I met a business owner a while back and our discussion came round to his urgent need to change certain aspects of his business.
He had a problem. A key manager and his team in the area he needed to change were too slow to realise and accept the urgency.
I queried what steps he had taken to identify and lead the changes.
I listened to some of the things he had said and done.
It was clear from what we discussed that this business owner did not understand the concept and practice of effective change management.
This is actually not that unusual.
Over 50 years ago Kurt Lewin described a model for change leadership:
He called this Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze.
This analogy refers to changing the shape of a block of ice from a cube to a cone.
1. First unfreeze what you need to change
2. Mould the iced water into the shape you need
3. Solidify the new shape – refreeze it.
The process of change must be understood and planned in stages.
To get everyone in the organisation on board we need to first create a sense of urgency.
We can show examples of poor financial results, loss of customers, declining competitiveness etc.
They need to grasp the bare realities.
Then the business leaders must be prepared to challenge everything they do and the way it is done.
Challenging the status quo must become embedded in the culture of the entire organisation,which has to come from the top.
This is the “unfreezing”. It is both the most difficult part of the process and the most important.
Designing and implementing the “future state” is the next stage in the change process.
This has to involve the wider organisation in as much of the detail as possible. Re-shape it piece by piece, activity by activity.
Only then can we “freeze” it and ensure that the old ways cannot come back.
All of this must be led from the top, every step of the way. It’s not a process that will happen by dictate.
John O’Sullivan – Business Consultancy
John is part of the Beacon Initiative, Grow Programme Virtual Management Team, which can assist qualifying SME’s to grow through the provision of management expertise that may not be accessible to them currently