Resistance to change could be overcome on an enduring basis by systematically planning and implementing the process of change. Kurt Lewin identified the following phases in the process of planned change :
(1) unfreezing the status quo,
(2) moving to a new level, and
(3) refreezing at the new level. These are discussed below :
(1) Unfreezing. It refers to making individual aware that the present behaviour is inappropriate, irrelevant, inadequate and hence unsuitable to the changing demands of the present situation. Edgar Schein outlines the following elements which are vitally necessary during this unfreezing phase :
(i) Support for the old way of doing things must be removed by recognizing its inadequacies.
The first stage is basically a fact-finding process. It is most effective when employees are fully involved, not merely told by management that changes will take place. For instance, an office wants to investigate replacing its typewriters with computers. The office manager would be wise to ask typists for their problems in using the old typewriters.
(ii) Alternative plans of action should be evaluated and the best plan chosen. Again, employees’ involvement in evaluation can be valuable in gaining their acceptance of the plan finally chosen. In the office we just mentioned, for example, the typists might be asked to try out computers and then report on their efficiency, filing space, convenience with floppy discs and ease of correction.
(iii) Attempt should be made to gain commitment to change. To do this, the manager must overcome the natural resistance to change of those who are affected by it.(iv) If necessary, willingness to change should be linked with rewards and unwillingness to change with punishments.
(2) Implementing Change: Once the subordinates become receptive to change, the manager as a change agent, should introduce the proposed changes in a systematic manner with the full cooperation of the subordinates. They should be given intensive orientation as to the behavioural changes necessary for successful introduction of the proposed change so that adaptation to the new environment takes shape as desired.
(3) Refreezing: It is a phase of stabilisation, assimilation and institutionalization of the changes that are successfully implemented. Such changes should remain as a stable and permanent characteristic of the system until another need arises for change. The new roles, relationships and behavioural patterns should be allowed to take on the characteristics of habits. The subordinates should get a genuine feeling that the benefits generated by the change are worthwhile.
Although the success of a change attempt depends on completion of the latter two steps (moving and refreezing), an organisation’s ability to adapt must first be determined by whether or not its current level of functioning can be unfrozen. That is, if the organisation neither perceives a need to change even if one actually exists nor possesses the desire or ability to alter the status quo, voluntary changes will presumably not be initiated, thus ending possible organisational adaptation before it begins. Identification of the sources of organisational resistance to change, and the sources of impetus for change and the organisational characteristics that accommodate imbalance between these forces should be dealt with, since, obviously, the balance between these forces cannot be systematically upset (unfrozen) until the sources are identified.