The SECRET ORIGIN of Change Management: Kurt Lewin’s Theories on Change Management
Understanding and capturing the essence of organisational change has been the mission of many scholars over the centuries. In the modern era, one such individual is Kurt Lewin, whose influence can be felt to this day.
Here is a small excerpt from this video where we explore the work of one of the fathers of change management, Kurt Lewin. Kurt sparked the fundamental thinking behind Change Management with his three states of change: unfreezing, movement, and refreezing. In this video, we dive into his theories and compare them to more modern change management methodologies, such as Prosci’s Three Phase Process.
Unfreezing is characterised by the creation of the need to change, a process of unlearning and destabilization. Unfreezing creates the impetus to change and does not, in and of itself, create the change. A conscious process of reforming into a desired future state must come about.
Once this is achieved, the refreeze settles individuals into a more comfortable state that allows them to function more efficiently to deliver on the new model. The refreeze is when new group norms and procedures are created to sustain the change. You can also see the connection with ADKAR, as Awareness and especially Desire is laser-focused on unfreezing individuals from their current state.
Lewin’s ideas are now almost 75 years old, and some have argued that such a rigid approach to organisational change is outdated. The modern world requires rapid changes and for organisations to become adaptive. This may be a valid concern when applied in an overly linear fashion.
In a paper by Bernard Burnes, the 3-step process and the general idea of planned change were compared to more modern complexity theories. The paper showed that Lewin’s ideas compatible with organisational complexity theories. The steady process of democratisation and the removal of hierarchies from work life has only made this more urgent and applicable.