Bridges, William - Transitions

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

William Bridges is a writer, consultant and lecturer in the field of transition management. One of his best known books, dating from fairly early in his career in change management, is called Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes (Bridges, 2004[1]). There he describes a model of transitions that are “on the CUSP of change”. This is the moment where the value of a change is just on the point of being realized, and resistance or hesitation is about to be released. It is the point at which a person becomes open to a change, or willing to engage it. Perceptions switch from more pessimistic to more optimistic ones, as the potential benefits of the change begin to become clear. Personal statements recasting the change as positive emerge, such as – “There is an opportunity to learn here”, “I can gain something important”, “Whatever happens, I’ll come out of this wiser than I went in”.

The CUSP acronym represents four factors of change. A person will be successful in managing a personal transition depending on how they feel about these four factors. The factors are listed in CUSP order below, which is PAIE in Adizes terminology. Reorganizing CUSP into PAEI order would result in the less helpful acronym CUPS.

P – Control: Do you feel you have control of the situation?
A – Understanding: Do you truly comprehend what is happening and why?
I – Support: Do you have (or can you obtain) the practical and emotional support for what you are going through?
E – Purpose: Do you have a sense of purpose to give meaning and direction to your experiences and actions?

It thus takes the activation of the full structure of concern to orient oneself to major changes in one's circumstances.

Bridges work became the foundation for many subsequent efforts in the field of change management, including the publication of the book Aftershock: Helping People Through Corporate Change by Harry Woodward and Steve Buchholz (Woodward & Buchholz, 1987[2]).

1. Bridges, W. (2004). Transitions: Making Sense of Life's Changes (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press.
2. Woodward, H., & Buchholz, S. (1987). Aftershock: Helping people through corporate change. New York: John Wiley & Sons
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