The Marathon Effect

Change Management | 0 comments

I’ve mentioned William Bridges, his methods of change and transition management and some of his tools in a couple of earlier blogs.* I was certified by him in the use of his material early in my change management career and have used and re-used his concepts in many change programmes. I am also proud to have one of my examples included in the 25th year anniversary edition of his book ‘Managing Transitions’.**

One of my favourite of his concepts is the Marathon Effect. So simple yet so clever, whenever I introduce it people ‘steal’ my slide and use it themselves.

The leaders of an organization that will undergo a major change or reorganization, and their change management designers, will have been busy with the ideas and preparations long before the details are announced to the rest of the organization. They will have gone through their own transitions and change curve and will be ready for the new beginnings, before the organizational changes are even launched.

Bridges likens them to the elite runners at the head of a huge city marathon with thousands of runners. They start first and finish quickly.

However the rest of us are way at the back. Waiting patiently to start the race. Maybe so far back and with so many thousands of our fellow runners in front of us that we didn’t even hear the starting pistol and don’t even know the race has begun. And when we can start we have to move slowly before the pack separates and there is room to pick up a little more speed.

In a new organizational change the majority of employees will be like this. Hearing things for the first time and trying to make their own sense of the marathon race to come.

The leaders though, have already finished and can forget their followers are still struggling. They might think ‘Well that was easy, what were we worried about?’

Whilst those at the back are hearing rumours and asking ‘Has anything happened yet? Has the race begun?’

So the message to leaders, is be aware of the Marathon Effect, especially in their communication. Speak from the listeners’ perspective not from where you are. You might feel it’s all over. But your staff might only be starting. And they still need to go through their own transition or change curve (the subject of my last blog).


* The following blogs were inspired by William Bridges

Transition (or temperature) Monitoring Teams:

Communicating change with the 4P model


** ‘Managing transitions: making the most of change’ William Bridges & Susan Bridges, Da Capo Press, 2016, to mark the 25th anniversary of the original publication



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