Lewin's Change Management Model
Regardless of the company size, age, and niche, how organizational teams accept, employ and execute change is the key part of today’s change management. Now there are various approaches that companies embrace for change management, but the very first one still remains popular amongst industries. And that is Kurt Lewin’s 3 Stage Change Model.
It is a simple model that defines how to manage change behavior in a realistic way.
What is Lewin’s 3-Stage Change Management Model?
First introduced by Kurt Lewin- the one who started it all, a prominent leader in change management, was a social scientist and physicist back in the 1940s. He was one of the very first individuals to research organizational development and group dynamics. Lewin introduced the 3-step Model of Change to evaluate the change process in enterprises and determine how the status-quo needs to be challenged to identify potential changes.
The theory proposes that one individual’s behavior towards a projected change is a measure of group behavior. Therefore, any force or interaction that impacts the group structure will also affect an individual’s behavior, so a group structure must be considered a core element during the change process.
The 3-Stage Model of Change defines the status-quo as the current scenario, but a change process should eventually evolve into a future anticipated state. Therefore, companies must evaluate the complexity and totality of the group field to understand the group behavior and the behavior of individual members during the change process. This is also referred to as Field Theory- a standard concept used to develop change models.
Kurt Lewin’s Change theory model was developed with a 3-step process that guides companies with a high-level approach to adapt to change and make improvements. In addition, it features a framework to employ change efforts across your enterprise seamlessly.
Lewin’s Change Model helps IT, leaders with the following decisions:
- Make innovations seamlessly
- Reduce the rate of bottlenecks in business operations
- Ensure the improvements are consistent
With this model, IT managers will know how to deal with people when employing change. The three stages of Lewin’s Model of Change guide you to make people adapt to the change seamlessly. Managers will employ new processes and re-assign tasks, but it can only be effective if team members embrace the change and practice it optimistically.
Why Use Lewin’s Change Management Model?
Lewin’s 3-stage change theory might seem too simplistic but effectively identifies bad patterns or overlooked problems. Moreover, it provides a fresh approach to change management.
Here’s why companies need to use Lewin’s Change theory:
- Easy to implement: As compared to other change management models, Lewin's change theory is relatively easier to implement. How companies accept and manage change can greatly vary, based on the business nature, people involved, and scope of change. Most part of the theory depends upon how individuals will understand the change process from start to finish. It only has three stages which are relatively simple to implement. Besides, the transition time between Unfreeze and Change stage makes it acceptable to seasoned employees or new employees. Therefore, the success of your change management significantly depends on the shared acceptance of change in these two groups.
- Helps promote long-lasting change: The success rate of organizational transformations is not really promising. Before enterprises think about how to change, they need to focus mainly on what to change. With a rapid evolution of business environments, misdiagnosing what needs to be changed and faulty implementation can really result in failures. Change management gone wrong can considerably affect business performance, people involved and work efficiency. In Lewin’s change theory, the Unfreeze stage allows for an optimal transition period before the change is really implemented. This gives your people substantial time to overcome their concerns and adapt to the change process. Besides, the business leaders also get enough time to reflect on their future desired state and improve to meet the objectives.
- The gradual approach brings consistency: The key to success in change management is consistency and willingness to adapt to the change effort. The gradual approach of Lewin’s change theory creates momentum, and it only gets bigger. Lewin’s theory proposes a gradual yet consistent change process to reap maximum benefits from full implementation. The main aim behind Unfreeze stage of Lewin’s theory is to understand more about a change, which will create urgency and motivation for people to accept change. This idea creates momentum, which drives change.
What are the three phases of the change management cycle?
Lewin’s theory emphasizes creating motivation for change before the change actually occurs. It has three main stages:
- Unfreeze: The first stage of change is- Unfreeze, which involves primary preparation of change acceptance across the organization. The process involves a breakdown of the current status quo before creating new workflows for structure operations. To succeed in the unfreeze stage, you need to design a compelling message and emphasize changing existing ways. Often, this is easy to frame as you can utilize poor financial outcomes, declining sales, poor customer satisfaction rates, etc., for an explanation. To prepare your organization and its people for change, you need to challenge the core values, beliefs, behavior, and attitude that exist. This may evoke strong first reactions from individuals and force them to re-examine their assumptions of change. As a result, you can effectively build momentum, which in turn motivates people to accept change. Without this motivation, leaders won’t really get the desired zeal and buy-ins needed to drive meaningful change.
- Change: Once the unfreeze stage builds that uncertainty, the change stage will drive people to find solutions and employ new ways to do things. People will start to accept, believe and behave in ways that support new objectives. The transition period between unfreeze and change stage demands time, and it doesn't happen overnight. People need time to embrace new work cultures and proactively contribute to the change. To embrace change and make it successful, people first need to understand the benefits it will reap. Do not accept every individual to accept change right away, just because it is the need of the hour. Instead, you must discern these situations and handle them strategically. Communication and time are keys to remain consistent in the change process. Give people time to understand the change, accept it, get used to it, and recognize its benefits.
- Refreeze: When finally people accept and implement change, the organization is all set to refreeze. Stable charts, consistent job descriptions, etc., are functions of the refreeze. This stage allows the organization and its people to use the changes all the time, consistently into day-to-day business workflows. Such stability makes employees confident to adapt to the new ways of doing things. Creating this sense of consistency might seem insignificant, but it is essential for change management. Without it, employees might feel trapped and unsure of how to do things, making it harder to get things done on time. You need to allow time for recent changes to sink in and promote ways to sustain this change in the long run.