Overview of Lewin's Change Management Model

Kurt Lewin, a renowned psychologist of the 20th century, introduced a change management model that continues to be highly relevant in today's business world. Often referred to as the '3 Stage Model of Change,' Lewin's framework revolves around three distinct phases of change management. This model serves as a versatile and adaptable approach that encourages organizations to develop their own strategies for achieving their goals. While some other change models, like Kotter's change model, offer a detailed step-by-step implementation, Lewin's model provides a broader perspective for organizations to tailor their change initiatives based on their unique needs. The three stages of change management, as proposed by Lewin, are outlined below in terms of their practical application.

Lewin’s model of change management

What is Lewin's Change Management Model?

Lewin's Change Management Model is a three-stage approach that provides a foundation for understanding and managing organizational change effectively. Each stage represents a crucial aspect of the change process, guiding leaders and teams through the necessary steps to implement change smoothly. The three stages of change management as per Lewin's change management are cited below in terms of their application.

Application of Lewin’s Change Management Model

The primary stage in Lewin’s Model: Unfreeze

Lewin explained that the first stage of change management is to make all stakeholders believe that the change is necessary and for the collective good. He explained that before a new change is initiated, stakeholders in the organization need to be convinced to accept the change by pointing out the flaws and issues in the present state of things. For this, tangible metrics like declining revenues, degradation in organizational efficiency, high customer attrition rates, declining employee engagement levels need to be used. The key is to use tangible measures to create importance around the need for changing the present state and hence paving the way for the proposed transformation.

Further, the idea of the change needs to be backed up with the citation of the company’s mission, vision, and core values. Besides, implementing a comprehensive stakeholders analysis and strategic communication is important to succeed in this stage. The most significant factor during the unfreeze stage is to answer ‘why’ the present state of things needs to be unfrozen and remolded. This needs to be answered by explaining the need and merits of the change to all stakeholders.

The secondary stage in Lewin’s Model: Change

The second stage as per this model is wherein people or stakeholders are convinced with the idea of transformation and begin to act in ways that are supportive of the proposed changes. In simpler terms, in this stage, people start embracing the idea of the change and start with the necessary adaptations to ways that will facilitate the transition.

In fact, this stage is the extension of the first stage. In this first stage, the stakeholders need to be convinced about the need for change in the present state of behavior. In the second stage, the stakeholders need to be convinced about the merits of the new behavior or way of doing things. When stakeholders associate benefits with a new change being proposed, they make successful contributions to its integration. This stage is where the change is implemented.

For the successful implementation of the change, there are some key considerations that need to be looked at. There are various stages in change implementation that change managers need to strategically plan. The first stage is to have an open communication policy to communicate the processes of the change and its phases. Furthermore, there needs to be effective goal setting with respect to the change and key performance indicators need to be defined and communicated to employees so that they know what is expected of them.

Besides, managers need to look at unique ways in which they can boost engagement among employees and the overall team morale so that they align with the change in a more worthwhile way. Once the change is implemented, the defined KPIs need to be tracked efficiently and consistently to gauge the alignment of employees’ productivity with the change process.

The third stage in Lewin’s Model: Refreeze

The final stage as per Lewin’s Model is to refreeze the change or in other words, consolidate the change and make it a part of the internal standards within an organization. Needless to say, after a change is introduced, it needs to be incorporated into the daily practices within an organization such that it is effectively aligned with the long-term goals that an organization has.

The term refreeze here contextually implies that the transition needs to solidify within the organization and should be stabilized within the organizational culture. Besides, employees and other stakeholders should be comfortable with the change and how it will change the dynamics of things in the company. That is crucial for the change to be successful in the way it is anticipated to be.

This is where leaders will have a massive role to play in terms of extending complete support to employees for the adaptation of the change. The relevance of continuous feedback mechanisms for performance management will also be crucial here. Moreover, leaders have to develop strategies for effective workforce management, fixing accountability, and structuring processes that are necessary for sustaining the change in a way that yields the desired results.

Lewin’s Change Management Model example taking Microsoft’s case

Microsoft is the global technology giant that needs no introduction and in some way or the other, we are associated with Microsoft’s products and services. Currently, the market capitalization of Microsoft stands at USD 2.204 trillion making it the third most valuable company in the world with respect to market capitalization. However, before 2014, Microsoft had started facing some pressing internal challenges that were majorly due to inconsistencies in its organizational structure. Let’s try to analyze this change with respect to Lewin’s Change Model.

In 2014, Satya Nadella took over the Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft and initiated major changes with respect to theapitalization. However, before 2014, Microsoft had started facing some pressing internal challenges that were majorly due to inconsistencies in its organizational structure. He first implemented the unfreeze stage and disintegrated the apitalization. However, before 2014, Microsoft had started facing some pressing internal challenges that were majorly due to inconsistencies in its organizational structure. to make changes possible. There was a toxic internal competition between the internal departments within Microsoft that was affecting the company’s purpose and performance. To address this issue, Satya Nadella dissolved the existing structures to make way for a new structure.

He then implemented the change stage in which he firstly merged the two different departments namely Microsoft Products and Microsoft Platforms that initially existed as separate groups and posed internal competition to each other. Besides, he created a strategy wherein employees would now be focussing on the common alignment of goals. Then in 2016, he merged the organic research group with teams that included Bing, Cortona, and Informational Platforms to create a single entity named the AI and Research Group to further reduce the internal competition.

After making the changes in the apitalization. However, before 2014, Microsoft had started facing some pressing internal challenges that were majorly due to inconsistencies in its organizational structure, he then guided the organization towards the refreezing stage. To sustain this change and bring improvements to it in the future more than 5000 engineers and computer scientists work on AI-driven innovations across the entire product range of Microsoft. Further to sustain the change, Satya Nadella gave the company a new and more meaningful mission aimed at eliminating internal competition and promoting collectiveness. Various feedback mechanisms, engagement strategies, and tracking of KPIs further ensured that employees work towards common goals and the change gets institutionalized.


What are the potential challenges in implementing Lewin's Change Management Model?

Challenges can include resistance from employees, lack of clear communication, inadequate planning, and insufficient support from leadership.

How can organizations handle resistance to change?

To handle resistance, organizations should communicate the benefits of change, involve employees in the decision-making process, and offer support and training to help them adapt.

How does Lewin's Change Management Model differ from Kotter's 8-Step Change Model?

Both models emphasize the importance of preparing for change and addressing resistance, but they differ in approach. Lewin's model consists of three stages (unfreezing, moving, and refreezing) and focuses on stability. In contrast, Kotter's model includes eight sequential steps and emphasizes the need for urgency, continuous communication, and creating a change-ready culture.