It should be pretty clear that in 2022 we are going to see a lot of changes but that’s only half the story. The other half is to understand the transitions that will happen and how to deal with them at the same time.

What’s the difference between change and transition? They aren’t the same, and transition management is not the same as change management. Understanding this is the key to effectively managing and working through the personal and human side of change in the coming year.

Understanding the differences will help all of us deal successfully with 2022. Change happens when an external event or situation takes place: next year much of the change that will dominate our attention will involve the way and the place where we work. Individuals and organizations will be preoccupied determining the effects that the change will produce, driven by external events. Change often happens fast, even faster than we expect. Transition is the process of change from one kind of experience to another, to a new form, or style, or location to another. In that regard, transition management can be a difficult process because it must happen alongside change management.

2022 is looking more and more like a year full of transitions, especially when thinking about the world as a whole. Transitions will be going on globally but at different speeds, and with different possible outcomes. None of these transitions will be taking place in coordination with each other, so the job of transition management becomes trickier.

In his book Managing Transitions, change consultant William Bridges, PhD (1933-2013) noted that, “Change is situational, transition is psychological. Without transition, a change is just rearrangement of the furniture.” Our job in 2022 will involve more than simply rearranging what we were doing before 2020, and we will not get through the transition quickly. This is going to take time, thought, and patience.

Individuals and organizations don’t often address transition management. According to the Bridges Transition Model, transition has three stages:

  • The Ending of what was is the beginning of the transition. People realize what they are losing and how to manage the losses: what is over and gone, and what will be kept. What is gone may include relationships, ways of working, team members, the places where work was done. It may be a time of letting go, or the start of what many are calling the time of a Great Resignation.
  • The Neutral Zone, the second step of transition, comes after letting go. The old is gone but the new is being created. Critical psychological realignments and repatternings take place. The neutral zone is the heart of the transition process. As people go through this zone, there can be a great deal of uncertainty and confusion.
  • The New Beginning involves new understandings, values, and attitudes. A well-managed transition allows people to establish new roles with an understanding of their purpose, the part they play, and how to contribute and participate most effectively.

In many organizations, 2020 and 2021 were The Ending stage, painfully (perhaps unwillingly) moving into The Neutral Zone. Individuals and organizations go through transition at their own pace. They do not move uniformly at the same pace, but people need to be supported in each phase. Most organizations will not be moving into the New Beginning until some time in 2022.

Uncertainty and transitions

In 2022, heroes and careers will be made. A good goal for individuals in HR would be to become one of the stories that everyone remembers about those who managed the transition well. What is the path?

Watch for opportunity

Bridges advises that “transition does not require that you reject or deny the importance of your old life, just that you let go of it.” The important parts of transition management facilitate the inner psychological process that people experience during change. Successful transition management involves these steps:

  • Communication with others and collaboration about the transition process.
  • Finding support from stakeholders, especially in understanding changes in organizational strategy.
  • Taking responsibility for your own upskilling and reskilling to assume your new roles, including supporting the new strategy as it affects your work.


Bridges, William, & Susan Bridges (2017). Managing Transitions (25th anniversary edition): Making the Most of Change – Special Edition. Boston: Da Capo Press.