Lewin’s Change Management Theory

Change is constant; whether you work for a large corporation, mom and pop business, or a start-up.  We live in a culture of light-speed information, so the adoption of a change management process that allows some flexibility is worth considering.

Change Management

Kurt Lewin’s Change Management Model is one of my favorites. It provides a process of evaluation one can follow before moving to the next step. You might ask why is this important; over the years I have seen organizations implement an entire system of change and expect the staff to immediately adapt to it. What we end up seeing is exceptionally high turnover, poor services, poor quality, and ultimately, a loss in revenue. Some executives will say “this is just a learning curve;” I would counter that the new system was implemented much too quickly.

Change Management has four stages of development:

  1. Prepare
  2. Design
  3. Execute
  4. Sustain

Each phase has an important role, and must be adhered to maximize success. This requires a huge commitment. The change management system that will work best for your company may simply be one that is the simplest to execute.   

Lewin’s Model

Lewin’s model is one of the more effective and popular change management models developed in the 21st century.  It requires exactly THREE elements:

  • Unfreezing
  • Make changes
  • Refreezing

UNFREEZING

Step one is to strip your current management system down. Start by retraining key members of your team. A significant amount of time will be getting your team to recognize, dedicate and implement change. This period may be the toughest phase simply because it’s the most psychologically difficult to adjust to. For some, however, change will be welcome.  For these staff change is much needed and they will flourish. During this period you will not just be asking your company to change its organizational culture, but also asking for creative ideas to move the company forward.

Make Changes

Phase two is the “transition phase.” New structures are being implemented, so this phase may create some degree of culture shock.  During this phase you may experience varying degrees of resistance and confusion as people get to know their new roles or are gaining familiarity with new processes. Pay particular attention to behaviors as most people are creatures of habit, so some may revert back to old habits. It is important to note that this too is a process. The situation will improve as your team starts to see the benefits of this new system and recognizes how they will benefit from it. Additionally, this process underscores the importance of effective communication. Your team will always benefit from better communication. Good communications shows that the company and its management are actively engaged in the process. Addressing concerns early and often is another key to successfully navigating change.

Remember, this is the take action phase that involves “people,” so celebrate achievements, both big and small.

Freeze

One of the biggest mistakes I see a company make during this phase is to introduce a new “process” without the previous process being fully integrated. When this happens “the team” can revert back to old ideologies and habits. “Freezing” is a temporary time to change behaviors or improve a process. It is a time to make sure change has taken place. After the change has occurred we can unfreeze and introduce another process or area and start again.

Operationally, Kurt Lewin’s Model of Change Management has the added benefit of a “Freezing” phase to allow an organization to evaluate process, albeit temporary. Only after processes look strong do we then proceed. This model was designed due to the fact that Lewin understood that when organizations change too fast they will tend to not accept the “new” methods, but instead go back to their old ways.

Lewin’s Tips

  1. Make sure you communicate often.
  2. Make sure you support the team.
  3. Training, training, training.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on how you see and view this model. Please leave your comments for me and I will respond asap.

You can reach out to me personally at  Lee@MBSConflictresolution.com

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