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  • Eric Currie

The messy center is…well…messy! Navigating Change Transition

Charting a Path through the Mess

Growing up, there were a few commercials that always made me smile. "Where's the beef" from Wendy's. The McDonald's Big Mac song (Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce…). Another, the Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop commercial. In the commercial, the wise Mr. Owl is asked by a questioning boy how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?

The magical center of gooey tootsie roll candy was messy but loved by kids all the same. What does a Toostie Roll Toostie Pop have to do with change? Let me explain.

As you moved through the transitions of your own life, the "messy center" of change most likely created some amount of turmoil and uncertainty. Transitions like going from college to full-time work, starting a new role, obtaining an advanced degree, designation or even developing a new skill can be exciting and messy at the same time.

The "messy center" of change is referred to as the transition state and is found in between the current status quo and the anticipated future. Transition is described as the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another (think metamorphosis of your favorite amphibian). In his book, Managing Transitions, author and Organizational Consultant Williams Bridges shares that “it isn't the changes that do you in, it's the transitions.” “Change is situational” (e.g., new process, team restructuring, working from a new location). Transition on the other hand is psychological and can be represented by the three phrases of the William Bridges Transition model:

  1. Ending, Losing, Letting Go – People begin to let go of the old ways of doing something.

  2. The Neutral Zone – The old is gone but the new is not fully implemented. In the "Neutral Zone" people begin to shift their thinking and make critical psychological alignments.

  3. The New Beginning – People begin to understand or discover a new start that will provide a new identity or sense of purpose.

Knowing the inner psychological process of managing transitions provides you with a better understanding of what people are experiencing in a change and helps you craft or adjust your change approach within yourself and with your team. Managing transitions is not meant to replace or delete your existing change leadership practices, but rather to enhance them. Let's take a look…

To start, you’ll still want to create a strong “why” for the change. Without a strong why people are like children at an egg hunt…all over the place. In your why you will want to translate the change in the WIIFM (i.e., "what's in it for me") for the person or group of people who are the receiver of change. After all, each person sees change through their own perspective and this will help gain their buy-in.

You will still want to make sure leaders and employees are able to close the skills gap between what they know today and what they will need to know tomorrow. Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate the accomplishments within a change. Now that your plan is laid out, consider these transition questions:


1. What could make a team's transition easier when you consider "ending, losing, letting go"?

4. In the Neutral Zone, how could you further illustrate the gains of your change over the challenges?

2. Are there teams that may take longer to make the transition?

5. Do team dynamics factor into the success or failure of transitions?

3. What risks exist if transitions are delayed or even limited?

6. How could you celebrate the "new beginning"?


From Confusion to Direction

Eric Currie is on a quest to coach leaders on how to maximize their team’s emotional relationship to change. This type of connection creates better results and helps them to make a difference in their organization and team. As a certified change practitioner, Eric wants to utilize his experience to make change easier. To learn more and/or download your complimentary “Ready to Go” change articles visit

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