A few months ago, I published an article about Change Management: A 3-Step Model. It talked about Lewin’s three-step model for change (unfreeze – change – refreeze). After publishing the piece, I received a note via Twitter.
It’s a great question. And the answer to the second part of the comment is Yes! We should be always looking for ways to do things better. But I don’t believe that it means we should eliminate the refreezing phase in change management. Let me explain my thought process.
Refreezing does two things. It establishes the new normal and allows people to celebrate. If we eliminate refreezing, then we don’t give people an opportunity to celebrate successfully going through the change process. And the celebration is important, especially since we’re dealing with all sorts of changes at the same time.
Celebrating change reminds people that they can do it. They are capable of change. The next time a person needs to deal with change, hopefully they remember the feeling of accomplishment and celebration more than the frustration of the change.
The other thing that refreezing does is establish the new normal, which is equally important in my opinion. The new normal becomes the new benchmark. The new point of comparison in the change management process. Even if it’s for an hour or a day.
Even when we’re going through changes that we want, like accepting a promotion or moving to a new city, change is hard. Being unsettled is hard. Refreezing allows us to say, “Ah, at last! No more change. At least for now.” Even though we all know that another change is right around the corner. Refreezing is like a temporary moment where we get to take a break. And I think – no, I know – we need that. Yea, it might be a Jedi mind trick but that’s okay. For a few days or weeks, things are calm.
There’s one other thing that refreezing can do in change management. It can allow organizations or individuals to stop and ask the question, “Do we need to change?” Every day, we’re told about better, faster, and cheaper ways of working or living. We can’t do them all. Refreezing allows us to say, “Should we try this? What are the pros/cons?” and compare the answers to our new normal. That doesn’t mean we won’t ever try it, but maybe not right now. Maybe our refreeze state is good enough for the time being.
While change will always be a part of our lives, we don’t have to always be in a constant state of change. Or at least not be in a constant state of major change. As individuals, having a few moments to stop, breathe, and celebrate our success can be exactly the motivation we need to tackle the next big change coming our way.15