The Bridges transition model was first introduced by William Bridges in his 1999 book Managing Transitions. The model, which is underpinned by research in human psychology, posits that an employee transitions through three stages after organizational change occurs.
- Understanding the Bridges transition model
- The three phases of the Bridges transition model
- Key takeaways:
- Types of Organizational Structures
- Connected Business Frameworks
- Organizational Structure Case Studies
Understanding the Bridges transition model
The Bridges transition model is a framework for managing organizational change based on the human response to three distinct phases.
The primary difference between this model and similar frameworks is that it focuses on transition as opposed to change. At first glance, the two terms may appear interchangeable – but there is a subtle difference.
Change is caused by an external event, is often abrupt, and occurs whether an employee wants it to happen or not. Conversely, transition tends to play out more slowly and describes the internal machinations of an employee’s mind as the change occurs.
Bridges also argued that implementing organizational change was far less difficult than the psychological transition required of employees impacted by the change. To that end, he called on leaders to display empathy and not discredit or discount employee feelings during the transitional process.
The three phases of the Bridges transition model
The three key phases of the Bridges transition model are listed below, with each phase associated with distinct positive and negative emotions.
1 – Endings
In the first phase, leaders must help employees start to let go of the status quo and embrace a new future. Employees must identify what they are losing and also what they are keeping, as many equate change with termination or redundancy.
This phase is characterized by sadness, frustration, and loneliness, with more positive individuals meeting change with relief, happiness, or even excitement. In any case, this is the most important phase to get right since a lack of employee buy-in may jeopardize the success of the change initiative itself.
2 – Neutral zone
The neutral zone is the phase that represents a metaphorical bridge between the old and the new. Employees can be uncertain or confused about what the future holds and may experience stress from an increased workload as they work under new systems. Other employees will display skepticism toward the initiative or anxiety about their new role, status, or identity.
This is a time when employees should be gently encouraged to break free of old ways of operating and embrace creativity, innovation, and excitement.
3 – New beginnings
In the third phase, new systems, procedures, and processes become the new normal. Some employees will be energized or relieved upon reaching this point, while others will remain uncertain, unmotivated, confused, or unwilling to commit.
For the latter group of employees, leaders can instill a sense of purpose, clearly explain their new role in the company, and outline how they can make effective and personally meaningful contributions.
- The Bridges transition model is a framework for managing organizational change based on the human response to three distinct phases.
- The primary difference between the Bridges model and similar frameworks is that it focuses on transition as opposed to change. Change is a sometimes abrupt event caused by an external factor that the employee does not control. Transition, on the other hand, is a gradual process that relies on a positive mindset to be successful.
- The three phases of the Bridges transition model are endings, neutral zone, and new beginnings. The first phase is arguably the most important since it deals with fostering employee buy-in.
Read Next: Organizational Structure.
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