Kurt Lewin’s Ideas for Change Management

As I stepped out of the house the other morning, the chill in the air made me groan, as I had forgotten to cover my windscreen on the car overnight. Sure enough, it was covered in ice. I picked up the de-icer from my car boot and did the necessaries on the windscreen.

The heater refused to do its job quickly and, before long, the windscreen had refrozen, meaning I had to sit in my drive waiting for some warmth to blow from the heater and clear the screen again, before I could set off in safety.

Change Management

On my journey, the whole escapade reminded me of Kurt Lewin’s ideas concerning how change actually takes place. He talked about the concept of unfreezing the current situation, re-arranging the conditions so change can fluidly take place, then re-freezing so that the changes made can be reinforced.

By unfreezing, Lewin determined that the existing situation cannot be tolerated anymore and resistance to change should be minimised. This entails management detailing what the consequences of any change would be for all stakeholders and also outlining what would happen if change did not take place. This is like my use of the de-icer on the windscreen, unfreezing the current icy situation.

During the second phase, fluidity, participants in change let go of old ways of working and start to adopt new ways of behaving and, sometimes, attitudinal changes are required. If a large change is required, it may take some time for the fluidity to actually make a difference. This reminds us of continuous improvement being the norm if we wish to advance to make a difference. My de-icer worked for a while as this metamorphosis was taking place.

Finally, Lewin talks about refreezing, the reinforcement of change so that the new ways become stabilised. People tend to drift back to how things were before change because of a human state of homeostasis, where a more comfortable position is sought after. If management do not allow staff to become comfortable with the new regime, experimenting with new ideas and being allowed to take risks at times, this metamorphosis may not be stable when fully introduced. The refreezing of my windscreen reminded me of this.

So, Lewin summed up his change ideas by saying we need to:

Recognise the need for change

Diagnose and plan the change

Manage the transition

Measure results and maintain the changes

Seems like a good plan to drive and maintain any change initiative.

Many thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training

MTD Training   

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Updated on: 9 March, 2012

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