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William Bridges Transition Model | Performance Management

‘How Do We Get People to Change?’ vs ‘How Do We Help People to Manage the Transition?’

In my performance management training and consulting work, I often encounter the request, ‘How do we get people to change?’ or ‘How do we change their mindset?’ The request to ‘make people change’ confuses the nature of change and transition. According to William Bridges, change is an event or situation often external that takes place, for example, a merger, a new organization strategy or technological disruptions. Organizations and people do their best to respond to these changes in their work to achieve business objectives.

However, transition is an inner psychological process that people undergo to internalize and make sense of the change.

In William Bridge’s Transition model, the transition begins with an ending. The ending zone is what people are leaving behind: the familiar environment, feelings, relationships, and practices that make life predictable. It is the comfort zone that is ending.

See the image of the model below.

William Bridges Transition model | Performance Management | Performance Conversations for Managers

In a business process redesign project, I coached a staff member on implementing a new business process, which also resulted in a change of role. In the coaching conversation, he expressed frustrations on the need to change and kept harking back to the good old days of pen-and-paper practices. He had become an expert on the old processes, which had become outdated due to business changes. I observed his denials, confusion and slight anger at the change. The ending can be difficult to let go.

Learning to use the new system and adapt to the new processes took him a while. Through my coaching conversations, I allowed him to express his frustrations and hear his concerns. I realized that he is going through the ‘neutral’ zone, which can be distressing and confusing for some people while quick for others.

When he became more familiar with the new system and processes, he began accepting his new role and became more committed. He has entered the new beginnings zone where there are possibilities and new uncertainties. William Bridges' Transition Model helped me understand that the transition process is not a fixed state but a continuous process brought about by changes. Leaders may not be able to influence and control some external changes, but they can help people manage the transition process by:

1. Respecting and not judging people who are in the ending zone

2. Creating space for people to share their frustrations, fears and concerns

3. Giving time for people to navigate through the neutral zone and provide support to help them

4. Affirming and celebrating people who have established a new beginning

So, is your organization going through some transitions? How are you helping others and yourself to manage the transition?


For more insights check out other blog posts on how performance management training can help in performance conversations.

For performance management workshops and training for managers, please contact us.

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