Understanding Bridges’ Transition Model



Change is not always comfortable for the people concerned and this makes them resistant. It is important for the implementers to understand this problem and make the transition as smooth, easy, and seamless as possible. Bridges' Transition Model supports the changes and increases its acceptance among your employees. William Bridges first proposed this model in Managing Transitions (1991). Organizational initiatives can be of many types as office move, health insurance rollout, or companywide restructuring. All of these are so inherently difficult that almost 70% of these initiatives fail.

So, why does it happen? In spite of being nothing wrong with the mechanics of design or deployment, difficulties arise because you forget to involve your employees in the process. As a result, they lag behind lacking the proper knowledge, motivation, and support. Thus, they fail to perform in a post-change environment.

The process of transition

Transition refers to a psychological and emotional process that employees go through while internalizing themselves with details of new situation that invariably comes with the change. It involves letting go of former identities, navigating through uncertainty periods before assuming new positions and making emotional commitments for embracing new organizational roles. Naturally, something this vast and complex can never be easy. To make this process as smooth as possible, the leadership uses various tactics for,

  • Helping individuals
  • Helping the organization
  • Navigating through transitions

For this, William Bridges has given his 3-Phase Model for Transition.

Transition 3-Phase Model

A. Resistance and upheaval phase:

it is the stage of ending the present, gradually losing it completely, and finally letting it all go to embrace the new. You need to be prepared for resistance because people in general are not comfortable with breaking the status quo. Naturally, they go through the emotions of fear, anger, denial, sadness, frustration, denial, uncertainty, and loss. It is important for everybody concerned to understand that something has to end before you can introduce new ideas. It is important to acknowledge these emotions right from the start otherwise, the entire process of change will be fraught with resistance from every quarter.

So what you can do to guide people?

If resistance is there, you need to accept it and take time to understand the reasons behind such emotions. Give them enough time and space to come to terms with this changing situation. Make sure that everybody gets a chance to vent his or her feelings and talk. The stress should be on communicating openly and listening emphatically. What is your organization planning to do? Everybody should be clear on this count. Put fears to rest by clarifying how you are going to use the existing skill sets, knowledge, and experiences once the change is in place. Of course, this will require adapting to the changes but mention that you will arrange the right resources and training to make the transition as smooth as possible. Fear comes from ignorance so you should take enough time to educate people regarding future positive and communicate that their skill and knowledge is vital to the change.

B. Neutral Zone –uncertainty phase

Once the emotional upheaval dies down and knowledge regarding the imminent changes sinks in, people go through the uncertainty or neutral phase. At this time, everybody is wondering about the repercussions of the change and the set up of the organization after the implementations happen. This again leads to anxiety, skepticism, low morale, resentment, and fear leading to work disruptions leading to decreased productions and attrition in some cases. However, it is important to remember that this stage is ripe with possibilities. Employees get a chance to reconsider the identity, think innovatively about improvement approaches related to other areas. This stage is a bridge that connects the existing with whatever is coming.

Article signup banner

Things you can do

An uncomfortable phase, it is generally the time of minimal productivity with a stalled progress. You need to give direction to people at this stage, give emphasis on achieving team goals, while encouraging them to express their feelings. It is important to get feedbacks at regular intervals at this time regarding their performance especially related to the changes. At this stage, emphasize on setting short-term goals that will signify quick wins for people boosting group morale. Seek everybody’s participation and remind him or her how important it is for success. You may need to make workload management easier on people by de-prioritizing some work or bringing in additional resources.

C. New beginnings -final stage

By this time, your employees will progress through much of the transition letting go of the old and familiar. Now you should go for the final severance with completely new beginnings. It’s the period of energy and acceptance as people begin embracing the change initiatives wholeheartedly. They are building up new skills and even experiencing some degree of success in certain endeavors. So, is the time of high energy levels, openness to learn, and renewed commitments towards new roles or the group.

So what's your role going to be?

As all around you UC employees making efforts to embrace the change with new energy and accept them you need to help sustain it to make the transitions complete. Techniques include management using objectives that links the personal goals of people with long-term organizational objectives. Also, you should highlight the successes achieved through the changes on a regular basis to reinforce their importance. Besides, you need to reward the members and take time off during these final stages for celebrations. But it won't do to be complacent because, there is still complete chance of people reverting to the old ways if they feel that the new isn't working as it is should.


First, this model clearly brings out the difference between transition and change. Change is related with people but transition is something internal. This is what happens within the minds and emotions of people as they undergo change. With the help of Bridges' theory, you get insight regarding the feelings of your employees and manipulate situations in such a way that they embrace the changes wholeheartedly.

Other tools you might find interesting