Bridges Transition Model in Project Management

While making differentiation in any process of the organization where your project is implemented, everyone should grasp the meaning of the change well. Otherwise, changes cause feelings of doubt and, a decrease in excitement and eagerness. Sometimes we can even see refusal to accept change in organizations. This model describes the hurdle against these outcomes very well.

While most models for change are focused on the linear progression of logical steps from the current state to the future state, with little or no attention paid to the way that individuals feel about change, the Bridges Transition Model from his book "Managing Transitions" intentionally focuses on the emotional impacts of the change on individuals and on their organizations. He was building on Kubler-Ross to understand Bridge's perspective on change. 

One must first consider the stages of grief associated with loss and understand how all change is a loss of something. The argument can be made that a change is a generative process, creating new things, and therefore doesn't involve loss. However, anyone who has grown up to see the old ways that they did things replaced with something new can tell you that there is some loss. Nostalgia used to be considered a psychological disease. It's since lost its stigma and is now driving entire industries. But for most people, we don't really want to go back to the way things were, but we long to reconnect with some of the positive memories from our past. It's easy to drop a packet of microwave popcorn in the microwave for three and a half minutes and pop! You have popcorn. The process of making popcorn with a whirly gig on a stove took much longer and was much more work. But there are still times when we long for memories like those with our grandparents.

Also unique to the Bridges Transition Model is the idea that there are not clear stages as such. Instead, it looks at the change as a continuum. It begins with the current, where the focus is on letting go and ending the current state and accepting loss to the vision of change, the new beginning. The middle is this neutral zone of confusion, and everyone must go through it.

Let's start with letting go. The starting point is a place where we have established habits and routines that we must let go of and eventually lose so that we can change our behaviors to reach the vision we want. The process of letting go is harder than it seems. The ADKAR Model acknowledges that you need desire to leave. As adults, we realize that we must let go of one thing to get to the next thing. Anyone who has used the monkey bars on a playground has felt this experience. You must let go of one bar to reach the next bar. When you're very young and your arms don't quite reach, you're even forced to swing back and forth a little bit to provide enough motion to even reach the next rung of the monkey bars. Letting go of established routines can sometimes feel this way. We must grab the new opportunity now before it's too late. The process of letting go is necessarily an emotional process, which is focused on the emotions surrounding the loss, instead of the practical realities of the loss. No one would argue that microwave popcorn isn't faster and easier, but it means letting go and potentially losing some childhood memories. This entire area corresponds to Levine's unfreezing stage, and then we enter the neutral zone.

In wars, we call them demilitarized zones. They're the no man's land between two warring parties that they've agreed to step back from the dividing line so that neither perceives the other may be aggressive. The neutral zone in Bridges' Transition Model is like this. It's an area where neither the old approaches nor the new vision are fully experienced, and it corresponds to Levine's change in transition phase. This too is a place where Bridges emphasizes the emotional impact of the transition. The emotions of fear and uncertainty play loudly in everyone's head, and they create the need for a greater degree of reassurance.

The new beginning is where the vision of change is reached and corresponds to Levine's refreezing. In the new beginning area of the continuum, the focus is on entrenching behaviors and attitudes and accepting new realities, emotions, and reason. Bridge's model is often used in conjunction with other models to help support the emotional changes that are necessary in any change project.

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