Managing Transitions

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I liked the book because of the way it began, by putting forth two different concepts of change. On one hand, theManaging Transition book captures change as the new direction, focus or need to address within an organization. On the other hand, it defines the human impact of change as “transition”. In essence, the changes are the new goals while the transitions involve the adjustments to people’s perspective, routine, individual identity, etc.

More than the distinctions about organizational versus individual changes, I really appreciated Bridge’s comparison of organizational change to death and the concomitant process to the stages of grief. It is a great way to capture the reader’s attention early. His overall point is that change requires a loss of some sort. This example is spot on! Even if you know the loss is necessary, think about that terminally ill relative who is getting sicker by the day, it still hurts. You hate to lose them; but the suffering is too much. Likewise, your organization may be losing its ability to survive financially or its business culture and business practices are so outdated that it can’t attract good talent; therefore, something has to change. Overall, when people believe change is imperative for organizational survival, they are more accepting. This does not mean that they won’t go through the grieving process or be happy about it. It simply means that they usually become more accepting.

Bridge’s makes it clear that there is no concrete formula to handling change. He also makes it clear change is often messy and takes longer to fully implement than most people like but is still necessary for business and life. To this end, the following perspectives resonate most readily with me:

  1. Expect people to have emotional reactions and look for ways to make them feel safe.
  2. Be leaders of integrity. Be as open and honest as possible and address organizational failures, i.e., if workers were told that there would be no lay-offs and lay-offs become necessary, address it!
  3. Don’t undertake too much change at once, particularly un-necessary changes.
  4. Make change a part of your organization’s regular practices by instituting regular intervals at which to reevaluate policies and procedures to insure that they have continued relevance.
  5. Communicate, communicate and communicate again. Get used to repeating yourself and explaining the 4 P’s: The purpose (sell the problem), the picture (what the finished product should look like), the plan (how is the team supposed to get there) and the part (how does each individual fit in).
  6. Establish a team/committee whose sole responsibility it is to monitor the human impact of the change and keep communication open across the various levels and duties of the organization. This organization’s sole role is communication, not implementation.
  7. Leaders have to frame the change (new vision) as a win-win, and it must actually be a win-win.
  8. Change can take a very long time. Part of the reason is the human reaction while the other part is that it takes time to realign policies, procedures, incentives and rewards to encourage movement toward the change.

I’d recommend this book for leaders in fast-paced organizations to help them frame the process they are likely to undergo again and again. It goes without saying that I would recommend it for leaders in the middle of significant changes. While it is my hope that a major transition would have a champion, this book has the ability to guide and reassure leaders as they feel their way through the dark.

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