The World of Work Project

Bridges’ Transition Model for Change

Bridges’ transition model says that individuals transition through personal, psychological changes over three stages: ending, neutral zone and new beginnings. Individuals first grieve what they are letting go, before adopting new ways of being.

Summary by The World of Work Project

Bridges’ Transition Model for Change

Bridges’ transition model is a high level, three stage model of individual, psychological transition that has similarities to Elisabeth Kubler Ross’ change curve and to Otto Scharmer’s Theory U (which we’ve yet to write about).

The first stage of the model is “ending”, which relates to the loss of an old way of doing or being, and which corresponds to a downward trajectory in morale and engagement. The middle stage is the “neutral zone”, where moral remains low and the transition from old to new ways be doing or being starts. The final stage of this model is “new beginnings”, where individuals start to build new identities, values and ways of doing and being, morale and engagement pick up and individuals are reinvigorated. 

Stage 1: Ending

Every movement in a new, personal, psychological direction starts with an assessment of a current way of doing or being, and letting that way go.

This process of an individual ending something about themselves leads to a sense of loss and can affect their emotional state. Letting go of things that have served us is never easy.

Stage 2: Neutral zone

Once people have decided to let go of beliefs, values, ways of working, relationships or other ways of being they feel lost. They are preparing for something new, but don’t yet really know what it is.

In this stage peopl explore new ways of being, learn new things, create new processes and start to head towards new beginnings.

Stage 3: New beginnings

As people explore their new ways of being they develop new understandings, personal values, relationships, beliefs and ways of doing and being.

As these new ways come into being individuals can see a different future for themselves, and with this comes a sense of excitement, energy, optimism and positivity about what’s to come.

Under this model you finish something old before starting something new.

The World of Work Project View

Bridge’s transition model is a nice way to think about individual psychological change, and links well with other, perhaps more well known models.

Personal changes of this type, or transitions as Bridges refers to them, are not easy and do lead to loss, frustration and confusion before new ways of doing or being start to crystallize.

This type of personal change model often appears in the world of coaching, and a high level awareness of this personal cycle is useful for both individuals looking to implement change and for leaders or coaches looking to support others though change.

Sources and further reading

Where possible we always recommend that people read up on the original sources of information and ideas.

This post is based on original work by William Bridges and you can read more through the William Bridges Associated website.


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