Lewin’s Change Model- Lewin’s Change Management Model of 3 Stage

Lewin’s Change Model- Lewin’s Change Management Model and Lewin’s Change Theory. Lewin’s change model consists of three stages, such as unfreeze, change & refreeze. Change Communication during Change Management.

Lewin’s Change Model

Lewin’s change model refers to the three stages of management change theory. The three stages of Lewin’s change model are unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. Lewin’s change model is also known as Lewin’s change theory. The alternative name of the Lewin change model is the three-step change model or Lewin 3 stage model or Kurt Lewin change model or Kurt Lewin change theory or Lewin model, or unfreeze change refreeze model.

In 1947, Kurt Lewin introduced the 3 phases of the change management model known as Kurt Lewin’s change model. Researchers and scientists established many models to describe organizational changes such as Kotter’s Change Management Model, Kübler-Ross Five Stage Change Management, ADKAR Change Management Model, McKinsey 7-S Change, Management Model, also Lewin’s Change Model or Theory. Lewin’s change model has become the most popular for its simplicity and fewer stages, for example, unfreeze, change, and refreeze.

Nowadays, researchers have developed multiple theories based on Lewin’s change management 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 management model is controversial in modern organizations. It has excellent theoretical significance in the research arena rather than practical importance.

Lewin’s Change Model Real-Life Example

Many reputed companies apply Lewin’s change management model to survive in the current situation. For example, Netflix has applied a change model to adjust to the digital era. Netflix’s change management process handled the force of organizational change to achieve a competitive advantage. Now, they are one of the most successful companies globally. Netflix is a real-life example of Lewin’s change management model. It is known as Lewin’s Change Model Business Example.

Lewin’s Change Management Model Example

An ice block cannot get converted into a new shape without melting it. So it would be best if you created a hot environment to melt the ice block. The temperature must be more than 32°F (0°C) temperature to melt the ice. So, here, increasing the temperature denotes the unfreezing stage.

According to Lewin’s theory, unfreezing refers to preparation for accepting the new norms of the workplace. It is the initial stage to get ready to accept the change. The management needs to motivate 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 it into a pot to give it a 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. Melting the ice denotes the change stage of Lewin’s theory.

According to Lewin’s theory, changing refers to accepting the new norms and moving on to change. The employee starts to change and accept the new norm of the working place.

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

Refreezing refers to adjusting to the new norms of the workplace. The employee has already accepted the change, and they adjust to the new environment.

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

Lewin’s Change Theory Examples

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. These educational institutes are applying online meeting platforms, for example, Zoom, Google Meet, to conduct virtual classes and organizational meetings. It was a new experience for lecturers; therefore, they were afraid of uncertainty and interested in taking online courses. But, the university authority compels them to accept the change. The university authority maintains effective communication through social media platforms to motivate employees to get change. They thought that organizational change would help achieve competitive advantages as the other educational institutes adopt the changes. So, finally, they accept the change and adjust to the new working environment. It is a perfect example of Lewin’s Change Theory.

Lewin’s Stages of Change

The three stages of Lewin’s change model are:
  1. Unfreeze stage
  2. Change stage
  3. Refreeze stage
Lewin's Change Model- Lewin change theory
Figure 1: Lewin’s Change Model or Theory

Unfreeze Change Refreeze

1. Unfreeze Stage

Unfreeze is the initial stage or step of Lewin’s change model or Lewin’s change management model. In this stage, employees take mental preparation to accept the change of the organization. In the management system, unfreeze stage refers to breaking down the existing state of circumstances to take the organizational changes. Usually, employees feel comfortable in the organization’s current condition; therefore, some do not like to accept organizational change quickly due to uncertainty. The unfreezing stage consists of the process of educating people about opportunities for 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 organizational change through effective change communication. It is essential to maintain effective interaction within the organization to persuade employees to accept change. Employees will receive the change if they can understand the new things cannot protect the company or organization from surviving.  Additionally, they need to realize that change is essential to sustain the organization and achieve competitive advantages.

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

Communication During the Unfreeze Stage

The primary communication objective is to prepare stakeholders, employees, and the organization to accept the change – “Readying” the organization. However, resistance will increase at the same speed with how huge the change is and how much it affects the organization. Effective communication can overcome resistance. In order to ‘ready’ the organization for accepting the change, it is essential to declare the objective of the change. Additionally, you have to ensure that everyone in the organization knows what will happen and why. The first factor 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 when everyone in the organization decides to accept the change with positive motivation. Employees receive and adjust to the new working atmosphere. Changes can be major or minor based on the organization’s needs. The organization needs to provide sufficient training and support for the employees to embrace the changes. It is the stage of implementing the entire process of changes; therefore, many issues need to be done consciously. Some employees may spread misleading information due to having insufficient knowledge about organizational change. So, the organization needs to practice an effective communication process within organization to avoid 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 lies that have less information about the process of change. The communication has to have a more specific character in this stage than in the previous phase. Communication in these steps is essential to provide authentic, accurate, and detailed information on what will happen to those who have less sketchy details on implementing changes. Finally, it distributes the new responsibility among assigned people in the organization.

3. Refreeze Stage 

In this stage, employees adjust to the organizational change day by day. Refreezing is a slow process of adopting the new culture and atmosphere of the corporate 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. So, refreezing is the most crucial 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

The communication process should answer 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.

Kurt Lewin 1951 References
  • Lewin, K. (1951). Forces of change: Field theory in social science.
Citation for this Article (APA 7th Edition)

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

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