Change v. Transition: It Matters
Lead Coach and Facilitator at Choose Leadership | Working with Purpose Driven Leaders and Organisations
Books William Bridges Transition

Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, Managing Transitions, and The Way of Transition. We couldn’t decide which book we wanted to speak to, here’s our thoughts on William Bridges’ work in general.

What to expect from the resource.

Bridges makes an important distinction between change and transition. 

Change is about an external, situational event: something old stops, something new begins. Presto, a change.

Transition is about the psychological reorientation which takes place inside of us as we adapt to the change. Think of someone you know who got married. At some point in a process, be it legal and /or theological, they were married by someone. The change. And then came the realisation of what “being married” means in practice. Most people are aware of a transition of some sort to being married. And we all have that one friend who takes a long time to really get what being married means. Exactly. Their transition takes longer than that of other people, if they ever truly get there at all.

Bridges goes on to distinguish

  • old endings, from the 
  • neutral zone, from 
  • new beginnings

These are the essential phases in his framework. Every transition begins with an ending. Which means that we have to drop something before we can replace it with something new. And the author fills each book with many stories and vignettes to elucidate his points.

What we love about it.

There is an irony with Bridges’ work. Those who need to read him the most, often seem to have the least time for him, and those who “get it” and have least need to read his work, often most appreciate him. We love how he unpacks how fear of losing something frequently drives our resistance to change. And this fits so comfortable with Wilbur’s Integral Theory and the 4 quadrants of change, which suggests that if you want to change structures, you need to shift culture, which means you need to change individuals’ behaviours, which means that you need to support people to explore and address their inner world of values, beliefs and assumptions.

Why it matters to leadership in organisations.

Too often when we work with organisations we see fantastic looking Gantt charts and slide decks illustrating a significant change management or transformational process. It often reads like early John Kotter thinking. But we see much less time and attention given to how the organisation is going to bring their people with them, particularly those people with fears and anxieties. People are not factors of production, or resources, or FTEs. They are unique, complex, highly sensitive and mobile beings who need support in making the transitions asked of them by their employer. Because this is where the rhetoric of change and psychological safety and DEI and leadership meets reality.

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