Navigating Organizational Change

Suzan Bond
5 min readApr 8

Finding your way through the confusion of change

Photo by Uday Mittal on Unsplash

The macroeconomic environment is rippling through companies. The news is flooded with layoffs, reorgs and other big shifts inside companies.

Change is afoot.

This topic comes up frequently in my work as an offsite facilitator, workshop leader and consultant. Much of my work revolves around helping leaders navigate change. I’ve recently spoken on this topic. First at RubyConf about why leaders feel lost and how we can help them navigate the new terrain they find themselves on. The second, at LeadDev New York about the shift from manager to manager of managers. During these talks I spoke about the challenges of making the leap and the changes new leaders must make.

Today, I want to focus on a critical part of the process — the neutral zone.


I learned about William Bridges book Transitions while in a grad school class on organization development. While it was written in the 80s, Transitions is a seminal work that’s still relevant today. I’ve purchased and given away countless copies. It’s the one I recommend the most. In the book Bridges makes an important distinction between change and transition.

Change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. It is not those events, but rather the inner reorientation and self-redefinition that you have to go through in order to incorporate any of those changes into your life. Without a transition, a change is just a rearrangement of the furniture. Unless transition happens, the change won’t work, because it doesn’t “take.”

William Bridges

In the leadership world, change is the new job title, the new team, a new salary. While it’s easy to focus on the changes to be made, that’s actually not the tricky part. To be successful in our new role, we need to shift the way we think. We need to see ourselves, our work and our identity in new ways. This is what Bridges refers to as transition. It’s far more difficult.

When a change doesn’t take, the logistical pieces are rarely the reason. These shifts don’t “take” because we haven’t made an internal shift. We haven’t updated our understanding of ourselves. We haven’t figured out how we…

Suzan Bond

Leadership coach for new technology leaders. Fast Company contributor. Former COO Travis CI. Twitter: @suzanbond