Leading Transitions


Change can be done in a moment’s notice.  It is an event.  We change cars, partners, and jobs.  Transition takes longer and varies from person to person.  It is a process.  This is the emotional aftermath incurred by the change.

While not all changes at work are unfavorable, there are usually a handful of employees who feel a sense of loss.  Almost all anxiety can be distilled down to two variables: 1) what we don’t know; 2) what we can’t control.

You may have heard about the social science experiment in which people were given the choice between an electric shock now that’s twice as painful as one they would receive randomly within the next 24 hours.  As you can imagine, the majority of people chose more pain now as opposed to less pain at some unpredictable time in the near future.  Generally speaking, we prefer to endure more pain for the sake of having control.

Mystery creates anxiety, especially when we feel we have no influence on the situation. But once you know the emotional building blocks of anxiety, you can begin to influence them.

Coping with Change: Grief/Feedback/Relocation

What do these three curves have in common?

Kubler-RossSARACross-Cultural Adjustment Curve

You should notice that all three curves take a big dip before rising back up to normal levels (i.e. homeostasis).  Much like a plant that is unearthed and “changed” to a different environment/location, a person can “wither” until s/he has a chance to recover.  As with plants, people require a nourishing environment to flourish.  Any hostile, cold, uncaring environment is unfertile soil to expect any flourishing to take place.

Organizational Application

Organizational Consultant William Bridges describes transition in terms of three stages: 1) Ending, 2) Neutral Zone, 3) New Beginning.   Some employees are primed to transition more readily towards the New Beginning, while others are not ready.  They may all be in different places, going at different paces.

William Bridges 2William Bridges 1

First Group(s) to Target

Using Sociologist Everett Rogers’ Bell Curve for his Diffusion of Innovations, the Early Majority (i.e. to the left of the bell curve) is the first employee group to target for transition support.  They are willing to embrace a new idea, as long as they understand how it fits in with their lives.

The Late Majority (i.e. to the right of the bell curve) is the next employee group to target for transition support.  They are the ones who adopt in reaction to peer pressure, emerging norms, and/or economic necessity.  Most of the uncertainty around an idea must be resolved before they adopt.


The objective is to have the Early Majority cross the chasm that separates it from those employees already in the New Beginning, and to shift the Late Majority out of the depths of the Neutral Zone to be more pragmatic.  This pull will either convince the Laggards, who are the skeptics, to move forward; or, those employees will recognize it’s time for them to jump ship.

Succinct Strategy

Moving an organizational transition forward must be accomplished through several group discussions.  If the change is a Merger & Acquisition (which carries roughly a 70% failure rate), then Cultural Integration experts should be brought in to assist the in-house talent who comprise the Transition Monitoring Team (TMT).  Here are some steps that the TMT should map out…

  • Develop Business Practices Statements by practicing Cultural Due Diligence (i.e. norms)
  • Develop Outcome Narratives. (Appreciative Inquiry)
  • Perform the Gap Assessment (“Right vs Right”)
  • Develop Prioritized Action Plans
  • Deploy Communications & TMT
  • Evaluate Progress and Identify Additional Actions

Most great creations are not built in a day.  They are created with passion, patience, art, and skill.


Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, cultural integration expert, and the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.  We increase retention.  Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

© Rossina Gil, 2015


About Rossina

Thought Partner & Corporate Primatologist

Posted on January 19, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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