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Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change

William Bridges, Susan Bridges

At a glance:

The business world is constantly changing. When reorganizations, mergers, bankruptcies and layoffs impact the workplace, employees and managers struggle to adapt. But what is most interesting are the psychological changes that come with it. Organizational change affects people. Not always in the company, but in people, who have to embrace a new situation and carry out the corresponding change.

Key takeaways:

William made a distinction between "change" and "transition":
- Change is external. It happens to us and around us. For example, a canceled flight is an external change—something beyond our control.
- Transition, on the other hand, is internal. Transition is the psychological process by which we deal with change. For instance, when our flight gets canceled, we have to emotionally come to terms with a new plan we didn’t anticipate.

Everyone confronts change on a daily basis. Change is inevitable and happening all the time: seasons change, relationships end, people move, companies are bought and sold. In Managing Transitions, the authors argue that external change is neutral, but our internal reaction to it (the transition) can be challenging.

William provides three stages for transition:
1. Ending - Before you can begin something new, you have to end what used to be.
2. The Neutral Zone - the space between the old and the new. This space usually creates confusion, uncertainty, or anxiety. But it's also a space, if treated well, can spark creativity and new perspectives.
3. New Beginning - new beginnings do not start when the tangible change occurs. Rather, it's when you feel a new sense of energy and readiness in your new role or stage of life.

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