Gary is a business consultant and trainer based in Sydney, Australia but operating internationally. He assists organisations in getting business benefits from I.T . Contact Gary, +61 (0)4-1092-3445, firstname.lastname@example.org, http://eckstein.id.au
Kurt Lewin was a German-American psychologist. He introduced two simple yet hugely effective models which are widely taught in good Business Schools:
- the Force-Field Analysis and the
- Unfreeze – Change - Freeze Model (this is also referred to as the Unfreeze – Change - Refreeze Model).
In this article we examine the Unfreeze – Change - Freeze Model and see how effectively this simple model can be applied to business and personal situations.
What is the Unfreeze – Change – Freeze Model
We know that change is disruptive and that some people and organisational cultures handle change better than others. Lewin studied change and then concluded that by following a three step Change Model, change could be made vastly less disruptive and more effective in reaching its objectives. The beauty of Lewin’s model (the model is actually a cycle as there is almost always a requirement for change in organisations) is that it is so simple to understand and yet so very powerful:
Unfreeze: Before any change there is preparation to be done which includes communicating the need for change, up-skilling employees where necessary and so on.
Change: As the organisation is now prepared for change (i.e. the Unfreeze stage has been addressed) the Change itself is now implemented.
Freeze: A period of stability is necessary after the Change for the organisation to adjust to the change. This time for stability is needed for employees and other stakeholders to adjust as well as for efficiencies and effectiveness resulting from the change to be realised.
The basic concept is that for change to be successful, it cannot be ongoing. Periods of stability and preparation for change are necessary.
Example: Change Management in Education
It is interesting that so much of the Change Management theory is seen as business focused. Change however occurs in all professions and spheres of life. Below therefore is an example showing where Lewin’s Unfreeze – Change – Freeze model would benefit a primary school initiative:
In my home state of New South Wales (Australia) the State Government mandated that all Kindergarten children from 2010 need to be assessed as part of the ‘Best Start’ initiative. Certainly the idea is great as described by the Education Minister who states that ‘by sitting down with each student and assessing their early literacy and numeracy skills, teachers can develop learning plans for their students’.
The implementation of the assessment program was left mostly to each school and this is where a number of Change Management issues arose.
Change 1 – Starting school for the first time
Kindergarten in Australia is the first year of Primary School and the children are generally five years old. Many are away from their parents for the first time and for all the children it is a huge Change from their pre-school days.
My daughter’s school did a great job of preparing parents and advising them to get the children ready for the Change (i.e. they did well at the Unfreezing for children attending primary school for the first time). Day 1 of ‘Kindy’ came along and my daughter and others went off for their first day of primary school (i.e. the Change was effected). In the past (prior to 2010) the daily routine would then be the same for a certain amount of time so the children could adjust to the Change (i.e. Freeze).
Change 2 – Best Start Program
My daughter’s primary school decided that the class teacher would perform each child’s assessment of the new Best Start program. This took place from day 2 of the new school year with teachers ‘filling in’ for the class teacher. This meant that for the next seven school days (i.e. days 2 to 8 of the children’s first days at primary school) there was a different substitute teacher each day who didn’t know the children (and the children didn’t know the teachers) and nor were the children familiar with the school itself. There was therefore no period of stability (Freeze) after the first Change.
Many of the children did not adjust at all well and, referring to the Unfreeze – Change – Freeze model it is evident why; a period of stability is needed after Change and this did not occur. The good news is that the school has recognised that there needs to be a period of stability (i.e. Freeze) before the Best Start assessments in future.
The Model Works
A common misconception is that simple models are less effective than complex models. Lewin’s Unfreeze – Change – Freeze model shows that a model that is simple to understand and implement can be extremely effective in various organisations and Change situations.
Try applying this model to changes in your business and personal life and you will benefit.