The notion of transition management as being a separate from, but related to, change management is largely the work of Bridges (1998).
Transition is different from change and it is very often the transition that people resist – not the change itself. The transition needs to be understood and managed especially where the change is radical. Staff will be at different stages along the change curve and the emotional response to change needs to be recognised. Leaders of change should also consider their own transition.
Change involves a shift in the external situation it is about the events or circumstances which impact on and affect the organisation. For example, the new leader, changes in government policy, technology, student expectations, merger etc. Thus, change is typically outcome or results focused, in that organisational change is usually a solution to someone’s perception of a problem or an opportunity.
Transition is an internal, three-phase psychological re-orientation that people go through as they come to terms with a change. It is a process, an inner experience not necessarily focused on outcome or results. It is timed differently from the external changes, and has less definition than the changes it accompanies.
It’s often transition not change that people resist. They resist giving up their sense of who they are, their identity as it is expressed in their current work. They resist the chaos and uncertainty of the neutral zone – the in-between state. They resist the risky business of a new beginning – doing and being what they have never done and been before. In order to effect change it is important to help people through the transition. Transitions associated with major upheavals might include major changes to roles and responsibilities, mergers of departments, schools or areas and, ultimately, loss of jobs.
There are three phases of the transition process:
- Neutral zone
- New beginnings