The Simple Approach to Successful Change Management

Change management today is a widely accepted practice to support and ensure success as organizations tackle a change; whether it’s incremental, a paradigm shift, or transformational. Though change management is an accepted and necessary practice, not everyone wants to feel like the change management is being done to them. In fact, some resisters are born simply because the change management techniques are so outward that they rebel due to the fact that they don’t want to be forced to change.

If your change team is following a complex change management methodology that has several rigid steps consisting of assessments, surveys, and in-your-face communications campaigns it just might be more than necessary to get the job done. There is something about the simplicity of Kurt Lewin’s three step model of unfreeze, movement, freeze (or refreeze) that might be all that is necessary to get the results you need.


In modern day terms we can relate Lewin’s three phases to plan (unfreezing), do (movement), and sustain (freeze or refreezing). Lewin believed that change is a modification of the forces keeping a system’s behavior stable (Cummings & Worley, 2005). In the first phase, unfreezing, to modify the systems’ behavior you must reduce the forces maintaining the organization’s behavior and increase the forces pushing for change (Cummings & Worley, 2005).

The activities you undertake in this phase will be based upon what you know about your culture, and what you believe will be the sticking points in the new to-be world for your organization. While you plan, you begin to push back on the forces maintaining the old behavior and reward the forces pushing to the new state.

An example could be that your organization needs to change the structure of existing teams, but there are long-established working relationships within the current teams. In order to push back on old behaviors, you could decrease the amount of time that is being spent with existing team members and increase team-building activities with “to be” team members.


In the movement phase, behaviors from all directions change. This is the “do” phase where the change work is conducted and the change is realized. New organizational policies and processes are in place to support the change, and individual performance expectations are also revised. The key to a successful movement/do phase is to help members stay at least neutral about the change. If possible, implementing the new organizational processes in an incremental way can help members align their behaviors more readily if the changes they personally have to make take just one small step at a time.

So, for our example above, new team members may begin to meet on a regular basis as a first step and then be co-located as a next step.


In the final phase, freezing or refreezing, the organization is stabilized at a new state of equilibrium and is reinforced by culture, norms, policies, and structures (Cummings & Worley, 2005). This is where the change is sustained. This final phase is not to be missed. While current day philosophy on change is that we’re in a constant state of change; that is only true to a certain extent. When an organizational change is made, there ought to be a clear business rational as to why. When the change is achieved, it must be sustained for a period of time for results to be achieved.

For more information on organizational design and change management, contact us.

By Contributing Writer – Erica Tetuan, Senior Associate, Changeis, Inc. 

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