Refreezing is the third of Lewin’s change transition stages, where people are taken from a state of being in transition and moved to a stable and productive state.

Here are some positive and constructive ways to make it happen:

Evidence stream

Show them time and again that the change is real.

Get people to accept that a change is real by providing a steady stream of evidence to demonstrate that the change has happened and is successful.  You can plan for change projects to reach milestones and deliver real results in a regular and predictable stream of communications that is delivered on a well-managed timetable. This is as opposed to the early ‘big bang’ followed by a long period of relative silence.  Communicate through a range of media. Get people who have been involved to stand up and tell their stories of challenge and overcoming adversity. Ensure the communications reach everyone involved, and do so over and over again.  Keep posters and data charts up to date. Regularly show progress, demonstrating either solid progress against plan or robust action to address any slippage.

Golden handcuffs

Put rewards in their middle-term future.

When loyalty and the joy of the job are not enough to keep people, they may need some financial or other rewards. However, this can re-bound -paying them today could still lead them to leave. The promise of future reward, however, may be enough to keep them engaged. The promised rewards cannot be too far out or they would not be enticing — usually reasonable reward needs to be within a twelve-month timeframe. This risk is that when a reward is gained, this could be a point at which the person leaves. If you want them to stay, you may need to keep a rolling handcuff system.


Build change into the formal systems and structures.

The formal systems and structures within the organization are those which are not optional. People do them because they are ‘business as usual’ and because they will be criticized or otherwise punished if they fail to do them. After a while, institutionalized items become so entrenched, people forget to resist and just do what is required, even if they do not agree with them.  So you can make make changes stick by building them into the formal fabric of the organization, for example:

    • Building them into the systems of standards – this the way we do things here!.
    • Put them or elements of them into the primary strategic plan.
    • Build them into people personal objectives including the CEO.
    • Ensure people are assessed against them in personal reviews.
    • Reward people for following the house rules – see below

New challenge

Get them looking to the future.

One of the key things that makes people happy is challenge. In particular, people who have discovered this get hooked on the buzz and fall into the psychological flow of getting deeply engaged. Challenge is a future-based motivator that focuses people on new and different things, rather than basic motivations such as control and safety that may lead people to resist change.  Get people to maintain interest in a change by giving them new challenges, related to the change, that stimulate them and keep them looking to the future.

Reward alignment

Align rewards with desired behaviors.

A surprisingly common trap in change is to ask (or even demand) that people change, yet the reward system that is driving their behavior is not changed. Requesting teamwork and rewarding individuals is a very common example.  Many people are driven by extrinsic rewards, and the saying ‘Show me how I’m paid and I’ll show you how I behave’ is surprisingly common.  So when you make a change, ensure that you align the reward system with the changes that you want to happen.

Rites of passage

Use formal rituals to confirm change.

Rituals are symbolic acts to which we attribute significant meaning. A celebration to mark a change is used in many cultures, ranging from rites of passage to manhood for aboriginal tribes to the wedding ceremonies of Christian and other religions. Such ritual passages are often remembered with great nostalgia, and even the remembrance of them becomes ritualized.  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.


Build it into the social fabric.

Society is almost invisible and people accept its rules without even noticing that they are doing so. A change that is socialized becomes normal and the ‘way things are’.  When something becomes a social norm, people will be far more unlikely to oppose it as to do so is to oppose the group and its leaders. Seal changes by building them into the social structures.  Give social leaders prominent positions in the change. When they feel ownership for it, they will talk about it and sell it to others.  Create rituals, utilize artifacts and otherwise build it into the culture.


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