Kurt Lewin’s Force-Field Theory of Change

A wide variety of forces make organizations resistant to change, and a wide variety of forces push organizations toward change. Researcher Kurt Lewin developed a theory about organizational change. According to his force-field theory, these two sets of forces are always in opposition in an organization.

When the forces are evenly balanced, the organization is in a state of inertia and does not change. To get an organization to change, the managers must find a way to increase the forces for change, reduce resistance to change, or do both simultaneously. Any of these strategies will overcome inertia and cause an organization to change.

Kurt Lewin’s Force-Field Theory of Change

An organization at performance level X is in balance. Forces for change and resistance to change are equal. Management, however, decides that the organization should strive to achieve performance level Y. To get to level Y, the managers must increase the forces for change (the increase is represented by the lengthening of the up arrows), reduce resistance to change (the reduction is represented by the shortening of the down arrows), or do both. If they pursue any of the three strategies successfully, the organization will change and reach performance level Y. Kurt Lewin’s Force-Field Theory argues that organizations are balanced between forces for change and resistance to change, has a related perspective on how managers can bring change to their organization.

Kurt Lewin’s 3-Step Change Process

In Lewin’s view, implementing change is a three-step process : (1) unfreezing the organization from its present state, (2) making the change, or movement, and (3) refreezing the organization in the new, desired state so that its members do not revert to their previous work attitudes and role behaviors.

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