Bewildered by the change you have to make – here is help!

Do you need to make a change in your organisation?  Does the prospect feel overwhelming?  Well why not use the simplest model of change – the Freeze Phase Model, also known as Square-Blob-Star!  This post tells you how to use it!  If you care about leading you organisation well and if you are committed to being a good manager, you have all you need need to implement this approach well!

This post appeared on my blog in July 2009.  It is one of the most popular pieces here and I believe that many readers have found it useful!  So I am have revamped it slightly with some links to techniques to use when you implement the model.  I’ve seen this approach work many times.  I wish you luck with your change and if you would like further advice, please get in touch!

In the early 20th century, psychologist Kurt Lewin identified three stages of change that are still the basis of many approaches today.


People like to feel safe and in control and their sense of identity is tied into their present environment particularly if it has been relatively stable for a while!  This creates a feeling of comfort and any challenges to it even those which may offer significant benefit, can cause discomfort. See why change hurts! Talking about the future is rarely enough to move them from this ‘frozen’ state and significant work is usually required to ‘unfreeze’ them and get them moving.  In frustration some managers may revert to using a Push method to get them moving – coercing them into a change.  The Pull method of leadership, persuasion and modeling behavior takes longer but has a much better long term effect . The term ‘change ready’ is often used to describe people who are unfrozen and ready to take the next step. Some people come ready for change whilst others take a long time to let go of their comfortable current realities.


For Lewin change is a journey.  This journey may not be that simple and the person may need to go through several stages of misunderstanding before they get to the other side.  A classic trap in change is for the leaders to spend months on their own personal journeys and then expect everyone else to cross the chasm in a single bound. Transition takes time and needs leadership and support!   But sometimes  transition can also be a pleasant trap – it may feel better to travel hopefully than arrive – particularly for the team leading the change.


At the other end of the journey, the final goal is to ‘refreeze’, putting down roots again and establishing the new place of stability – embedding new processes and developing a new culture.  In practice, refreezing may be a slow process as transitions seldom stop cleanly, but go more in fits and starts with a long tail of bits and pieces. There are good and bad things about this.   In modern organizations, this stage is often rather tentative as the next change may well be around the next corner. What is often encouraged, then, is more of a state of ‘slushiness’ where freezing is never really achieved (theoretically making the next unfreezing easier). The danger with this that many organizations have found is that people fall into a state of change shock, where they work at a low level of efficiency and effectiveness as they await the next change.

You can find out more at the following links

More of the Freeze Phase/Square-Blob-Star Model – general introduction continued

Getting ready for the Change (Unfreeze) – some unfreezing techniques

Helping people to change (Transition) – constructive ways to manage transition

Completing the Change (Refreeze) – constructive ways to embed the change and make sure it sticks

Out-sourcing – how to be good at it!

In the present climate the pressure to seek value for money through out-sourcing is stronger than ever.

Yes, you can save money but getting the full value from your outsourced service and making sure that it supports your business in the way you intended is complicated.

The financial benefits alone are often not properly understood.  The results of research by Warwick Business School working with IT group Cognizant showed that less than half (43 per cent) of all CIOs and CFOs have attempted to calculate the financial impact of outsourcing to their bottom line let alone determined the real value to their organisations. They don’t know the real value and it is doubtful that they are getting the outcomes they expected!

Here are some steps you can take to ensure you achieve real value from your out-sourcing activity.

1. Know why you are doing it

Don’t out-source just because the competition does it!

What do you expect from the service and what resource will be available to support it?

Can you specify what you need and will you be able to measure and monitor it when it is delivered?

Have you got experience of managing outsourced services or can you afford to buy that expertise?

How essential is this service to your business operations?

Can you afford to take the risk?

2. Be systematic but keep it simple

Work out a strategy for out-sourcing that your organisation can cope with!

If you are new to out-sourcing don’t go for a complicated strategy that involves many suppliers.

If you go for a complex supply chain, you will need to know how to manage it

If you go for multiple suppliers, you will need to know how to coordinate them

Start with a single and relatively simple business function and a single supplier and build from there.

Gain experience as you develop the approach

3. Know how you are going to measure and monitor

Many companies rely on service level agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are crucial to outsourcing arrangements but you will need more than a traditional SLA if you are interested in business improvement!

Measuring against an SLA will tell you about delivering the status quo

Most SLAs will not tell you if the service is really delivering benefits and the right outcomes to your operation!

You need to focus on business improvement rather than just service improvement processes!

Determine what evidence of success and the right outcomes really looks like and use it!

Use industry benchmarks IF they are useful to your business

4. Invest in the relationship for long-term value

Demands and expectations change over time!

This can lead to disagreements with your supplier which can erode the relationship

Agree at the start how you will recognize and respond to changes together

Share information honestly between you

6. Be an intelligent client

Don’t hand all your talent across to the supplier with the service

Keep enough expertise available so you can talk intelligently to your supplier about performance

Keep enough expertise to cope with changing your contractor if necessary in response to supplier failure or market changes

Keep enough expertise available to cope with business innovation.

Be honest with your supplier about your expectations and your customer base

But be prepared to learn from your supplier

You can find this as a slide presentation on LinkedIn at the following link


All good programmes and projects come to an end! And so, of course, do the bad ones,  but with less happy results.    Good or bad, in due course, you will want to look for a new role!  It is imperative to pick yourself up and dust yourself off  and start all over again – or at least start looking for a new project.   Here are some tips to help you deal with the situation and to help you find an amazing new assignment.

1. Assess the Situation –  How did the project run and how did it end?  What can you learn and take with you into the future. Take a look at the big picture. Look for the good things and new possibilities that this experience might bring you and what new contacts have you made? Keep a positive attitude.   Whatever happened remember the old adage…….. it’s time to turn lemons into lemonade.

2. Consider your Finances –  Start with the practical – take stock of your finances !   This will help you to evaluate just how selective you can be in searching for a new project and help you to plan a budget for these leaner financial times.  If you see that your saving habits have not been what they should be, consider stepping up your savings once you move on to the next assignment – it is unlikely the financial climate will suddenly have improved.

3. Update Your Resume or CV – Most of us do not stay on top of keeping our resumes current, so now is the time to add new skills and experience information from your most recent work. You are likely be surprised at all of the skills and knowledge you will have acquired!  Have you worked in a new sector or run things in a new way?   If necessary,  hire a professional resume writer to help  you sell yourself more effectively  – there are plenty of people out there willing to help and it could give you the edge you need!

4. Now is the time to invest in training –  If time and funding permits, take advantage of your downtime between roles to update your skills – techniques are constantly changing in the world of change management,  project and programme management.  Awareness of new techniques and confidence in discussing them could give you the edge with a potential client, as well as helping you to deliver better!

5. Let The World Know You Are Available!  – network , network, network, with all your professional acquaintances and agencies as well as  friends and  family who just may know of the perfect position for you.  Now is the time to make use of your professional memberships – go to events and involve yourself.  Remember, often companies have project and programme roles that may not be heavily advertised and all it takes is a word from the inside to be considered. Make sure you talk to everyone you know and let them know that you are actively seeking a new role.  If you have had a recent success then talk about it!

6. Treat Assignment Hunting As A Job – Sitting around waiting for your dream programme to fall into your lap doesn’t work!  Spend what is your usual working day doing something that will help you in your new assignment!  Whether you are training, reading sector magazines and books in your field ,  searching the Internet for possible roles or managing your contacts, keep your hours filled with productive and focussed tasks.

7. Gather Positive References – If you left your role with a positive success then asking for a reference is easy – but please do it!  If things were less than perfect or at least good, you may not want to use your former client when looking for new assignment. Compile a list of people who can vouch for you as a project or programme manager and let them know that they may be called upon as a reference.  .

8. Make Your Move – If you have been considering a move to a new location, this might be the perfect opportunity to relocate. As you will be searching for a new role anyway, you won’t have the same strings attached that you would if you were in a role. Changing cities or even countries can open up a whole new world of opportunities to you. But be sure it still leaves you with good options in terms of the ability to use your contacts

9. Don’t Give Up – No matter how hard the search might seem right now, keep looking and don’t be discouraged. There is certainly a project out there for you but it may take a bit of hunting down!  This opportunity will be what you make it, so be positive and productive

10. Good Luck – make your own – follow 1 to 9 above!  And I would love to hear how you get on!


Business coaching is a powerful approach for those wanting to develop their own careers, or those of their staff, and people facing career transition.

  • Improve leadership and management skills
  • Think through options and develop successful action plans
  • Communicate with people at all levels with authority and confidence
  • Motivate teams and turn them into high performing and highly motivated units
  • Increase commitment to organizational goals

HOW WILL I BENEFIT FROM COACHING? Coaching enhances your ability to learn, create, make desired changes, and achieve goals. In a coaching relationship, your coach works with you to:

  • Get clear about what you want to accomplish
  • Solve problems and eliminate obstacles
  • Set specific goals and make effective action plans
  • Learn new skills and techniques
  • Gain perspective, get feedback, and discover new ideas
  • Stay true to your vision, focused on your goals, and on track with your plans

WHO BECOMES A COACHING CLIENT? Business coaching is appropriate for any manager or professional who wishes to reach their full potential or manage an enforced change to best advantage.

Wendy Mason has depth of experience as a manager, consultant, coach and mentor.

She specializes in supporting people and organizations, particularly those going through change and transformation.  She provides a discrete business coaching service for those wanting to develop their own careers, or those of their staff and people facing career transition. She is used to working with people from diverse backgrounds and her experience includes public, private and voluntary sectors. You can find her full resume on LinkedIn at

WHEN DO I NEED A BUSINESS COACH? You should consider working with a coach when you are:

  • Wanting to improve the way you carry out your present role
  • Newly promoted
  • Moving from a professional/technical role to general manager
  • Taking on major new project
  • Getting ready for the next promotion
  • Contemplating a career change
  • Wanting to do career stock take before planning for the future
  • Starting a new business
  • Choosing to make significant changes in how your business or organization works
  • Having trouble managing people, projects, or time
  • Facing significant changes in how your business or organization works
  • Facing an enforced personal change like redundancy

IS COACHING DIFFERENT FROM CONSULTING? Yes… and no. Traditional consulting focuses on offering external solutions and prescriptive advice. Coaching facilitates the discovery of answers that are uniquely your own. Your coach provides guidance, expertise, recommendations, and skill-building techniques whenever they are useful, but doesn’t do things for you, nor tell you exactly what to do. Coaching is typically more allied to training or mentoring than it is to consulting, because the emphasis is on your own learning and experience rather than on specific answers provided by an outside expert. Your coach will supply you with ideas, resources, models, and systems that are proven to work, but won’t hand you a completed action plan nor assert that there’s only one right way to accomplish your goals.

HOW DO I GET STARTED? One-on-one coaching can happen in one to one meetings or over the phone. You may offer ongoing coaching or single sessions. You may also choose coaching for your management, project team or work group.
Ongoing coaching relationships begin with an initial session to create an overall strategy. Regular coaching sessions are the held weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
Single or “a la carte” coaching sessions are available at an hourly rate. Your first session has a one-hour minimum; subsequent sessions may be shorter if desired.
On-site team coaching is available in half-day or full-day sessions. You may also wish to consider follow-up group sessions via teleconference.

COACHING WORKS. Find out more about what coaching can do for you! To arrange a free confidential, exploratory discussion please email or, if you prefer, call ++44(0)7867681439 and speak to Wendy.


If you are going through major change the last thing you need is a key supplier to fail! Follow this link to a useful post on the G&W Consulting Blog  “Making Performance Meaningful” .  It will help you work out  whether your suppliers are at risk of failure.  Wisewolf and G&W have depth of experience in managing change and managing complex supply chains.  Geoff  Edmundson ( the G in G&W) has managed change and challenging supply chains in both the public and private sectors!  So have I!  We will be very happy to help with a risk and resilience review!  Follow this link to contact us for further advice


In the present climate business performance is key to business survival.  You and your organization cannot afford to underperform.  But how do you ensure your performance management system actually works and works well!

Follow these steps to develop and implement an effective performance management system

1. Show leadership from the top

Those at the top of the organization must be committed to a performance culture and be prepared to change their behavior if necessary to reflect this.   the performance management framework  must be operated throughout the organization from top to bottom.

2. Develop business plans

Business planning must be realistic – what can be delivered with the resources available.  How will those available resources change over time?  Take into account the people management implications – if you invest in training – how will that effect your business plan?   Once plans and priorities have been established, they need to be translated into department, team and individual performance plans through out the organization.  Can you see the the organization’s objectives reflected in the most junior employee’s performance plan?

3. Establish what good performance looks like and how it can be measured

All performance indicators and other criteria used to measure performance must be clearly communicated to staff and all in the organization. Think about what really matters and focus on measuring that.  Keep the number of measures to a minimum.  Want to know more about performance measures – follow this link

4. Monitor and evaluate

Systems need to be set up to ensure that performance, and its effect on service delivery, can be monitored and evaluated throughout the year.

5. Agree specific performance objectives

The organization’s plans and priorities must be translated into department, team and intividual perforamnce objectives, usually by using performance appraisal and staff devlopment processes.  Individula plans are most effective when both manager and employee agree them.  Objectives should be SMART

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Agreed
  • Realistic
  • Time bound.

6. Develop an internal communications approach

Effective messages should target the intended audience in the whole range of ways available to you.   Develop a plan for how you will use them to target different communities within the organisation using for example:

  • email
  • intranet
  • newsletter/house magazine
  • notice board
  • team brief
  • video and in-house TV.

In addition, regular surveys and suggestion schemes are important ways of ensuring that employees have the opportunity to feedback on a wide range of issues that impact on  performance.

7. Ensure that performance framework systems are truly in place

A performance review/appraisal system is traditionally used to set objectives, identify support needs and measure progress against objectives. For it to work effectively, it must be clearly understood by both managers and employees. This requires that:

  • managers have access to guidance and training to ensure they manage performance effectively throughout the year
  • all employees have the necessary support, guidance and training to actively engage in the performance appraisal process.

If you don’t have these in place it is unlikely that you can become a high performing organisation

8. Support employees to succeed

Effective induction and probation processes for new employees are extremely important in setting the right expectations of performance for both the employee and the manager. Personal development plans (PDPs), resulting from the performance review process, should explain how development needs will be met.

9. Encourage performance improvement

Occasionally, performance does not meet the required standard. At organizational level, this should be addressed by identifying what the barriers are to effective performance and putting in place a plan to deliver improvement.

The principle is the same at both the team and individual level: there must be clear procedures for dealing with inadequate performance.

10. Recognize and reward good performance

Good performance needs to be recognized and, where appropriate, rewarded.

Recognizing performance is also about sharing success stories and knowledge across the organisation and highlighting how good performance helps the organisation as a whole.

If you would like to know more about how your organisation is performing follow this link to find out more about Making Performance Meaningful Reviews

Managing transition; moving from unfreeze to freeze

Managing transition; moving from unfreeze to freeze

Managing transition takes time and needs leadership and support! The three stages of change identified by psychologist Kurt Lewin are the basis of most managing transitionchange management approaches today. They are very easy to understand – unfreeze, transition, re-freeze! Recently I wrote here about how to unfreeze. This post deals with managing transition. Sometimes transition can be a pleasant trap – it may feel better to travel hopefully than arrive – particularly for the team leading the change. It is very easy to get caught up in this middle stage.

Here are some techniques to help you in managing transition

Give them a challenge

Stimulate people into change by challenging them to achieve something remarkable. So, show confidence in their ability to get out of their comfort zone and do what has not been done before. This can work particularly well with small groups, as well as individuals. And, once the group has bought the challenge, with some support from you, they will bounce off each other to make it happen.

It 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.

Coach them

Are people are having difficulty in managing to adapt to change? Do you, or your colleagues, have coaching skills? Plus, have you enough time? If so, working with people one to one can be particularly effective. But you do need to know what you are doing. So it really is worth carefully identifying those who have been trained in coaching. If you can afford it, hire a qualified, experienced, coach to help people through this time.

In a change situation, coaches need time and skills to understand the individual person. This is so they can uncover internal problems which might be creating barriers. The approach seems expensive and it is often reserved for senior executives. But it can be a good investment further down the management chain. And, it is certainly helpful for any senior manager who has to go through change themselves, while leading their team through change

Use Facilitators

Use skilled facilitators to support change activities. If you don’t have any, either hire them in or train your own. Facilitators can be used to guide various group events. For example, this could be brainstorming or planning the change. Facilitators can also act as team coaches, helping people to improve within themselves and work together in better ways. Often in change people know what needs doing. But they do not know how to change or work together in the new context.

Facilitators literally ‘make things easier’. They do this in meetings and group sessions. This is by owning the process whereby decisions and other activities are done. Although facilitators never own the content. Thus, they will help you make a decision, but they will not make the decision for you. Facilitators are particularly useful for leaders who want to engage in a meeting without worrying about its process.

Education and Training

Teach people about the need for change. Show them that embracing change is a far more effective life strategy than staying where they are or resisting. Teach them about the models and methods of change. This is about how to be logical and creative in improving processes and organisations. The approach can include presentations, communications and full-on training sessions. Education, done well, draws out understanding from the other person rather than talking at them.

Leading in change is itself often a process of education. An issue in change is that people often feel powerless. Education gives them the power to change. On the training front, remember usually it’s going to be much cheaper to re-train than to recruit. So, help your people gain the skills they are going to need in the new organisation.

The next post, on Lewin’s third stage – re-freezing, follows shortly.

Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at

Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find her books on Amazon at this link




Some years ago I had a major change to manage and we needed to transform delivery of one group of services,    If the in-house team couldn’t improve performance, while reducing costs, they would be out-sourced!  The service lead had no experience of change management but she learned quickly and the whole exercise turned into a major and very public success.

At the end of it I gained a change manager and but I lost a very good service lead.  She was no longer interested in operational management and making incremental service improvements.  She wanted to do the big stuff – organizational change – and the world is short of people who can do that well!  Had she stayed, I thought she, and we, would have been frustrated!  She moved on to a sister organization very quickly and has done very well since!

Some outstandingly good change managers need the buzz of change around them!  And it is true that if they can’t find positive changes to make they may start “fixing” what doesn’t need to be fixed – negative change rather than positive – fine difference!

With the benefit of hindsight, I regret letting her go!  I know now that I could have found a better way to use her and she would have become an ever more valuable resource.  What can you do as a manger if you find yourself with someone like this on your team? You want to get the most from them, while still helping them to feel satisfied with what they are doing?

Is there something else for them to fix? Let them find it!

These kind of people (and I have to own up now, it does include me)  love the challenge of fixing  something!  Have you got something you think could be improved? Most of us have something!  Turn them loose on your organization  and ask for their recommendations.  It’s important though they understand you may not implement all their recommendations, but make sure they, and others, understand you are still interested in hearing what they have to propose!  But keep an eye on where they are! You may need to re-direct them to places they can make a difference before they waste time and energy on something that will leave them feeling frustrated.  Help them understand that their energy and insights are better applied in another area.

Make them justify

If they are interested in making a change  and you sense there is a potential benefit from their ideas, don’t just accept them off the cuff.  Make them package them, think them through to completion, and present them as coherent, well analyzed plans, rather than coffee napkin ideas.  What is the driving reason for the change and how does it fit in with your vision for the organization – is the time right? What are the costs and benefits really going to be?

Not only will you be helping them develop the skills of executing their ideas to completion  – something many rapid changers have an issue with!  But you are developing their abilities and potential for more senior management as they become a very valuable asset for your organsiation


Geoff Edmundson and I have founded G&W Consulting.  We both have a depth of experience in contract management as well as project & programme management and the management of organisational change. G&W Consulting will provide MPM Reviews – evidence based contract performance reviews, peer reviews and healthchecks across the lifecycle of service contracts; this includes advice and guidance on handling the follow-on business improvement issues and related assurance & risk governance mechanisms. G&W Consulting has developed and successfully piloted a peer review methodology – the MPM Review. This investigates the readiness, fitness-for-purpose, direction and performance of service contracts, service delivery operations and organisation throughout the lifecycle of the contract. We provide independent practitioners from outside of the organisation who use their experience and expertise to examine the progress and likelihood of successful service delivery. The MPM Review is used to provide a valuable additional perspective on the issues facing the responsible team and external challenges to the robustness of an organisation, systems, plans and processes. If you wish to find out more about G&W Consulting and the services we provide follow this link


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.