Change is necessary for organizations to innovate, evolve and grow. In Harvard Business School Professor David Garvin’s online course, Management Essentials, he outlines a three-stage framework that leaders can use to simplify the process and ensure successful change management.

Stage 1: Preparing the Organization for Change

First, in what psychologist Kurt Lewin deems the 'unfreezing stage,' managers must help employees recognize the need for change and ensure they are all on board with the effort.

Garvin explains that managers must take the following steps to set the scene for change:

  • Generate dissatisfaction with the status quo
  • Create a sense of direction for the organization
  • Build a coalition to help lead the change
  • Craft a vision and accompanying plan
  • Convey a picture of the future that is compelling and believable

Stage 2: Altering How the Organization Does Business

The next step is to alter the company’s strategies, structures, systems, processes, and, most importantly, employee behaviors. Lewin suggests this is the most difficult stage because it requires people to change their behaviors, which are often deeply ingrained. In this stage, managers must: 

  • Clarify which behaviors are unacceptable and unacceptable
  • Adjust key structures and incentive systems to succeed
  • Repeat communication of the vision
  • Model good behavior

It is important to set clear expectations about how people should behave and work while also empowering their teams along the way. This means allowing people to suggest changes in their own processes that eliminate roadblocks and increase their own effectiveness. 

Stage 3: Making Sure Changes Stick

We can think of this as the 'refreezing' stage. To make sure new changes stick, managers must make sure it is firmly anchored in the organization's culture. This means paying close attention to structures, controls, systems, and rewards to ensure that teams don’t revert back to old ways of doing business. 

Leaders must focus on:

  • Embedding changes fully into a culture
  • Preventing backsliding
  • Institutionalizing the new ways of working
  • Reviewing progress

To implement change across an organization, it's critical to be thoughtful and deliberate about the process. Following a framework like the one laid out in Management Essentials can simplify the process and increase chances of success.