How to Manage Change

Nov 6, 2023 | Blogs

At Black & Blue, a lot of the work we do revolves around helping our clients to manage change effectively. 

Change might look like: 

  • Rapid growth 
  • A merger or acquisition 
  • An owner exit 
  • Development of a new product or service 
  • A new leadership team member 
  • High team turnover 

All things that can cause friction, stress and wasted time and resources if not handled correctly.  

Today, we’d love to give you an insight into one of the models we utilise to enable our clients to move through the change process smoothly, with minimal stress and maximal efficiency.  

Introducing Lewin’s Change Management Framework! 

Considering change as a structured process with distinct stages enables individuals and organisations to navigate transitions more effectively, reducing uncertainty and turmoil.  

Often, change is approached haphazardly, leading to unnecessary chaos, simply because we don’t always know how to do otherwise. Especially if we’re practically involved in the change.  

We love embracing the idea that change involves a series of steps, which allows for proper preparation and planning. This process, articulated by Lewin, emphasises the need to generate motivation for change before initiating the process. This initial step is termed “unfreezing.” 

Stage 1: Unfreeze 

The first phase of the change process involves creating the awareness that change is necessary. This means dismantling the existing status quo to pave the way for the establishment of a new operational approach. 

Central to this phase is crafting a compelling narrative that underscores the reasons the current practices cannot remain. This task is facilitated when tangible indicators, such as declining sales, financial setbacks, or negative customer feedback, can be pointed out. 

Unfreezing is often the most challenging period, causing stress and difficulty as familiar routines are disrupted. By beginning shifts in established practices, an environment of imbalance is created that can be unsettling. 

Such disruption can (and often does) cause strong emotional reactions, which are crucial for fostering the determination needed to seek equilibrium in a new context. This motivation is pivotal for achieving the engagement required to cause lasting change. 

To facilitate the “melting” of resistance during the Unfreeze stage, consider these actions: 

  • Evaluate the need for change by surveying the team or organisation to grasp the current situation. 
  • Clearly comprehend the rationale behind the necessity for change. 
  • Employ Stakeholder Analysis and Management to secure support from key stakeholders. 
  • Frame the issue as integral to the entire organisation. 
  • Craft a compelling narrative elucidating the imperative for change. 
  • Utilise the organisation’s vision and strategy as reinforcing pillars.
  • Communicate the vision in terms of the change required. 
  • Emphasise the “why” behind the change.
  • Maintain openness to employee concerns, addressing them in the context of the need for change.

Stage 2: Change 

 Following the initial turbulence of the unfreeze phase, the change stage involves individuals progressing from uncertainty towards embracing new ways of operating. A shift in behaviour takes place as people align with the new direction. 

Transitioning from unfreezing to change requires time, as individuals come to terms with the new direction and actively participate in its realisation. Effectively introducing change and ensuring active participation hinges on conveying its benefits. Notably, not everyone will readily embrace change solely based on its necessity and advantages for the organisation. This assumption is a potential pitfall to avoid. 

Take note: 

Certain individuals might genuinely suffer adverse consequences due to change, especially those previously benefiting from the status quo. Some may also take time to recognise the benefits of change. Proactively addressing these scenarios is essential. 

Creating successful change requires both time and effective communication. A thorough understanding of the changes and maintaining strong organisational ties throughout the transition are vital. Active management, involving hands-on engagement, is often the most effective approach during periods of change. 

To navigate the Change stage skilfully, consider the following steps: 

  • Maintain clear and consistent communication throughout the planning and implementation of changes. 
  • Emphasise the advantages and elucidate how the changes will impact all stakeholders. 
  • Address and dispel rumours promptly to maintain clarity. 
  • Respond openly and honestly to inquiries, tackling challenges as they arise. 
  • Forge employee involvement where appropriate, empowering them in the process. 
  • Enlist line managers to provide day-to-day guidance. 
  • Strive to achieve short-term successes that bolster the change. 

Stage 3: Refreeze 

As new practices take root and individuals embrace the new approaches, the organisation enters the refreeze stage. Signs of stabilisation emerge, such as consistent job descriptions and a settled organisational structure. 

The refreeze phase is pivotal for internalising and institutionalising changes. It involves integrating changes into everyday operations, ensuring their consistent application. This engenders a sense of stability, enabling employees to confidently embrace new practices. 

The rationale behind establishing stability amid constant change is occasionally questioned. Despite ongoing change, the refreezing stage remains indispensable. Without it, employees may become stuck in a transitional state, unsure of proper procedures, leading to inefficiencies. 

Lacking a new frozen state, subsequent change initiatives become challenging to execute. Convincing individuals of the need for change becomes arduous without allowing recent changes to settle in. Change could be perceived as arbitrary, devoid of the motivation necessary for effective implementation. 

As part of the refreezing process, consider celebrating the success of the change. This aids in closure, acknowledges perseverance during difficult times, and fosters confidence in future change efforts. 

To anchor changes into organisational or team culture, implement these steps: 

  • Identify elements that support the changes. 
  • Address barriers to sustaining change. 
  • Garner leadership support. 
  • Establish a system of rewards. 
  • Implement feedback mechanisms. 
  • Modify the organisational structure as needed. 
  • Provide continuous support and information. 
  • Celebrate successes. 

Key Takeaways 

By recognising the distinct stages of change, it becomes feasible to strategize change implementation. Commence by generating motivation for change (unfreeze), progress through effective communication and empowerment (change), and culminate by reinstating organisational stability (refreeze), pivotal for embarking on future changes. 

Following a process like this enables us to give our clients as much control and certainty as us humans can ever have over change.  

Working with businesses who are committed to serious growth, regular change is inevitable.  

If this resonates with you, please reach out to us at hey@blackandbluebusiness.co.uk or book a clarity call below. We’d love to help you manage the changes you’re going through.