In your role as a leader, you will be asked to manage change. More importat than how you manage the change however, is how you manage the transition. It isn’t the changes that cause confusion, reduce morale and make leading difficult, it’s the transitions. Changes and transitions are not the same thing.

Change is situational; it’s the new team, the new boss, the new policy, the new system, the new work site. Transition is the psychological process people go through as they come to grips with the new situation. Change is external to an individual and transition is internal.

Getting people through the transition is essential if the change is to work as planned. When a change happens without people going through a transition, negative cosnsequences are the norm.

The Bridges Transition Model

For more than 30 years, William Bridges Transition Model has provided organisations with the tools to successfully implement change and make a successful transition. The three phases are:

  1. Ending, Losing, Letting Go – Letting go of the old ways and the old identity people had. This first phase of transition is an ending, and the time when you need to help people to deal with their losses.
  2. The Neutral Zone – Going through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational. We call this time the ‘neutral zone’: it’s when the critical psychological realignments take place.
  3. The New Beginning – Coming out of the transition and making a new beginning. This is when people develop the new identity, experience the new energy and discover the new sense of purpose that make the change begin to work.

Because transition is a process by which people unplug from an old world and plug into a new world, we can say that transition starts with an ending and finishes with a beginning.

The following leadership checklists highlight the key elements you should attend to for each of the three phases:

  • Ending, Losing, Letting Go
  • The Neutral Zone
  • The New Beginning


Think of a current change?


  • Managing Endings




Yes No
Am I giving people accurate information, again and again?
Have I defined clearly what is over and what isn’t?
Have I permitted people to grieve and acknowledged with empathy the losses felt by others, even when they seem like overreaction?
Have I worked hard to unpack old baggage, heal old wounds, and finish unfinished business?
Have I found ways to ‘mark the ending’, not to denigrate the past, to find ways to honour it? Have I said thank you to everyone who has contributed?
Have I said thank you to everyone who has contributed?
Have I given people a piece of the past to take with them?
Have I equipped myself with all the information and knowledge I need to manage this aspect of the transition?



    1. Managing the Neutral Zone



Yes No
Have I explained the neutral zone as an uncomfortable time which can be turned to everyone’s advantage, choosing a new and positive metaphor to describe it?
Have I created realistic short-range goals and checkpoints, training programs, temporary policies, procedures, roles, reporting relationships and organisation groupings needed to get through the neutral zone?
Have I found ways to keep people feeling they belong and are valued?
Have I made sure that realistic feedback is flowing upward?
Have I encouraged experiment, creative thinking and trying things a new way?
Am I protecting people from further changes, or at least,clustered those changes meaningfully?
Am I pushing for certainty where it would be more realistic to live a little longer with uncertainty and questions?
Have I equipped myself with all the information and knowledge I need to manage this aspect of the transition?



    1. Managing New Beginnings



Yes No
Do I have an effective picture of the change, the purpose behind it and the new identity which will emerge from it?
Do I accept that people are going to be ambivalent toward the beginning I am trying to bring about?
Have I helped everyone to discover the part that they play in the new system?
Have I included opportunities for quick success to help people rebuild their self confidence?
Am I being careful not to introduce extra, unrelated changes while my people are still struggling to respond to the big transition?
Have I checked to see that policies and procedures are consistent with the new beginning so that inconsistencies aren’t sending mixed messages?
Have I found ways to celebrate the new beginning and given people a piece of the transition to keep as a reminder of the difficult journey we all took together?
Am I watching my own actions to be sure I am modeling the attitudes and behaviours I am asking others to develop?
Have I equipped myself with all the information and knowledge I need to manage this aspect of the transition?