Lewin’s Change Management Model In A Nutshell

Lewin’s change management model helps businesses manage the uncertainty and resistance associated with change. Kurt Lewin, one of the first academics to focus his research on group dynamics, developed a three-stage model. He proposed that the behavior of individuals happened as a function of group behavior.

Understanding Lewin’s change management model

No business is immune to change in the rapidly changing global marketplace of today. While change is certainly not a new concept, many organizations nevertheless fail to implement change management strategies. 

To help provide a framework for change, social psychologist Kurt Lewin developed a three-stage model. Lewin was one of the first academics to research organizational development and group dynamics. He proposed that the behavior of an individual in response to change was a function of group behavior.

From his research, Lewin also noted that the model should evaluate two core ideas:

  1. The change process in organizational contexts.
  2. How the status-quo might be challenged to facilitate effective change.

Lewin wanted his model to be easily implemented with minimal disruption to business operations. He also wanted to explain how change might be permanently adopted.

The three stages of Lewin’s change management model

Each of Lewin’s three stages is vital in successfully instituting change. They describe the nature and implementation of change and common obstacles that result.

Stage 1 – Unfreeze

The unfreezing stage involves readying a business for change by ensuring that all staff understand its importance.

Four important steps characterize the first stage:

  1. Gauge the need for change. A Current State Analysis (CSA) can be performed to determine what needs to change and why. This will mean challenging and then breaking down the status quo, which may require difficult conversations. Existing behaviors or practices will need to be revisited and then revised.
  2. Gather support from key management personnel or interested stakeholders.
  3. Develop a strategy for communicating change. The strategy should be a vision that aligns with company goals or objectives where applicable. Above all, the strategy needs to be persuasive.
  4. Manage doubt and uncertainty. Some will inevitably oppose change, but a framework such as the Force Field Analysis can make it less intimidating by assessing a list of pros and cons.

Stage 2 – change

By the second stage, most individuals have thawed out and ready to move toward a future desired state. 

Nevertheless, many will feel uncertain and apprehensive about the transition process. To manage employees during this critical juncture, consider these tips.

  • Leadership should clearly communicate the benefits of change, both for the individual and the business.
  • A regular meeting should be held to address concerns and provide support where necessary. This dismisses hearsay which can run rampant through a department and cause panic.
  • Appropriate action should be role-modeled by management, who should also design quick wins to empower and motivate employees toward appropriate action.

Stage 3 – Refreeze

The goal of the final stage is to ensure that change is incorporated into the organizational culture. 

Ultimately, all staff must consider the change as the new status quo. Otherwise, there is potential that they revert to old habits.

To counteract this, businesses should:

  • Link new changes into broader company culture through the identification of change supporters and change barriers.
  • Brainstorm methods of sustaining change long term. This can be done through incentivization and regular performance evaluation. Leadership should also be highly visible in promoting change as a means of influencing group dynamics and behavior.
  • Provide formal and informal training and support to employees who are finding it particularly difficult to adjust. 

Key takeaways

  • Lewin’s change management model provides a simple yet effective framework for businesses wishing to institute change.
  • Lewin’s change management model argues that the capacity for change in an individual is strongly influenced by group dynamics. As a result, the model has a strong focus on the role of leadership during the change process.
  • Lewin’s change management model describes three stages common to most change processes. Businesses can use the three stages to remove the status quo, guide employees through the transitional process, and then ensure that implemented changes become part of organizational culture.

Read Next: Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

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Gennaro Cuofano

Gennaro is the creator of FourWeekMBA which reached over a million business students, executives, and aspiring entrepreneurs in 2020 alone | He is also Head of Business Development for a high-tech startup, which he helped grow at double-digit rate | Gennaro earned an International MBA with emphasis on Corporate Finance and Business Strategy | Visit The FourWeekMBA BizSchool | Or Get The FourWeekMBA Flagship Book "100+ Business Models"