Kurt Lewin’s Change Model- Three Stages of Management Change

Lewin’s Change Model- Three Steps of Change Management Unfreezing Changing & Refreezing Model. Change Communication during Change Management.

Table of Contents

  • Lewin’s Change Model
  • Three Steps of Change Model (Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze)
  • Communication during 3 Stages of Change Model.

Lewin’s Change Model

In 1947, Kurt Lewin introduced the three-step change management model that is known as Lewin’s Change Model. Although there have some change management models established by different scholars such as Kotter’s Change Management Model, Kübler-Ross Five Stage Change Management, ADKAR Change Management Model, McKinsey 7-S Change Management Model,   Model, and Lewin’s Change Management Model. Lewin’s three-step change management model has become the most popular for its simplicity and fewer stages.

Nowadays, researchers have developed many theories based on Lewin’s change model. So, it is the foundation of all modern change management theories. For example, John Kotter’s 8-stage management change model was developed based on Lewin’s change model. Now, the management system is complex compared to before when the model was introduced. Therefore, the practice of Lewin’s change model is controversial in modern organizations. It has a great theoretical significance in the research arena rather than practical importance.

Lewin's change model

Example of Lewin’s Change Model

An ice block cannot be transformed into a new shape without melting it. So you need to create a hot environment to melt the ice block. Definitely, the temperature has to be more than 32°F (0°C) temperature to melt the ice. So, here, increasing the temperature is similar to the unfreezing that motivates employees to accepts change. It will take time to transform the entire ice block into the water.  Keep the glass in an isolated place and ensure the temperature is suitable for melting ice. When the ice block completely transforms into water, pour them into a pot to give the new shape. For example, pour all water into a glass melted from the ice block. Here, pouring the water into a glass is changing steps or moving stage.

Finally, keeping the glass in a cold place to transform the water into ice again. This is the way of frozen the water again into a new solid shape. It is called the process of refreezing and the final stage of Lewin’s change model.

The summary of the model was that successful management change is accomplished through a three-stage process; unfreezing, changing or moving, and freezing or refreezing.

Below, the author has discussed the three-step of management change elaborately.

1. Unfreeze Stage

Unfreeze is the initial stage or step of Lewin’s change model. In this stage, employees take mental preparation to accept the change of the organization. In the management system, unfreeze stage refers to the process of breaking down the existing state of circumstances to accept the organizational changes. Usually, employees feel comfortable in the existing condition of the organization therefore, some of them do not like to accept organizational change easily due to uncertainty. The unfreezing stage consists of the process of educating people about the opportunities of organizational change. The organization should practice the change communication strategy to prepare employees for the change.

The key point of this stage is to compel employees to accept the organizational change through effective change communication. It is important to maintain effective interaction within the organization to persuade employees to accept change. Employees will accept the change if they can understand the current way of doing things cannot protect the company or organization from surviving.  Additionally, they need to understand that change is essential to survive the organization as well as achieve competitive advantages.

A high level of positive motivation among employees helps to accept the organizational changes. The organization needs to persuade the stakeholders that the change will bring benefits to everyone. Some people will accept it easily but some of them will deny it at the initial time. Finally, everyone will come up with the motivation to accept the change.

Example of Lewin’s Change Model in the COVID 19 Pandemic

For example, the educational institute has shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, all organizations including educational institutes decided to conduct virtual or online classes to ensure the continuation of education for students. It was a new experience for lecturers therefore they were afraid of uncertainty as well as interested to take online classes. But, the university authority compels them to accept the change. The university authority maintains effective communication through social media platforms to motivate employees to accept change, They thought that accepting the organizational change will help to achieve competitive advantages as the other educational institutes are adopting the changes.

Communication During the Unfreeze Stage
  • Primary communication objective – to prepare stakeholders, employees, and the organization to accept the change – “Readying” the organization.
  • Resistance will increase at the same speed with how huge the change is and how much it affects the organization.
  • However, effective communication can overcome the resistance.
  • In order to ‘ready’ the organization for accepting the change, it is important to declare the objective of the change.
  • Make sure everyone in the organization knows what is going to happen, and why.
  • The first factor that must be communicated for change, by pointing out the difference between actual outcomes and desired outcomes. This first message or declaration should come from the top-level management of the organization to avoid communication conflict.
2. Change (Move) Stage

Actual changes take place in this stage and everyone in the organization decides to accept the change with positive motivation. Employees accept and adjust to the new working atmosphere. Changes can be major or minor based on the organization’s need. The organization needs to provide sufficient training and support for the employees to embrace the changes. It is the stage of implementing the full process of changes, therefore, a lot of issues need to be done consciously. Some employees may spread misleading information due to having insufficient information about organizational change. So, the organization needs to practice an effective communication process within organization to avoid those types of unwanted issues. However, at the end of the day, employees will be focused on practicing the new work.

Communication During the Change Stage
  • The organization should ensure effective communication among employees to reduce uncertainty as well as rumors. People may indulge in spreading disinformation and rumors who have less information about the process of changes. The communication has to have a more specific character in this stage than the previous phase.

Communication in these steps is very important to the following purposes:

  • to provide authentic, accurate, and detailed information on what is going to happen to those who have less insufficient information about the implementation of changes.
  • to distribute the new responsibility among assigned people in the organization
3. Refreeze Stage 

In this stage, employees adjust to the organizational change day by day. This is a slow process of adopting the new culture and atmosphere of the organizational workplace. Employees and stakeholders may take a long time to adjust to the new systems. The pace of the practice among employees determines the time of the refreezing stage.  This is the most important stage in Lewin’s change model so, everyone deals with it efficiently. The new attitude and behavior of employees become solidified as the norm of the organization. Finally, everyone starts to feel comfortable as in the previous stage before unfreezing.

Communication During the Refreeze Stage
  • Communication should be focused on answering employees’ queries regarding rewards, control, efficiency, and relationship roles.
  • In this stage, the information flow should be concrete, continuous, and multidirectional, so that employees have a sufficient understanding of the personal associations of the change.
  • Unavoidable misunderstandings may occur in this step so, communication should focus on making the change successful.
  • Lewin, K. (1947). Frontiers in group dynamics: II. Channels of group life; social planning and action research. Human relations1(2), 143-153.
  • Lewin, K. (2016). Frontiers in group dynamics: Concept, method and reality in social science; social equilibria and social change. Human relations.
Citation for this Article (APA 7th Edition)

Kobiruzzaman, M. M. (2021). Kurt Lewin’s Change Model: Three Steps Management Change. Educational Website For Online Learning. https://newsmoor.com/lewins-change-model-3-steps-management-change-and-communication/