Phase One – Unfreeze
This phase of the model deals with accepting that people need to be conditioned for change, naturally as humans we are resistant to change, we get into routines and do not like to change them.
This phase deals with understanding and getting the people to understand the processes and practices that are currently in place, to access their relevance and to condition the people involved that change will be for the better.
Lewin advocates that “unfreezing” of the present level may involve different cases, this in itself allows the model to be adapted to different change projects.
The original writing uses some interesting language that is reflective of the age;
To break open the shell of complacency and self-righteousness it is sometimes necessary to bring about deliberately an emotional stir-up.[i](Lewin 1947)
The use of this language implies an arrogance that the advocate of change is absolutely correct and that change is absolutely the correct course of action, Sturdy and Grey argue that the traditional change methodologies do not take into account an alternative to change. This appears to be true of most methodologies and models.
To not change would be an acceptable outcome if it was deemed correct at the first stage “Unfreeze” whilst analysing the current processes and procedures, however in practice the decision to change has already been made prior to initiating the change project. Unfortunately in the past the number of change projects that have failed has been very high. In 2003, the success of IT projects in industry was only classed as 15%, with 73% classed as Challenged and 10% Classed as failed.[ii](Oxford 2003)
It would be prudent for the change processes to acknowledge that achieving the change should not be the goal at all costs, the original goals of the change should be periodically reassessed to maintain that there is still a requirement for the change. My implementation of Evernote would have been stopped if the requirement for remote reporting had ceased during the change project, however if this was a much larger change project within a large company, and the Change Manager was not kept informed of the larger picture then it would be quite feasible using the Lewin model that the change could be successfully implemented, success being a new system and process now being used by a company that no longer had the requirement. So where Sturdy and Grey talk of null change, yes that should be looked at as an option, but perhaps would also be better placed in the ongoing analysis of the change project, and if appropriate the change project should be stopped.
implementation of the Evernote system I had looked at all of the feasible
options available to me considering cost and complexity of implementation, I
did an office based trial to establish whether it was fit for purpose. I then
communicated to the engineering team why I was considering the implementation,
what benefits I expected to achieve, and what benefits it would bring to
them. After this communication I then
opened up the discussion to them incase they had any ideas or solutions
(Evernote was not a forgone conclusion at that point). Some very good ideas
came in, but they all pushed the project further in the direction of Evernote.
This method was very similar to the Group Decision as a Change Procedure that
Lewin investigated, the main difference was that a small section of the group
was pre-primed and used as an internal champions. This is where Lewin’s Model
is flexible and high level enough that it would have accommodated this as an
unfreezing step even though it would not have been strictly a part of it.
[i] Kurt Lewin Frontiers in group dynamics 1947
[ii] Oxford University – Computer Weekly Study of IT Project Management, 2003
Jason Pope Project Manager