Managing ChangeThe art of letting go

Transition is the process of moving from what was to what will be, from an ending to a beginning. Yet people basically don’t like endings – not even happy ones.

For they can bring with them:

  • a certain nostalgia for the way things were
  • uncertainty about the way they now will be
  • even a sense of loss of control as the comfort zone is left behind
So the manager’s dilemma is: how to encourage them to make the move?

Transition vs change

The first step is for managers to be clear on this difference:

  • change is: external and situational – eg the new office, the new team, the new system; in most cases is reversible
  • transition is: internal and psychological – the process people go through to come to terms with the new situation; in most cases is not reversible, as mentally you cannot change back

Without transition, how can change last?

Transition process
The next step is to grasp a picture of the whole transition process, which involves 3 main phases:

In the wilderness

The neutral zone is like the wilderness through which Moses led his people. Moses led his people out of Egypt, but it was the 40 years in the neutral zone wilderness that got Egypt out of his people … – the attitudes, values and ways of thinking that had been functional in the past had to ‘die’ before people were ready for the new life.

William Bridges, author

1. The ending
the starting point of anything new is the ending of something old

2. The ‘neutral zone’
the time between the old way of doing things and the new; the old way is gone, but the new one doesn’t yet feel comfortable

3. The beginning
the real accepted start of the new way of doing things; people have mourned the loss of the old way, have had time to become used to the new way, and are now ready to move on