Managing Change

Managing the change

And last but not least, the implementation of a strategy will require the management of change taken/taking place in a business. In managing change we are dealing with people, not numbers, and care needs to be taken to ensure that the people support the proposed changes.

Stages of Change

Kurt Lewin, (1947), identified three distinct stages of the change process:

  • Unfreezing
  • Moving
  • Refreezing

Unfreezing

Unfreezing relates to the need to change existing attitudes towards working practices and processes before the change can begin to take place – it is the preparation stage. This is when communication about any proposed change is vital if the people are to understand and support it. Often the process starts by sowing the seeds of doubt about existing practices and processes among key members of staff. Without the support of a critical mass of the staff it is often pointless going to the next stage in the process. Support may be sought in a variety of ways, from one-to-one talks with key people to holding open meetings with the whole workforce, or creating a newsletter to inform people of what is happening.

Moving

This is the implementation stage, and its success will depend on the thoroughness of the planning and preparation in the first stage. There is a need for maximum flexibility in the planning and implementation of change, and change agents, or teams, need to set aside time for regular reviews of progress.  If things are not going according to plan it may be necessary to change the plan and schedules rather than to try to conform to them.

Refreezing

The refreezing stage is one of consolidation. Even when a change appears to have been planned and implemented successfully, problems can occur. For example, new equipment may have been effectively introduced and operators trained in its use. Those responsible for the change, however, could be patting each other on the back too soon. Operators can easily revert to old working practices despite the new technology unless there is ongoing monitoring once the change has taken place. Only when it has become incorporated into the working culture can it be said that change has finished.

As a caution here it should be noted that one change is often the seed for the next change. When making the next change the process will have to start again with unfreezing. When consolidating, or refreezing, a change it should not be implied that change has finished. If a climate of change is fostered within the organisation as part of refreezing, then the unfreezing process will be easier the next time around.