Issue No. 357 of Your Weekly Staff Meeting features a book I first reviewed in 2007. The fourth edition includes a foreword by Patrick Lencioni and celebrates 25 years in print with sales of over 650,000 copies. Plus, this reminder: click here to download free resources from my 20 management buckets (core competencies).
Change Is External. Transition Is Internal.
Imagine this! Patrick Lencioni at age 23: “I first met [William Bridges] before I knew he was a world-renowned author and thinker. I was introduced to him for an informational interview of sorts, just to learn about the world of organizational consulting.”
Fast forward to Lencioni’s foreword in the 25th anniversary edition of Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, by William Bridges, PhD with Susan Bridges: “All too often, people and organizations that are confronted with change find themselves struggling and don’t know why. They’ve applied every practical solution, quantitative method, and technical approach to managing change, and they’re at a loss for why it’s not working."
Lencioni adds (with gratefulness), “And then they learn about the Bridges transition model and realize that change and transition are very different animals.”
I never met William Bridges, but here’s what I said in my 2007 review of this national bestseller:
Bridges writes, “Imagine that the change [you’re planning] is a cue ball rolling across the surface of a pool table. There are lots of other balls on the table, and it’s going to hit a few of them, some because you planned it that way and some unintentionally. Try to foresee as many of those hits as you can.”
When this book was first published in 1991, it was recognized as the definitive guide to dealing with change. It still holds that position. If it’s not on your organization’s resource shelf, it needs to be.
William Bridges writes, “It isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is not the same as transition. Change is situational: the new site, the new boss, the new team roles, the new policy. Transition is the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation. Change is external, transition is internal.”
Being the boss is not always what it’s cracked up to be. When the book was first published, according to Bridges, employees were winning more than half of the wrongful discharge cases filed. “Stress-related disability, including the claimed stress of working for you, is another increasingly common complaint.”
The 25th anniversary edition describes the book as “the best-selling guide to dealing with the human side of organizational change.” I’ve recommended the book to almost every one of my clients.
Change is a given—but how thoughtful leaders, managers, and board members handle the psychological impact of transitions requires both understanding the problem and executing three critical steps:
Step 1: Understand that transition begins with letting go of something. (See also Henry Cloud’s insights in Necessary Endings, my 2011 book-of-the-year.)
Step 2: Enter the neutral zone (the no man’s land between the old reality and the new). Some will abort in this zone, not wanting the pain. But it’s also the place where creativity, renewal and development will often occur. “The neutral zone is thus a dangerous and opportune place, and it is the very core of the transition process.”
Step 3: Celebrate the new beginning, but it’s often torpedoed because leaders don’t mark an appropriate end to the neutral zone (or skip it altogether). The new beginning can only be effective when your people go through the first two steps.
I love books that include pithy quotations—and I counted a whopping 87 quotes in the generous margins, including this from G.K. Chesterton:
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly understood.
An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly understood.”
Before you announce the next big change at your organization, order this book from Amazon by clicking on the title: Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, by William Bridges.
And…check out the free resource, “Getting Them Through the Wilderness,” by William Bridges, describing how Moses transitioned the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land.
Your Weekly Staff Meeting Questions:
1) Think back over some of the more significant changes we’ve made here in the last 12 months. How did those changes affect you: physically, emotionally and spiritually? Were you surprised at the effects of those changes?
2) How much training, orientation or briefing have you had on the psychological effects of change and transitions? Would you invest two to three hours to read a book or listen to an audio book on managing transitions? Why or why not?
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Beware the Emotional Effects of Transition Insights from Mastering the Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Nonprofit
Managing transitions is core to the Systems Bucket, Chapter 18, in Mastering the Management Buckets. One key idea in the core competency reads: “We have a heart to create systems that serve people, not the bureaucracy!”
For example, as you lead your people through the three phrases of transition (Ending Zone, Neutral Zone, and the New Beginning), you must recognize that your team could be experiencing any one of 23 different emotions! (For more, read my governance blog: “Beware the Emotional Effects of Transition.”)
For more resources in the Systems Bucket, visit the webpage.
P.S. Read John’s recent blog on board governance, "Do Not Censor What the Board Receives," from his 2017 series on Max De Pree's book, Called to Serve. Plus, the new Murdock Trust Board Program: Book 1 of 2 (194-page workbook), is hot-off-the-press, just edited by John, order here from Amazon.
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