If not already done, it might be an idea to read about the experience that inspired the Manoeuvrist Approach to Transition first, before returning to this page ⤵️

At first glance, the military-inspired ‘Manoeuvrist Approach’ might not seem applicable to transition; whether that be a career or any other personal transition process.

However, successful manoeuvre, in military terms, relies on agility, support and careful planning when attempting to seize initiative and deliver forward momentum. So too in personal transition journeys.

During my doctorate, I linked this concept of manoeuvre to Schlossberg et al.’s transition counselling theory, which is founded on careful examination of the situational, self, support and strategic ‘assets’ available to a transitioning individual.

A key to more effective transition is to identify situational, self, support and strategic assets and liabilities inherent in that transition, and to focus on identifier assets to overcome any impeding liabilities. After Schlossberg, I refer to these as the 4S transition assets and liabilities.

The following table offers a brief outline of that 4S transition theory:


Under the Situation heading, Schlossberg proposes that the context surrounding a transition ought to be taken into consideration when attempting to explore and mitigate difficulties that could be encountered by an individual undergoing change. These contextual concerns include the following: what triggered the transition and whether the trigger was anticipated or unexpected, welcome or unwelcome; what the individual’s assessment of the transition is; what control or perception of control the individual concerned has over events; and what additional stressors could have been present at the time (see also Anderson et al.).


Under the term Self, Schlossberg refers to the transitioning individual’s inner strength for coping with implied change, particularly their emotional resilience, which, it was argued, can be weakened under the situational stresses implicit in transition. Crucially, it can also be boosted with self-reflection, support and strategic initiative.

Supports and Strategies

According to Schlossberg, the support available to an individual during transition is critical to their sense of well-being, while Anderson et al. argue that social support is crucial for navigating the stress of transition. Although it is noted that there is no single ‘magical’ transition coping strategy, research suggests that ‘the person with a repertoire of responses’ is more likely to be resilient in the face of transition (Anderson et al.).

Accordingly, the Manoeuvrist Approach to Transition encapsulates a form of response when attempting to cope with transition. Just as in the military sphere, the Manoeuvrist Approach requires a detailed understanding of available assets across all four S’s, as well as obstacles that might need to be confronted when moving forwards. Once this 4S information is captured and weighed up, a plan can be drawn up that uses assets to outmanoeuvre any liabilities.

Therefore, the key to this strategic response is a holistic assessment and identification of transition assets and liabilities across all four S’s (a form of SWOT analysis); and then the production of an actionable (SMART) strategic plan.

The cornerstone to this strategic and SMART transition planning is often a detailed transition story: otherwise termed the information and plan narrative.

Click below ⤵️ to see why