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When managing change, what is the other side?

I often hear the word ‘change’ used to describe many things that happen in an organisation.  For example an upgrade to a computer operating system, or a whole of organisation re-structure or merger.

The word change is also used to describe what is ‘changing.’ This could be an office relocation or process change. Most often with change there is an impact on the people.  Whilst change does impact people, there is something else at play that is not always addressed.

Management and staff may be aware of it, yet not sure how to describe it, or even what to describe.

What I am talking about is the ‘emotional journey’ that individuals are going through when the change occurs.

The standard change management approach and why it doesn’t work

The standard way of approaching change management is to deal with the process side of it, first and foremost.  Often communicating what is going to happen and how things are going to be changed is key.

Having spent many years working this way I watch it fail, time and time again.

It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.  They aren’t the same thing.

Change  is situational: the move to a new site, the retirement of the founder, the reorganisation of the roles on the team, the revisions to the pension plan.

Transition, on the other hand, is psychological; it is a three-phase process that people go through as they internalise and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about.

William Bridges – Managing Transitions, 3rd ed.

William Bridges came to realise that when standard change management practices failed, there was something else at play.

What he noticed was when change occurred what was not being addressed was the emotional aspect.

He set out to understand what was occurring and from that developed his ‘transition model.’

The model is a way of providing knowledge of how to better support change.

Bridges Transition Model

The key aspect of Bridges transition model is being willing to acknowledge how you are feeling, and placing yourself in the model according to your own emotional journey.

This works best if Managers place themselves before openly discussing and determining where each individual in their team is currently sitting.

By doing this it supports individuals to acknowledge how they are feeling emotionally about the change. And then understanding what they can do to move through this journey in the most effective way.

A brief explanation of the three zones

The end zone is all about acknowledging what you feel you are losing and grieving that loss.

In the neutral zone, we feel confusion and uncertainty as things are no longer the way they were, nor yet in a new place that we feel comfortable with.

New beginnings occur when we meet our earlier emotions and feel excited about the opportunities of what is occurring.

Why acknowledging our emotional journey works

The key aspect of acknowledging the transition that staff are going through is that it supports a return to a productive state more quickly.

Without this acknowledgement, staff feel unsettled and uncertain in the midst of the change. This can occur when they are not comfortable expressing how they are feeling emotionally.  Emotions are a natural part of being human.  And yet, in the workplace setting, it is often frowned upon to speak about emotions.

Learning to support your staff members through their transition journey, will not only help you as a manager but the organisation as a whole.

If you would like to learn more about the transition model and how it might benefit you and your organisation, please contact me.