Helping you mobilise your inner resources to achieve your dreams

How change should be implemented in the workplace, according to Bridges, Lewin….and Angela Sabin

Last week I spoke about people’s reactions to change, and how – if change is not correctly managed – the most common reaction is knee-jerk suspicion or fear of the unknown.

Change isn’t complicated; it can actually be quite simple. When changes are not spelled out, visualised or detailed, our minds are quite capable of filling in the blanks with more complicated – and often, negative – scenarios. This week, I’m going to cover the Bridges’ and Lewin’s models of change, to show how straightforward necessary change can be.

Both Bridges and Lewin were trailblazers, their models being amongst the first relating to the process of ‘change’ in the workplace, and whose psychometric testing /concepts  and tools are still widely used today.

The Bridges Model

William Bridges’ belief is that, from going to one process to the new one, there should be three separate stages:

1. Ending

2. Neutral Zone

3. New Beginning

RethinkThe ending involves recognising why change is needed at all, i.e. letting go of what’s not working and what is affecting efficiency, culture and, ultimately, ongoing success. Bridges describes the ‘neutral zone’ as an adaptation of the new changes before they are implemented, where issues threatening to arise are acknowledged and the people involved come to terms with the changing elements. However comfortable a neutral stage may sound, it can prove detrimental to stay in this zone for too long, as bad habits and old ways of working can creep back in. The ‘new beginning’ should involve, Bridges says, the four Ps: Purpose, Picture, Plan and Part. Purpose acknowledges, Picture visualises, Plan….well, plans…and Part is what should be bestowed to employees: ‘playing their part’ helps them feel invested and involved.

The Lewin Model

Lewin’s change model is also made up of separate, recognisable stages and involves ‘Unfreezing, Change and Freezing’. He proposes, in his psychometric tool, that if you wanted to make an ice cube into an ice cone, you’d first have to melt your cube to be able to change its shape. Reflecting this onto the workplace, this effectively means breaking down the old process to find the good/bad working parts and making staff aware change is needed, even if the change itself has not been pinned down into fine detail (imagine the pool of water from your ice cube: it’s still water and can easily be an ice structure again, but the new shape has not yet been implemented). Change then occurs during a period of transition; concerns are raised, details tweaked and options tried before the ‘freezing’ of the most efficient, optimal plan. The time of unrest over, employees can then return to solid comfort zones, rather like the dependable, frozen structure of the new ice cone.

Though both Bridges and Lewin offer simple, clear, workable models, I personally find there are more effective processes for managers to implement change. In my opinion, proposing ‘endings’ at the outset can still cause employees to react defensively and the word ‘freeze’ can imply no movement at all (or a hijack). Their concepts are straightforward enough but brief: for change to be truly effective, and so that little resistance is encountered, I believe there should be more steps in the process, or that it should be broken down even further.

Next week I’ll talk about the Prochaska model of change which is the one my executive clients seem to find most helpful. ID-100207329It helps them see their change process from both sides of the fence, so to speak, and support them with the presenting of each stage, when managing employees’ expectations and with addressing any concerns that may arise. It’s often much harder for the manager or executive to look at the overall process when they’re rooted in the centre of the changes; an unbiased, experienced and supportive pillar, such as myself, makes the process smooth, non-threatening and wholly effective at developing people’s emotional intelligence and reactions to change.

I’ll leave you this week with my favourite quote on this subject, by Zinker:

“If you support what is, and not what should be, change will take place. If you support resistance to change, little resistance will be encountered and change will take place.”

For executive coaching, help with team building or developing your confidence, contact me on 01302 220221.

Thanks to freedigitalphotos.net for use of the images


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