Reflections and thoughts by Jean Lee
General Manager, Organisation Development

Change vs. Transition

We change to avoid some sort of pain or to achieve some form of gain. However, transition is what we have to get through before getting there.

A quick, light-hearted guide to help you navigate the change and transitions you may be experiencing:


Here are my personal tips on how you can manage change and transition:

Know what you are dealing with
One of the most frequent reasons people struggle through change initiatives, is because they were addressing the wrong problem. One changes in order to get a desired outcome, while the transition determines how fast you can reap these benefits of change. So, are you trying to put in place a change plan to achieve a particular outcome, or are you trying to help the people involved transit?

Remember to be ‘human’ at all times
In this knowledge-based economy, building a brilliant change plan may not be that hard. Building in the ‘human’ elements, however, would be what differentiates a good change execution from a less-than-ideal one.  It’ll serve you well to remember the Rules of Transition Management by William Bridges when executing change with others:

  1. You have to end before you begin
    Before something new begins, something else has to end. Be it a policy, process or practice, deal with their endings openly and help people gain closure on the past.
  2. Between the ending and the new beginning, there is a hiatus
    There is a gap between letting go of the old way and taking hold of the new, where systems might not initially work well. Remember to provide temporary sources of support and ensure your people know i's completely normal to go through a period of uncomfortable uncertainty. 
  3. That hiatus can be creative
    The same uncertainty that makes “the gap” difficult to navigate also weakens the usual resistance to change, making this period of time a potentially creative one — new things can be introduced more quickly and easily than usual.
  4. Transition is developmental
    In the disturbances of the transition, help people to see that the “old way” was good in its time, but it’s time for a new chapter for a new day.
  5. Transition is also a source of renewal
    Individuals and groups can emerge from a successful transition feeling renewed, especially when there’s clarity of the new mission, and the unloading of out-dated policies and procedures. 
  6. People go through transitions at different speeds
    Like runners in a marathon, people get tired along the path of a transition. Leaders need to be mindful to communicate in a way that makes sense to where their people are — not where they are as leaders, since they may already have gotten a head start.
  7. Most organisations are running a “transition deficit”
    Many organisations do not give people enough time to complete the transition cycle, leaving them with unfinished business that accumulates over time. Slow down and listen to the concerns people might have. Work to resolve them before moving on with the transition. 

With accelerated change cutting across every industry, change has become the new norm for all of us. Whatever change you find yourself in today, perhaps it’ll help to remember this quote by Steven Aitchison:

“People change for two main reasons: Their minds have opened or their hearts have been broken.”

Bridges, W. (2013). The seven rules of transition management. Training Industry.

It’s time organisations overcome the widely-held “change is hard” attitude and start acknowledging that successful implementation of change initiatives can be achieved with deliberate planning and effort. Adapted from Dr. Lily Cheng’s journal article titled Enablers that Positively Impact Implementation of Organisational Change published in GSTF Journal on Business Review (GBR), our most recent white paper on the 9 Enablers of Successful Organisational Change, explores the key “enablers” organisations can leverage on for the successful implementation of change. Download your copy at

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