How to really change behaviour: three steps to a shift in thinking

Image for Emmeline Woodward By Emmeline Woodward

Introducing change in an agency can be more complicated than we’d like to think. Surely a team of dynamic, creative people will be enthusiastic and open-minded? But the reality is that, for many people, change just seems like more hard work. It can feel a real challenge to get them onboard. Not impossible, though. There’s a really effective three-stage process you can use to make change happen and keep people happy.

It’s not news that implementing a new system into your agency doesn’t happen overnight. You’ve done the groundwork, found the right system, invested your time and money, trained everyone up, shared the benefits... but still there’s a persistence from team members to revert to their old ways. It can feel aaargggh, how much more can you do?!

The truth is, you can introduce as many new systems and processes as you like, but the only real change comes from people adapting and changing. Once you’ve made this happen, you’ll start to notice all the benefits you hoped for from your new system.

The cold, hard theory

Because you can't argue with science... Lewin’s Three Step Change Management Model outlines three key stages behind change. This model is a brilliant tool to understand how to best get everyone in your agency engaged and enthused.

It breaks the process down into three stages: Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze. The concept is simple. Imagine you have a block of ice that you’d like to be a different shape. First you can melt it (unfreeze), then you can pour it into a different mould (change) then you solidify it into its new shape (refreeze).

This approach is as important as the design, implementation and training processes – without effective change management, system implementations can fail and agencies revert back to their old habits. Which nobody wants after all the time, money and energy invested in moving away from them in the first place.

How to use each step:


This is where you lay the groundwork. Talk to your teams about how and why change is necessary, explaining that simply maintaining the status quo will lead to stagnation. Give them an idea of the benefits upfront, such as better working practices and increased profits.

Here, you need to set out a clear vision of how things will be once the system is officially up and running. Build momentum, get some enthusiasm going and you’ll be well ahead come implementation time. Now’s also a good time to manage and respond to any fears, doubts and resistance, helping to smooth out any worries across the team.


Communication is key here, not just in terms of clarity but also frequency. Essentially, you need to hammer home the reasons for change and the benefits. Talk to different teams about the specific benefits for them and involve people in the process as much as you can. Active participation will lead to much more engagement than enforced adoption.

Make sure you’re giving everyone as much training and support as they need, with line managers offering day-to-day direction. This isn’t about a first rush of keenness followed by a lull. It’s about embedding new practices into your team’s habits until they simply become routine.


This is where you make sure changes are long term. Beyond the initial training, keep up regular top-up training and support. Remember to praise frequently, celebrating small wins and improved outcomes you’ve noticed as a result of adoption. Keep asking for feedback so you can navigate any resistance before it becomes a problem down the line.

It might feel like you’re taking on extra work by looking at change management as well as a new system implementation. But you’re playing the long game. Just bringing in a system and telling everyone to put up and shut up will lead to resentment, and before long you’ll have a shiny new system no one will use. But understanding the theory, getting everyone engaged and excited, encouraging proactive participation and responding to any fears will lead to real, lasting change. Propel your agency forward and make your agency an appealing and dynamic place to work.


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