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This paper is aimed at reviewing the article, “Managing organizational transitions” by William Bridges that was published in 1986.
Critical Key Point 1
Transition is a lengthy and frequently traumatic process. It is significantly different from change.
It is agreeable to say that change is the norm in the world we live in today. Change is inevitable and it is more accentuated by the dynamics of a technology that we are so reliant on. What is the ‘in thing today’ is bound to be ‘out-of-date’ tomorrow. Many corporations have undergone change in a much frequent pace than evidenced in the last two decades. Change is an all inclusive encompassing factor cutting across all objects and affects: people, organizations, corporations, government institutions and economies all over the world. I agree with William Bridges on the fact that change is experienced when something starts or stops, or when things that were done in one way start being done differently. I also agree with him that change is the rule of the day rather than an exception in today’s corporate world.
Transition on the hand, is meant to come with change but most have preferred to use the two words interchangeably but this is highly inappropriate. As William Bridges puts it, “Transition is a psychological process that extends over a long period of time and cannot be planned or managed by the same rational formulae that works with change”. I am totally in agreement for the following reasons. First, change is not merely a process that happens over time; rather it is a significant flip of events or a change of status.
Change at a personal level is best exemplified by aging. Transition on the other hand is growing up; changing of mannerisms with time, desires and objectives. It is hard to differentiate the two since they happen simultaneously. In corporations, change is experienced via expansions, opening up of new branches, hiring of new managers and firing of others. Conversely, transition is experienced by the people in organizations rather than firms in the corporate world. It is the people who form an organization that undergo the transition requiring them to take up new positions and continually learn to conduct themselves in a way different from the previous, interact with different groups of people and relate differently with other colleagues. Therefore, I can conclude and say that change just like William Bridges puts it, is an alternating of events that happens over time whereas transition is a psychological process that takes place over time.
Critical Key Point 2
“Difficulties with making new beginnings come not from a difficulty with beginnings per se, but from a difficulty with endings and neutral zones.”
With any change in structures and systems in an organization, there has to be a reversal force from the people that will come during the transition. Many people in any organization do keep saying that they adopt to change effectively; however what they should say is they have mastered the art and science of transition on themselves and move well along the psychological process very well and in less time. On the flip side, others are seen as aggressive opponents of change. However neither man nor multitude can stop change; what they oppose or take long to adjust to is the transition that change is effecting. Generally people are generally protective of their assumed identity that is threatened by change. This is well exhibited at the family level and children often refuse to go into the hands of strangers easily.
This protection of own turf, is what makes transition in organizations hard. Learning to let go of what one knew and had built logical recognition as his or agreed to be identified with is the greatest barrier to embracing change. To embrace transition as William Bridges puts it, takes a lot of will power. One must leap into the wilderness full of illusions and learn from it to redefine oneself. In addition, accept that what he had is gone and clear his mind of his turf in order to embrace what is coming effectively with a fresh or new mind.
It is then wiser to conclude that the community in which a man belongs teaches him to hold what he can logically associate with and this is what has become a major hindrance to efficient transition. People tend to over cling to associations with others and with things and assumptions even in times when they should let go and embrace the new. They keep banging on closed doors rather than looking for the next open door. This shows that it is the duty of managers and leaders alike to communicate effectively the new organization vision and to allow time for all the others to fully understand and embrace it. The leadership should guide others carefully towards the objectives built alongside the new vision and anticipating resistance and addressing all the issues that arise from the change and transition.
Critical Key Point 3
Letting go and forgetting the past and embracing the present.
Humans are more motivated by what they see rather than what they will see. They are more responsive to a nickel today than a dime tomorrow. So to affirm the transition, there has to be small motivating factors pointing to the larger visualized picture by the organization. It is proper to agree with Karl Weick in his article “Small Wins: Redefining the Scale of Social Problems” (The American Psychologist, 1984) that organization will often move faster in a new direction if they follow what he calls the “Small Wins” principle. This is to say that people will adapt more easily to change and transition easily and efficiently if they start seeing the benefits of the change though in small packages.
In so doing the organization management and leadership need to identify their low hanging fruits that they can reap easily as outcomes of moderate and implemented outcomes that will produce visible results. This will help the people in that organization identify with the new changes quickly adapt to the new vision and in turn a smooth transition will take place. The small gains will build up momentum in the people that will make them surge forward to the greater wins and help them totally forget and disassociate them with a past that they held so dear.
The leadership will also need to include new mechanisms of transitions to help ease the breakdown and losses during the neutral zones in future transitions. Monitoring the effects of the transition will also be a key ingredient to its success in future and even the ability to provide corrective measures if the actions or the results gained during transition veer off from the projected ones. Continuous training of support staff will be necessary in facilitating smoother transition than just letting change push people to the transition.
Understanding of the new vision by all stakeholders will be an important role in embracing change and working towards its success. Other factors the leaders ought to consider in respect to transition and the future of the organizations will include: redefining new systems and structures for ease of operations, change in the communication channels and embracing a dialogue when change and transition takes place. It also entails allowing others to find reason to fit into the new structure rather than jumping on board as change necessitates.