Lewin’s Change Model

Lewin’s Change Model is a simple but highly regarded change management framework designed in the 1940’s by social psychologist Kurt Lewin.
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Before we begin, it’s worth noting that this model was actually developed after Lewin’s death from a few short sentence. Kurt Lewin never specifically developed this model, despite it being named after him.

What is the Lewin’s Change Model?

Lewin’s Change Model is a framework that was developed by Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist, in the 1940s. This model provides a comprehensive understanding of how individuals, teams, and organisations can successfully manage and navigate the process of change. The model is based on the premise that change is a dynamic and constant force that requires adaptability and flexibility. Lewin’s Change Model is widely used in various industries to guide change management initiatives and has proven to be effective in facilitating successful change processes.

The foundation of Lewin’s Change Model is built on three core stages: unfreezing, change process, and refreezing. Each stage represents a distinct phase in the change journey, and each is equally important in ensuring a smooth transition. The model emphasises that change is not a linear process but rather a fluid and cyclical one. By understanding and utilising this model, individuals and organisations can effectively manage and implement change initiatives, leading to more successful outcomes.

One of the most significant aspects of Lewin’s Change Model is its simplicity. The model is easy to understand and apply, making it a valuable tool for anyone looking to implement and manage change. The model focuses on the psychological aspects of change, acknowledging that people’s emotions and beliefs play a crucial role in their ability to adapt to new situations. By catering to these psychological needs, the model provides a comprehensive approach to change management that goes beyond the surface level.

It’s worth nothing that, although subsequent models have built and added to Lewin’s Change Model, for the era it was developed in it was relatively groundbreaking. By recognising the psychological drivers played a crucial role in change adoption, Lewin introduced a completely new dynamic to how we can manage change more effectively.

How is Lewin’s Change Model Used?

The Lewin’s Change Model is utilised in a variety of settings and industries to facilitate change management initiatives. This versatile model can be applied to both small-scale changes within a team or department and large-scale organisational transformations. Some common ways in which the Lewin’s Change Model is used include:

  • Organisational restructuring: When a company undergoes a significant structural shift, such as merging with another organisation or changing its hierarchy, the Lewin’s Change Model can guide the transition process, helping employees adapt to the new structure.
  • Process improvement: The model can be used to implement new processes or improve existing ones, ensuring that employees are comfortable with the changes and can effectively adapt to new ways of working.
  • Cultural change: The Lewin’s Change Model is often employed in situations where an organisation is looking to shift its culture, as it helps employees understand and adapt to new values, beliefs, and behaviours.

In addition to these specific uses, the Lewin’s Change Model can be applied to any situation where change is required. By understanding the three core stages of the model, individuals and organisations can more effectively navigate the complexities of change, leading to more successful outcomes.

How to Use the Lewin’s Change Model

To successfully apply the Lewin’s Change Model, it is essential to understand the three stages involved in the process: unfreezing, change process, and refreezing. Each stage plays a crucial role in facilitating change, and understanding these stages will mean a smoother and more effective transition.

1. Unfreezing

Lewin's Change Model - 1. Unfreeze Stage

The first stage of the Lewin’s Change Model, unfreezing, involves preparing individuals and the organisation for the upcoming change. This stage is critical, as it helps to break down existing mindsets, beliefs, and behaviours that may be resistant to change. Some key elements of the unfreezing stage include:

  • Establishing a sense of urgency: Communicate the need for change and explain why it is important to the organisation’s success. This will help to create a sense of urgency and motivate individuals to embrace the change.
  • Developing a clear vision: Provide a clear and compelling vision of what the change will look like and how it will benefit the organisation. This will help individuals to understand the purpose of the change and become more receptive to it.
  • Building a coalition: Identify and engage key stakeholders who will support and champion the change. This coalition will help to create buy-in and commitment to the change process.

2. Change Process

Lewin's Change Model - 2. Change Stage

The second stage of the Lewin’s Change Model, the change process, involves the actual implementation of the change. This stage can be complex and challenging, as it requires individuals and organisations to adapt to new ways of thinking and working. Key components of the change process include:

  • Communicating the change: Ensure that the change is communicated clearly and consistently throughout the organisation. This will help to minimise confusion and resistance.
  • Empowering individuals: Provide individuals with the necessary tools, resources, and training to adapt to the change. This will help to build their confidence and competence in the new ways of working.
  • Addressing barriers and resistance: Identify and address any barriers or resistance to the change. This may involve providing additional support to individuals or making adjustments to the change plan to address specific concerns.

3. Refreezing

Lewin's Change Model - 3. Refreeze Stage

The final stage of the Lewin’s Change Model, refreezing, involves consolidating the change and ensuring that it becomes an enduring part of the organisation’s culture and practices. During this stage, it is essential to reinforce the change and create a sense of stability. Key aspects of the refreezing stage include:

  • Celebrating successes: Recognize and celebrate the achievements and progress made during the change process. This will help to reinforce the change and create a sense of accomplishment.
  • Embedding the change:Ensure that the change is integrated into the organization’s culture and practices. This may involve updating policies and procedures or providing ongoing training and support to individuals.
  • Monitoring and evaluating: Monitor the change to ensure that it is sustainable and effective. Evaluate the outcomes of the change process and make adjustments as necessary to ensure continued success.

Summary of the Lewin’s Change Model

Lewin’s Change Model is a valuable tool for anyone looking to manage and implement change effectively. The model provides a framework for understanding the psychological aspects of change and offers a comprehensive approach to change management.

By following the three stages of unfreezing, change process, and refreezing, individuals and organisations can navigate the complexities of change and achieve more successful outcomes. The model can be applied to various situations, including organisational restructuring, process improvement, and cultural change.

To successfully apply the Lewin’s Change Model, it is essential to establish a sense of urgency, develop a clear vision, build a coalition, communicate the change, empower individuals, address barriers and resistance, celebrate successes, embed the change, and monitor and evaluate the outcomes.

Overall, the Lewin’s Change Model is a powerful tool that can help individuals and organisations adapt to new situations, improve performance, and achieve greater success.

Lewin’s Change Model Template

Use this template as a starting point for exploring the Lewin’s Change Model.

Lewin's Change Model Template

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 James Freeman-Gray 

I'm James. A change consultant and organisational development specialist. I've been working in people-centred change for over 15 years. I partner with causes, champions, teams & leaders on projects for social, environmental, technological & human good. If you think I can support in making your change a success, drop me a message. 

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