The When of Change Management (Part1)

Thinking of all your standard questions, how, what and why is probably best followed by when. I’ve done recent posts about how to change (Kotter) what is involved (change symphony) and why to use change management. So this is all about when to change.

Kurt Lewin has one of the simplest change management models that you could want to understand. It has just 3 stages: Unfreeze, change, freeze (or sometimes referred to as refreeze). I love the simplicity of this model, and although there have been many more models since this was put out there in the 1950’s it still holds true as a description of the process of change.

Taking forward this model, the time to change is when you are ready to unfreeze. That is when you are in the position to begin changing things. How do you know when this occurs? Good question! In simple terms it is the point in time when all the drivers for change are in place and ready to go.

What does this mean in simple terms? If it’s an IT project then this is the time where the business is ready to integrate, roll out or put in place the software or hardware across the business units, divisions or company! If it’s a process change, this is when we say – here you go do it this way now, or maybe its when the new office is bought and the business is ready to move.

OK, so those are all a bit simplistic, and I am sure you are aware from reading my other pieces you will understand that there is more to do before you go to this stage, and that true! You need to prepare for change and a good change manager will most definitely work on the learning, communications and cultural aspects of the business and its people to get ready for this point in time. However, in most cases the change point will be determined by an operational or project manager! However, that has nothing to do with the business being in a good shape to undergo change, that’s just a functional, operational or business driver to make things happen.

I’d like to turn things a little up on their head here! Let’s ignore projects and operational units, and examine cultural readiness and willingness to change. Well perhaps not today, but in the next part of the when of change!

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