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Unfreeze, Change, Freeze
This three stage theory of change is commonly referred to as Unfreeze, Change, Freeze (or Refreeze). It is possible to take these stages to quite complicated levels but I don't believe this is necessary to be able to work with the theory. But be aware that the theory has been criticised for being too simplistic.
A lot has changed since the theory was originally presented in 1947, but the Kurt Lewin model is still extremely relevant. Many other more modern change models are actually based on the Kurt Lewin model. I'm going to head down a middle road and give you just enough information to make you dangerous...and perhaps a little more to whet your appetite!
So, three stages. Unfreezing, Change, Freezing. Let's look at each of these.
Stage 1: Unfreezing
The Unfreezing stage is probably one of the more important stages to understand in the world of change we live in today. This stage is about getting ready to change. It involves getting to a point of understanding that change is necessary, and getting ready to move away from our current comfort zone.
This first stage is about preparing ourselves, or others, before the change (and ideally creating a situation in which we want the change).
The more we feel that change is necessary, the more urgent it is, the more motivated we are to make the change. Right? Yes, of course! If you understand procrastination (like I do!) then you'd recognise that the closer the deadline, the more likely you are to snap into action and actually get the job started!
With the deadline comes some sort of reward or punishment linked to the job. If there's no deadline, then the urge to change is lower than the need to change. There's much lower motivation to make a change and get on with it.
Unfreezing and getting motivated for the change is all about weighing up the 'pro's' and 'con's' and deciding if the 'pro's' outnumber the 'con's' before you take any action. This is the basis of what Kurt Lewin called the Force Field Analysis.
Force Field Analysis is a fancy way of saying that there are lots of different factors (forces) for and against making change that we need to be aware of (analysis). If the factors for change outweigh the factorsagainst change we'll make the change. If not, then there's low motivation to change - and if we feel pushed to change we're likely to get grumpy and dig in our heels.
This first 'Unfreezing' stage involves moving ourselves, or a department, or an entire business towards motivation for change. The Kurt Lewin Force Field Analysis is a useful way to understand this process and there are plenty of ideas of how this can be done.
Stage 2: Change - or Transition
Kurt Lewin was aware that change is not an event, but rather a process. He called that process a transition. Transition is the inner movement or journey we make in reaction to a change. This second stage occurs as we make the changes that are needed.
People are 'unfrozen' and moving towards a new way of being.
That said this stage is often the hardest as people are unsure or even fearful. Imagine bungey jumping or parachuting. You may have convinced yourself that there is a great benefit for you to make the jump, but now you find yourself on the edge looking down. Scary stuff! But when you do it you may learn a lot about yourself.
This is not an easy time as people are learning about the changes and need to be given time to understand and work with them. Support is really important here and can be in the form of training, coaching, and expecting mistakes as part of the process.
Using role models and allowing people to develop their own solutions also help to make the changes. It's also really useful to keep communicating a clear picture of the desired change and the benefits to people so they don't lose sight of where they are heading
Please let me know if you need any clarification. I'm always happy to answer your questions.
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