral Zone
  3. New Beginning

Bridges in particular talks about the psychological transition where people over time become aware of the new situation and the changes that come with that, and work to adapt to that new beginning.

Endings is the first step I see to in my coaching clients as it focuses on the concept of letting go. The process for some is quite hard, filled with resistance of a change to their personal or work circumstances that they may not have wished for. Acknowledgement of this is key.

Some, on the other hand, are very happy with the way things are and some are less so. In a change process it’s a good idea to outline the change in as much detail as possible. Ideally endings come smoother with understandable change, with a rationale they can see.

Bridges says ideally we should avoid being in the neutral zone for too long. This is where we may see an increased level of anxiety and a drop in productivity. Some of the old habits and practices might appear again. In light of possible uncertainty, shorter-term objectives or outcomes might be the best approach. I also work with leaders to ensure they do not overpromise, and they celebrate the wins even if they are small.

In the New Beginnings section Bridges talks about the 4Ps: Purpose, Picture, Plan and Part. Purpose is the ‘why we are doing this?’; Picture is the shared vision of what it will look like, feel like or even sound like; Plan is the detailed plan for getting there using good project management; and Part is all about giving people a part to play in the change through having a role that builds ownership and buy in.

All the Kotter, Lewin and Bridges models and theories need to work within your chosen change methodology, and I encourage you to have a look at the theories that exist. There is a whole body of knowledge out there and in late October 2013 the Change Management Institute will release the first CMBOK, Change Management Body of Knowledge.

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Dr Elissa Farrow
Dr Elissa Farrow is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptive capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2022, Elissa was awarded her doctorate through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research explores organisations of the future and how they will need to adapt to the evolving field of artificial intelligence. Elissa is an experienced board director and thought leader in her field, having won a number of awards for her research and for her contributions to Women in Project Management.
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