GETTING READY FOR CHANGE – SOME UNFREEZING TECHNIQUES

Unfreezing is the first of Lewin’s change stages (the Square) – this is about getting people ready to accept change.  You need some way of readying people for change in whatever Change Model you apply.  The techniques below need to be applied with care and they are probably best used in combination.   I have included what I regard as recommended approaches.  I have not included “Command “ (just telling them they are going to change and expecting obedience) or  the “Burning Platform” ( the platform is burning so we must jump) approach which I regard as cop-outs in most circumstances – although they may have their place in a crisis – see the Evidence point below!  .

  • Visioning: Done well, visions work to create change. Visions work when they act to motivate and inspire the large numbers of people that are needed to make the change happen. For the vision to be motivating,  it must be memorable. For it to be memorable, it is usually surprising and short. To be surprising, it should be different from everyone else’s vision. To be believed, it must be a regular part of the conversation of senior people.
  • Challenge: Inspire people to achieve remarkable things. Stimulate people into change by challenging them to achieve something remarkable. Show confidence in their ability to get out of their comfort zone and do what has not been done before.This works particularly well with small groups, as well as individuals. Once the group has bought the challenge, then they will bounce off each other to make it happen. This is most effective when the people create their own stretch goals, so rather than telling them to do something, challenge them to achieve greatly, then, when they are fired up, ask them how far they can go.
  • Evidence: Cold, hard data is difficult to ignore.  When you have incontrovertible evidence staring you in the face, for example, where the numbers are showing the company in the red or sales sinking into the sunset, it is difficult to put your head in the sand and wish it away.  Cold, hard evidence is a good way of changing minds as counter-arguments require better data or sufficient strength to show the data as invalid.
  • Education and training: A gentler way of helping people see the need for change is by educating about why change is necessary and how change can be managed. This includes presentations, communications and full-on training sessions.
  • Use of  Objectives: Tell people what to do, but not how. Set formal objectives for people that they will have to achieve, but do not tell them how they have to achieve this. In particular, if you can, give people objectives that they can only achieve by working in the intended change. Set the person a goal or formal objective that requires them to change.
  • Restructuring: Redesign the organization to force behavior change. Just as function follows form, so also will changing the shape of the organization.  It will change how people behave.Groups that can cohere into separate units are likely to become very internally motivated. Motivation is good, but the internal facing can be away from the organization, so you must ensure that group goals are aligned, for example by regular external communications.
  • Rites of passage: Hold a wake to help let go of the past. When a change is completed, celebrate with a party or some other ritualized recognition of the passing of a key milestone. You can also start a change with a wake (which is a party that is held to celebrate the life of someone who has died) to symbolize letting go of the past. Create new rituals to help shift the culture to a new form. Use these, if possible, to replace the rituals that already exist.

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