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A look into what change really is

In case you haven’t heard the news, I’ll be releasing a book in the coming months called Thriving in Change (working title). To celebrate its release, I’ll be sharing sneak peeks of the book right here on the blog.

First, let’s take a look at what change really is:


According to Kurt Lewin, change consists of three distinct and vital stages:

  1. Unfreezing

Unfreezing is the process which involves finding a method of making it possible for people to let go of an old pattern that was counterproductive in some way.

  1. Moving to a new level or Changing or Movement

This stage involves a process of change in thoughts, feeling, behavior, or all three, that is in some way more liberating or more productive.

  1. Refreezing

Refreezing is establishing the change as a new habit so that it now becomes the “standard operating procedure.” Without this stage of refreezing, it is easy to go back to the old ways.


Then there’s William Bridges’ definition, which defines change as entirely situational, occurring without people transitioning (transition being a psychological process where people gradually accept the details of the new situation and the changes that come with it).

Meanwhile, in the organisational context, change is simply defined as purely physical – visioning, reengineering, restructuring, reorganizing, etc.


However, there is another side to change. There is the ‘transition’ that people experience – the discomfort, the letting go, the rebuilding, and the learning.

Good organisational change management actively manages both processes (the situational/physical as defined by Bridges and most organisations, and the emotional aspect as well).


Take this example: If I ask people to move desks, that is a physical change. People move and I can tick my checklist to say that I have done my job. However, what I haven’t done is find out how people might feel about the change. I haven’t spoken to them and explained the rationale for the move. I haven’t given them the opportunity to have their views heard, or to have any input into the move. I haven’t allowed them the time to process, to consider and to raise any concerns. In other words, I haven’t managed the emotional transition.


You may be wondering, is managing the emotional transition of change really all that important? And the answer is yes! Change, while it often seems hard, allows us to learn and grow. Challenging changes allow us the opportunity to test our mettle, to emerge from the change process stronger, wiser, and more resilient. And extensive research has shown that the more resilient and adaptive people are (whether in their personal lives or in their professional ones), the more they will thrive. They’re happier for it and tend to be more successful as well.

However, none of this can be gained without the thorough mental reflection and emotional evaluation that should always be pursued in the midst of change. It’s essential that you examine the lessons you’ve learned, the key takeaways you’re walking away with, the understanding of how you’ve grown and how you’ve been shaped as a result of the experience. When you do so, you’ll truly begin to thrive in change.


Remember, over the next couple of months, I will be providing even more ‘sneak peeks’ of Thriving in Change along with exclusive content that will help you better handle change in your own life.

We’ll discuss the different types of change, our many reactions to it, how change impacts people in different ways, how change can affect company culture, the characteristics of resilient people, and more! Stay tuned!

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4 replies on “A look into what change really is”

Thanks, Ros.

When you talk about addressing emotional change above, is that similar to getting buy-in from everyone involved in the change (rather than simply dictating the changes that are happening with no inclusion / input by other parties)? Or is there more to the emotional changes than that?


Hi Mike,
There is a lot involved in managing the emotional transition associated with change. People go through stages, a bit like a trapeze artist transitioning from swing to swing – there is a letting go of the bar (the old), a period of space where there is neither old or new, and then finally we find the hands of the catcher (find the new and settle in). There are techniques for managing each stage of the transition, both as leaders and as humans who are also impacted by the change. Getting buy in to change is part of the process, but there is more to it.
Great question!


Managing change is so important and I agree that addressing the emotional impact is key. People, I believe, then begin to feel part of the changes that are going on around them rather then being ‘told’ what is happening and they have no voice in it.

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