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Lewin's Change Management Model

The concept of Change Management is widely accepted in most organisations today. One of the main factors in determining a company’s success depends on how well individuals within the organisation understand the Change process. Kurt Lewin, a social scientist and psychologist, propounded a simple yet effective framework to understand the process of change - Lewin's Change Management Model. Understanding Lewin's Change Management Model can help you implement changes efficiently in your organisation.  

According to Oak Engage's Change Report, 18% of employees consider leaving their job if there is a big change at the workplace. This explains the importance of using the right Change Management models. Read this blog to learn about Lewin's Change Management Model, its three stages, its practical examples and its challenges. 

Table of Contents

1)  What is Lewin's Change Management Model? 

2) What are the three stages in Lewin's model of change? 

3) How to implement Lewin's Change Model? 

4) Practical examples of Lewin's 3-Stage Model 

5) Challenges of Lewin’s Management Model 

6) Conclusion 

What is Lewin's Change Management Model? 

Lewin proposed that both individuals and organisations go through a difficult time during the Change process. The Change involves several stages of transition and confusion before reaching a state of equilibrium. 

To illustrate the organisational Change process, Lewin used the analogy of an ice block transforming into a cone of ice. This happens through a process called “unfreezing”, where the initial rigid state gets altered to make Change easier. Similarly, organisations must go through an unfreezing stage to break the ice and bring Change. 

  

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What are the three stages in Lewin's model of change?

Lewin introduced three clear and simple stages of Change to help employees effectively understand and manage organisational Changes. Let's look at the three stages of the Lewin’s Change Management theory: 

Unfreeze 

The first stage focuses on preparing and motivating people to accept the Change and move beyond their comfort zone. This stage involves creating awareness about the importance of the Change. It is also essential to adopt new ways of working for improved productivity. 

The primary need is to create a compelling message highlighting the necessity to Change an existing approach. This becomes more effective when supported by solid evidence like decreasing sales, unfavourable financial outcomes, or feedback concerning customer satisfaction. The initial phase of the Change Management Process is the most challenging and demanding one. Altering the established procedures and practices creates an off-balance for both individuals and the organisation. 

Change 

This stage is also known as the Transition or Implementation stage, where the acceptance of new ways of doing things occurs. In this stage, individuals are "unfrozen," and the Change is implemented. It requires a carefully developed Change Management Plan, effective communication, and active involvement of individuals to implement the Change. 

However, this stage can be challenging due to uncertainties and people's fears about the outcomes of taking on the Change process. Hence, it is essential to be ready with various Change options, including planned approaches and trial-and-error methods. The company has to carefully analyse successes, failures, and areas of resistance through every Change process. In this evaluation, two critical factors for successful and sustainable change implementation stand out: the flow of information and effective leadership. 

Refreeze 

In the Change process, the final step, known as refreeze, serves the crucial purpose of sustaining the implemented Changes. Its primary goal is to make sure that the individuals involved don’t show resistance against the Change. This phase involves transforming group norms, activities, strategies, and processes to align with the new situation. Without proper steps to sustain Change, there is a risk that the previously dominant characteristics will resurface. It frictions the progress made during the transition. 
 

Three stages in Lewin's Change Management Model

To prevent the accumulating effect of resistive forces, measures must be strong enough to make the new change the "new normal." Achieving this requires both formal and informal mechanisms to adapt to the new Changes within the organisation. Strengthening the Change through these steps helps the organisation to sustain Change. 

How to implement Lewin's Change Model? 

When it comes to organisational change, Kurt Lewin's Change Model can be applied in various different ways. Let's take a look at some of them below: 

1) Behaviour modification and upskilling: Implementing change often requires a shift in employee behaviour and the acquisition of new skills. This involves not only training but also fostering a culture of continuous learning and adaptability. Employees should be encouraged to embrace change as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. By providing ongoing training and support, organisations can ensure that the desired changes become second nature to their workforce. 

2) Changing the existing processes in an organisation: Successful change initiatives often involve reevaluating and, when necessary, redesigning core processes, organisational structures, and information systems. It's crucial to strike a balance between innovation and efficiency. Organisations should carefully analyse how changes in processes and systems will affect their overall efficiency and effectiveness. 

3) Changing the organisation's culture: Culture plays a pivotal role in any change effort. In order to achieve lasting results, changes should be deeply embedded in the organisational culture. This involves aligning the values, beliefs, and behaviours of employees with the goals of the change initiative. Companies that prioritise culture often have extensive culture codes and invest in employee development and upskilling. By nurturing a culture that embraces change and aligns with organisational goals, companies can ensure that change initiatives are sustained over the long-term. 

4) Changing the organisation's technology: When adopting new technology, organisations should carefully plan and execute the transition. This includes creating a sense of urgency to motivate employees, assessing the current technology landscape, preparing for the change, implementing the new technology, and ensuring its long-term viability. Proper training and support are also critical to help employees adapt to the new technology. 

5) Modifying the products and services: Modifying products or services requires a strategic approach. Organisations should act swiftly to respond to market changes or customer needs. They should rigorously evaluate their existing offerings, create a well-defined plan for change, and seamlessly integrate the new product or service into their existing operations. This approach reduces the risk of failure, ensures a successful implementation, and helps organisations achieve their desired results. Effective communication is essential to inform both internal teams and external stakeholders of these changes, ensuring a smooth transition. 

Applying Lewin's Change Model involves a comprehensive approach that considers not only the technical aspects of change but also the human and cultural aspects. By addressing them effectively, you can navigate change with confidence and increase the likelihood of successful outcomes. 

For those looking to renew their Change Management Practitioner certification, this Change Management Re-Registration course is tailored to meet your needs. 

Practical examples of Lewin's 3-Stage Model 

To understand Lewin’s Change Management Model, let’s look at some examples of Changes made by applying Lewin’s three-stage model.  

Nissan Motor Company 

Nissan Motor Company faced severe financial troubles and was bound to bankruptcy. To overcome this, Nissan formed a strategic alliance with Renault, led by Carlos Ghosn, a Change Agent. The goal was to eliminate Nissan's debt and expand Renault's market share. 

Carlos Ghosn created cross-functional teams to tackle problems and create effective action plans. To make the Changes last, he introduced performance-based pay, encouraged innovation, and implemented an open feedback system to enhance workplace adaptability. These efforts turned Nissan around, making it profitable and revitalising its operations. The collaboration with Renault was a turning point in Nissan's history. 

Nokia 

In the mid-2000s, Nokia was a big player in the feature phone market, but it saw a sharp decline in its market share due to the trend shifting to smartphones. Nokia knew it had to bring in Changes to stay competitive. Nokia made its own smartphone platform, Symbian, and partnered with Microsoft for Windows Phone. They added new features like touchscreens and better cameras for a better user experience. 

Some employees were unsure about the Changes, but Nokia's leaders kept showing them the benefits and gave them training and support. After making the Changes, Nokia checked if they worked well and made minor adjustments. The new ways became a normal part of the company, and Nokia thanked and rewarded its employees for adapting to the Changes. 

McDonalds 

In 2017, McDonald’s used Lewin’s Change Management model to transform its business due to a Change in consumer preferences. It started by unfreezing and making Changes to its business model and operations. They included breakfast items in their menu, added more customisable options and revamped its in-store technology. Initially, it faced resistance from employees but was determined enough to implement the Changes. 

After successful implementation, McDonald’s evaluated the Changes and incorporated them into their work culture. Employees who adapted to these Changes were rewarded, and today the company continues to monitor and assess their business model to adapt to Changes. 

Learn the fundamentals of Chain Management by joining our Change Management Foundation & Practitioner Course and build a career 

Challenges of Lewin’s 3-Stage Model in Action 

Implementing Lewin’s Change Management Model in an organisation can be tiresome. Resistance from employees to unclear communication is one of the many obstacles to Change. Here we discuss a few challenges of the model. 

a) Resistance to change: It is expected because of people’s reluctance to change habits and routines. It can be overcome by addressing issues, providing mental support to employees, clear communication, etc. If resistance is not addressed effectively, it can hinder the Change process. 

b) Miscommunication: Clear communication is essential for initiating Changes in an organisation. Miscommunication can cause confusion and resistance among employees. To prevent this, one must create a well-defined communication plan considering its overall impact on an organisation. 

c) Lack of leadership: Insufficient leadership backing can prevent Change initiatives. Strong backing from leaders can bring many Changes to their employees to set their goals clearly. Leaders must communicate their vision, give guidance and ensure employee involvement. 

d) Insufficient resources: Organisations must allot time, money and support to implement Changes. Insufficient resources compromise its implementation and employee morale. To ensure such a compromise does not occur, allocate the resources strategically. Strategic planning requires more funding, staffing, or finding creative solutions. 

e) Poor training: For successful Change initiatives, employees require proper training. Without it, the frequency of committing mistakes increases, thereby reducing productivity. Avoiding this by investing in effective workshops, coaching, and support is important. Doing so increases the chances of achieving desired goals by ensuring employees have enough skillsets to adapt to a Change.  

Conclusion  

Understanding Lewin's Change Management Model can help you implement changes efficiently in your organisation. It is a perfect approach enabling organisations to execute Changes to succeed.  

Supercharge your Change Management skills with our comprehensive Certified Professional Change Management CPCM Course. Sign up today! 

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