Twentieth-century psychologist Kurt Lewin developed an influential three-stage model of how organizational change occurs. Lewin’s model was based on his observations of group dynamics and organizational development. This “unfreezing-change-refreeze” model focuses on how people can be motivated to accept organizational change and reject and replace the status quo with a new approach.
The chart below outlines the three stages.
|Unfreezing||People in the organization made aware of problems/performance gap and need for change||This diagnosis stage is often driven by a change agent|
|Changing||People experiment with new workplace behavior to deal with needed change||This intervention stage features specific training plans for managers and employees|
|Refreezing||People employ new skills and attitudes and are rewarded by organization||Changes are institutionalized in the corporate culture|
Lewin argued that organizational “refreezing” offered people a sense of stability, but that it should be a brief stage, as further change might become necessary. As consultant Ron Knowles has written:
“Refreezing” implies a return to a previously frozen state, but this is clearly unrealistic and not what Lewin intended. He envisioned a continuous process of unfreezing, changing and refreezing, during which one set of changes is followed by another set of changes in a constantly evolving pattern.
For COMMENTARY from D. Quinn Mills, professor emeritus, Harvard Business School, on Kurt Lewin’s Change Model, please click here.
For information on MindEdge’s online self-paced “Leading Change” course, please click here.
Copyright © 2009 MindEdge
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