As most people can attest, change is hard. And it can be especially hard in the work setting where we are imposing change on others (or being imposed on ourselves). In my experience, there are many employees out there who are frustrated about changes in their organizations.
Organizations are always looking for ways to grow and improve, which often require changes: things like going into new regions, offering a new product, implementing a new process, changing a procedure, buying a new company, etc. Unfortunately, many times these changes fail. As I’ve worked with organizations, it appears that these initiatives often don’t fail because of the content of the change (e.g., the software); they fail because of the process through which the change is implemented. Too often, leaders spend lots of time deciding on the right content but never give a second thought about implementing that change.
A simple framework for instilling change
The good news is that there is a solution: there is a science to implementing change and making it stick. Kurt Lewin's simple but effective change model helps leaders think through the change process. It is just three steps: Unfreeze, Change, and Refreeze.
This is the preparation phase; employees have been used to doing things a certain way, and the leader needs to prepare them for the change. This can be through creating a sense of urgency for a change, communicating about the upcoming change, or any number of things to help move from the status quo. Each situation is different, but this is a key step: you can’t just jump into a change. You need to prepare employees for it.
This is the step most people get; they know there is a change to make, and they do it. However, ensuring the desired change is clearly outlined is essential. For example, don’t just say, “Use the new software;” be more specific and say, “Enter all client interactions into the new CRM software.”
Once the change is made, the work isn’t done. Employees will want to return to the old way of doing things, so it is important to consider how to cement the new method. This could be through incentives, increased communication, accountability, and even taking away the old option. This ongoing process could go on for months or years, depending on how entrenched the old way might be.