Kurt Lewin developed the model - known as "Lewin's Freeze Phases" - in the early 20th century and it still forms the underlying basis of many change management theories models and strategies for managing change.
Underpinning his famous freeze phase model are 2 these important and in my view foundational concepts:
(1) "Lewin’s equation" a heuristic - an experience based or rule of thumb technique - for predicting human behaviour.
(2)"Force field analysis" which provides a framework for looking at the factors or forces that influence a potential change situation
Lewin's freeze model suggests that change involves a move from one static state via a state of activity to another static status quo -and all this via a three-stage process of managing change: unfreezing, changing and re-freezing.
The freeze change model
recognises that people like the safety, comfort and feeling of control within their environment. It also recognises that they derive a strong sense of identity from their environment.
Lewin regarded this as a 'frozen' state and suggested that significant effort may be required to 'unfreeze' them in order to get them to change.
This usually requires some form of intervention to get them moving such as a restructuring, or the creation of some form of real crisis - or the perception of a real crisis!
Another common strategy is to present the "cold hard logic" of "irrefutable facts" that make change inevitable - basically, any form of intervention that is designed to destabilise people and render them susceptible to change.
Change as a journey
A key part of the freeze model is the idea that change, even at the psychological level, is a journey rather than a simple step. This journey may not be that simple and the person may need to go through several stages of misunderstanding before they get to the other side.
It is painfully clear that managing the transition requires time and sensitive skillful leadership - exercised within people-focused change management processes.
The work of William Bridges [and others] focuses specifically on the transitions and the psychological changes that lie behind behind significant organisational change.
Bridges maintains that situational changes are not as difficult for companies to make as the psychological transitions of the people impacted by the change.
Then the final phase is the "refreezing" - which basically means institutionalising the change - and many differing approaches are used to attempt to achieve this. However, as already stated, most don't succeed!
In my view there is value in Lewin's model in that recognises that (a) people are "stuck" or attached to "how things are" and thus potentially resistant to change, and (b) that there are stages to change process and the change experience.
However the freeze change model is very mechanistic and in my view reflects a Newtonian world view and a control oriented view of change that is imposed from the top down.
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