Organizational Change Can Be as Easy as 1, 2, 3

Organizational Change Can Be as Easy as 1, 2, 3

As 2020 kicks off, we’re preparing to launch a new workshop focused on helping organizations with a topic they often struggle with. Coming off the tail end of planning season, many organizations are eternal optimists awaiting the chance to capitalize on their new ideas. But instead of capitalizing on these opportunities, many organizations squander them. Once March or April rolls around, their excitement turns to fatigue and they forget everything they agreed to transform.

Being such a common problem, this likely isn’t a surprise to you. Change is hard, and most people lose steam once the year gets hectic. But, people don’t typically resist change, they resist the change management process.

Since this resistance is such a common problem, the AchieveIt team and I are always on the hunt for new ways to examine the issue and build new frameworks. I recently reviewed “Leadership and Change Management” by Keow Ngang Tang. In it, a framework, Lewin’s Three Stages Change Model, immediately stood out. In the model, change management is broken down into three easy-to-understand phrases.


An organization in the unfreezing phase has come to the realization that they need to change. Typical trigger points include declining revenues, increased competitive activity, and a lack of innovation. In the unfreezing phase, an organization is akin to a big block of ice.

To unfreeze they must begin to question current processes and assumptions. As questions arise, the organization slowly begins to thaw, enabling a path forward. This is the critical step to making your organization more self-aware.

While some organizations embark on this journey willingly, others are dragged along kicking and screaming. As AchieveIt interacts with “willing” organizations, it’s a breeze because the decision to transform has already been made.

Organizations hesitant to change usually await the chance to criticize the decision to unfreeze. “This looks like a lot of work”; “We have a lot going on right now”; “Call us back in a few months and we’ll be ready for this type of change”. Ever heard these before? I’d imagine every organization is filled with individuals who regularly respond in this fashion.

Change is such a problem because it doesn’t fit neatly into our calendars. It doesn’t present itself during a time when you have “less going on”. To change, it’s critical to articulate the case for change and encourage challenging the status quo. The goal of unfreezing is to create an opening to overcome operational inertia, kicking off the changing phase.


If approached correctly, changing is the fun part. It’s when you decide what the future will look like. The changing phase often takes the form of a company offsite, a strategic planning session, or some other meeting of the minds. You engage a large group of stakeholders and determine which initiatives will generate success.

You’re looking at a big block of ice and trying to decide what type of sculpture you want. A swan? A dragon? So many options to consider!

To yield the best results you must involve individuals beyond the senior leadership team. Sure, senior leaders will make the initial decision on the primary focus areas, but after, include the broader leadership. If you’ve never invited a larger group into the planning process before, this step is even more important. Your invitation will signal a commitment to overcoming operational inertia and drive a top-notch plan.

As we’ve discussed before, effective planning takes a village.


In the third and last phase, we see organizations fail to commit enough time or effort. In most cases, it’s because they’re fatigued from unfreezing and changing. But what if we told you all would be for naught if you stopped there?

Consider this example. You spend time unfreezing your ice block and shaping your new swan sculpture. As you admire your work, instead of saving it, you decide to leave it out in the sun. It’s only a matter of time before all the hard work is transformed into a puddle of water.

As is the case in this analogy, poor change management can even lead to a worse outcome than the original state. Refreezing is ensuring the changes you put in place are long-lasting.

What happens the first time someone doesn’t follow a new process? What happens the first time there’s a missed deadline? What happens six months from now when the management meeting agenda is packed, pushing the plan review?

Successful refreezing consider everything that could go wrong and establishes plans to address them. Set high expectations. Sustain your commitment when processes are challenged. With these commitments, you will be well on your way to refreezing your swan for the foreseeable future.

As you launch into 2020, leverage this framework within your ongoing planning efforts. Change is a three-part process with each part having distinct requirements and commitments. Unfreezing braces the organization for change, changing creates your plan for the future, and refreezing ensure your changes are long-lasting.

Happy planning and I look forward to working with you along your journey of change!

About AchieveIt

AchieveIt is the platform that large organizations use to get their biggest, most important initiatives out of the boardroom and into reality. Too many great ideas never quite make it across the finish line, because there’s no real way to keep everyone on course and keep everything on track. What does it take to actually guide these initiatives all the way through to completion? You’ve got to:

  1. Get everything in view – so you can see what’s happening with every initiative, at every level, from the enterprise to the individual, in real time.
  2. Get everyone engaged – with an easy-to-use platform that connects your organization from the executive leadership to the project teams, keeping everyone accountable and on the same page.
  3. Get every possible advantage – not only because you have the premier platform in this space, but because you can draw on the experience and best practices of our execution experts.

That’s why everyone from global corporations, to regional healthcare systems, to federal agencies have turned to AchieveIt for their Integrated Plan Management. Let’s actually do this.

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