Organization Change Management Models

Change whether planned or unplanned occurs in all organizations and at all levels. Change is inevitable and thus today many organizations prepare themselves for change. However the successful organization recognizes and understands the fact that change is not only inevitable it is also required in order to grow and stay ahead of competition. Therefore such organizations plan and implement change. Planning and implementing change requires the expertise of Organization Development experts who rely on certain models of change.

Some of the popular organization change management models, which have received attention globally, are:

1. Kurt Lewins Model

One of the earliest models of planned change was put forward by Kurt Lewin in 1975. Lewin explained that organizations like human beings prefer to stay in a state of equilibrium or a steady state called as homeostasis. He observed that the stability of human behavior was based on “quasi- stationary equilibrium” supported by a large force field of driving and restraining forces. This observation gave rise to the theory of Force Field Analysis.

Kurt Lewin (1951) introduced the three-step change model. This social scientist views behaviour as a dynamic balance of forces working in opposing directions. Driving forces facilitate change because they push employees in the desired direction. Restraining forces hinder change because they push employees in the opposite direction. Therefore, these forces must be analyzed and Lewin’s three-step model can help shift the balance in the direction of the planned change

First stage: Unfreezing

According to Lewin, the first step in the process of changing behavior is to unfreeze the existing situation or status quo. The status quo is considered the equilibrium state. Unfreezing is necessary to overcome the strains of individual resistance and group conformity. Unfreezing can be achieved by the use of three methods.

  • First, increase the driving forces that direct behavior away from the existing situation or status quo.
  • Second, decrease the restraining forces that negatively affect the movement from the existing equilibrium.
  • Third, find a combination of the two methods listed above.

Some activities that can assist in the unfreezing step include: motivate participants by preparing them for change, build trust and recognition for the need to change, and actively participate in recognizing problems and brainstorming solutions within a group.

Second Stage: Moving

Lewin’s second step in the process of changing behavior is movement. In this step, it is necessary to move the target system to a new level of equilibrium. Three ions that can assist in the movement step include: persuading employees to agree that the status quo is not beneficial to them and encouraging them to view the problem from a fresh perspective, work together on a quest for new, relevant information, and connect the views of the group to well-respected, powerful leaders that also support the change

Third Stage: Refreezing.

The third step of Lewin’s three-step change model is refreezing. This step needs to take place after the change has been implemented in order for it to be sustained or “stick” over time. It is high likely that the change will be short lived and the employees will revert to their old equilibrium (behaviors) if this step is not taken. It is the actual integration of the new values into the community values and traditions. The purpose of refreezing is to stabilize the new equilibrium resulting from the change by balancing both the driving and restraining forces. One action that can be used to implement Lewin’s third step is to reinforce new patterns and institutionalize them through formal and informal mechanisms including policies and procedures.

Organization Change Management Models - Kurt Lewins Model

Therefore, Lewin’s model illustrates the effects of forces that either promote or inhibit change. Specifically, driving forces promote change while restraining forces oppose change. Hence, change will occur when the combined strength of one force is greater than the combined strength of the opposing set of forces.

The work of Kurt Lewin dominated the theory and practice of change management for over 40 years. However, in the past 20 years, Lewin’s approach to change, particularly the 3-Step model, has attracted major criticisms. The key ones are that his work: assumed organizations operate in a stable state; was only suitable for small-scale change projects; ignored organizational power and politics; and was top-down and management-driven.

Read More: Kurt Lewin’s Force-Field Theory of Change

2. Planning Model or Lippitt’s Phases of Change Theory

Lippitt, Watson, and Westley (1958) extend Lewin’s Three-Step Change Theory. They created a seven-step theory that focuses more on the role and responsibility of the change agent than on the evolution of the change itself. Information is continuously exchanged throughout the process. The seven steps are:

  1. Diagnose the problem.
  2. Assess the motivation and capacity for change.
  3. Assess the resources and motivation of the change agent. This includes the change agent’s commitment to change, power, and stamina.
  4. Choose progressive change objects. In this step, action plans are developed and strategies are established.
  5. The role of the change agents should be selected and clearly understood by all parties so that expectations are clear. Examples of roles are: cheerleader, facilitator, and expert.
  6. Maintain the change. Communication, feedback, and group coordination are essential elements in this step of the change process.
  7. Gradually terminate from the helping relationship. The change agent should gradually withdraw from their role over time. This will occur when the change becomes part of the organizational culture.

Bookmark the permalink.