What is Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze (Kurt Lewin Change Management Model)? (2023)

What is Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze or Kurt Lewin's change management model?

Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze or Kurt Lewin's change management model is a model to understand and manage organizational change. It aims to understand why change occurs, implement the necessary changes and normalize them in the organization's day-to-day operations. The ultimate goal is to change the status quo with minimal effect on processes or employees, while ensuring maximum ROI.

Kurt Lewin change management model explained

The Lewin change management model is widely used by organizations around the globe. It was created in the 1940s by physicist and social psychologist Kurt Lewin whose background in physics inspired his illustration of social change using a metaphor for an ice block.

The name of the model comes from the idea that an ice block can't be forced into a new shape without breaking. Instead, to achieve a transformation from one shape to another, it must first be melted (unfreeze), poured into a new mold (change) and then frozen again in the new shape (refreeze).

By considering change as a process with three similarly distinct stages, organizations can prepare better for a new status quo. They can minimize potential complexities along the way and design a plan to manage the transition. Following this model also helps organizations adjust to the change and achieve stability while minimizing chaos and discomfort for employees and other stakeholders.

The first unfreezing stage is primarily aimed at creating awareness about the upcoming change. In the change stage, the actual implementation happens to support the transition. In the final refreeze stage, the goal is to achieve stability and equilibrium after the change.

Companies can apply Lewin's change model to change multiple processes or conditions, such as:

(Video) Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze | Kurt Lewin's 3-Step Model

  • existing systems, structures or processes;
  • behaviors, attitudes or skills of the workforce; and
  • corporate culture to enable people to work together and collectively pursue the organization's objectives.
What is Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze (Kurt Lewin Change Management Model)? (1)

The need for Lewin's change management model

Change is inevitable for companies of every size and in every industry. However, many organizations struggle to adapt to upcoming changes. Often, they experience multiple misunderstandings and chaos before they can adjust to the change. Resistance to change is another common problem, even if the potential benefits of the change are known or apparent.

The unfreeze, change, refreeze model is an attempt to manage change by understanding the change process, creating a plan for a smooth transition and overcoming any possible resistance in advance.

The model helps create awareness of the upcoming change and the motivation behind it so everyone affected by it is prepared and can accept what's coming. It also helps create an environment where employees don't look at change as a threat but a way to improve the organization and contribute to its strategic vision.

Three stages of Lewin's change management model

Here's a description of how the three stages in Lewin's unfreeze, change, refreeze model work.

Unfreeze. Before this first stage, there is usually a motivating event that demonstrates a need for change to occur, such as falling profits, a lawsuit or simply employee dissatisfaction. Once the decision has been made that change is needed, a change management strategy has to be communicated throughout the organization to prepare employees for the change.

(Video) Lewin's Unfreeze, Change and Refreeze Model - Simplest explanation ever

The organization needs to prepare for the upcoming change by creating awareness about the change while identifying and addressing any potential resistance. Senior leadership and managers should explain to employees why the organization can't continue its current way of doing things.

To support their message, they may refer to existing financial statements, talk about declining sales or explain the problems caused by negative customer reviews. They should also try to address strong emotions such as denial, uncertainty or doubt among the workforce by explaining why the change is required.

Some of the key activities that take place during the unfreeze stage include:

  • examining the existing structures and processes, and determining what needs to change and why;
  • communicating the logic and benefits of the upcoming change to all stakeholders;
  • engaging with the right stakeholders to get their buy-in for the change;
  • framing the motivation for the change in terms of the organization's vision and mission; and
  • addressing employee concerns and getting organization-wide support for a new equilibrium.

Detailed analyses of the current state of the organization and effective communication about the "why" of the change are vital during the unfreeze stage. Gaps in either step may heighten existing resistance and make it more difficult to move to the next step of change implementation.

Change. After the proposed transformation is properly communicated, the next stage is to implement the change as quickly and as seamlessly as possible. In the change stage, the actual changes to the company's organizational structure, business practices, staffing or other areas are implemented. These changes may vary in degree, depending on the company's needs, but they should always be carefully determined with input from employees and other key stakeholders.

Often, people know they must act in a way that aligns with the new direction, but they may struggle to adapt to the new reality. Consequently, it may take time to implement all the required changes.

(Video) Lewin, Stage Model of Change Unfreezing Changing Refreezing AnimatedPart 5

To minimize roadblocks, preparation during the first stage is vital. Leaders should share all relevant information with the workforce to ease them into the transition and address any problems or challenges early. Clear communication strategy and strong leadership skills are the main pillars of a successful change stage.

Leaders should also take time to explain how the change will benefit employees. During the transition, senior staff members should explain the type and purpose of the change and ensure employees never feel disconnected from the company or the change effort.

It can be helpful to engage with influential stakeholders and get them to act as change evangelists. It's also important to celebrate small victories and visible results so everyone feels involved in the change effort and works as a team to make it happen.

Some of the other important activities that happen during the change stage include:

  • clarification of any misunderstandings or rumors;
  • clear explanation of the effect of a change; and
  • involvement of line managers to provide day-to-day direction.

Refreeze. The final stage is about solidifying the change, so that the modifications made in the second stage are normalized or internalized in the organization's daily activities. This process can be slow because it can take a long time for employees to get used to new practices or procedures.

Refreeze is a crucial stage for ensuring changes last and that the workforce accepts the new status quo. It also prevents employees from going back to older, less-preferred methods that may be detrimental to the organization.

(Video) Lewin’s Change Theory - UnFreeze, Change, ReFreeze Method

Organizations can adopt both informal and formal mechanisms to freeze and sustain the new changes. The goal is to eliminate any lingering doubt or resistance and ensure complete organization-wide buy-in of the new normal.

Other important activities during the refreeze stage include:

  • offering rewards to reinforce the new state;
  • identifying and eliminating lingering barriers;
  • setting up a feedback system to collect employee comments and address any new issues or concerns;
  • modifying the organizational structure, culture and policies to align with the change and reinforce the new way of working;
  • providing employee training and support to make employees comfortable and eliminate anxiety and doubts; and
  • establishing quantitative metrics to measure success and communicate progress.
What is Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze (Kurt Lewin Change Management Model)? (2)

Criticisms of Lewin's change model

Lewin's unfreeze, change, refreeze model is an effective way to manage, communicate and establish change in an organization. However, the model isn't perfect and has received its share of criticism.

One criticism is that it assumes organizations function under static conditions and can thus easily adapt to change and transition to a new status quo. However, modern companies function in highly dynamic and competitive environments characterized by geopolitical, financial, regulatory and security challenges. In such environments, they can't move from one state of stability to another without feeling some negative repercussions related to a change.

The model also doesn't account for the dynamic nature of today's workforces. Employee resistance and uncertainty can be one of the biggest barriers to change. Since the model is very plan-driven, it doesn't pay a lot of attention to these feelings or how employees can affect the change.

Also, not all organizations require incremental change. Some need radical or transformational change to address ingrained issues or increase competitiveness. The model may be too simple and mechanistic to account for these realities or implement the steps required to meet such large goals.

(Video) Lewin's Change Management Model-Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze

See also: Understand IT change management vs. configuration management and What is enterprise resource planning?

FAQs

What is unfreezing in Lewin's model? ›

Stage 1 - Unfreezing: This is the first stage of transition and one of the most critical stages in the entire process of change management. It involves improving the readiness as well as the willingness of people to change by fostering a realization for moving from the existing comfort zone to a transformed situation.

What is unfreeze in change management? ›

Stage 1: Unfreeze

This first stage of change involves preparing the organization to accept that change is necessary, which involves breaking down the existing status quo before you can build up a new way of operating.

What is the refreezing stage of Lewin's model? ›

Phase III – Refreezing

The final stage of Lewin's change model is refreezing when the organization moves from making changes to “business as usual” (the new status quo). This means that everyone has bought into the changes and is committed to maintaining them.

What is unfreezing and freezing in planned change? ›

Kurt Lewin developed a change model involving three steps: unfreezing, changing and refreezing. For Lewin, the process of change entails creating the perception that a change is needed, then moving toward the new, desired level of behavior and, finally, solidifying that new behavior as the norm.

What is meant by unfreeze? ›

verb (used with object), un·froze, un·fro·zen, un·freez·ing. to cause to thaw; melt. to remove or relax controls or restrictions on (funds, prices, rents, etc.). verb (used without object), un·froze, un·fro·zen, un·freez·ing. to become unfrozen; thaw.

What is the unfreezing stage? ›

The Unfreezing stage is probably one of the more important stages to understand in the world of change we live in today. This stage is about getting ready to change. It involves getting to a point of understanding that change is necessary, and getting ready to move away from our current comfort zone.

What is Lewin's 3 step model of change explain? ›

Lewin's change model is a simple and easy-to-understand framework to humanize the change management process. These three distinct stages of change (unfreeze, change, and refreeze) allow you to plan & implement the required change.

How do you refreeze change? ›

Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze | Kurt Lewin's 3-Step Model - YouTube

What is an example of unfreezing? ›

Examples of unfreeze in a Sentence

The warm weather unfroze the lake. The Justice Department agreed to unfreeze the company's assets. I had to wait for my computer to unfreeze before I could read my e-mail. He helped me to unfreeze my computer.

What do you mean by refreezing? ›

to freeze or be frozen again after having defrosted.

Which of the following model of change proposed the sequence of unfreeze move refreeze? ›

Most of the research adopting a process view to study organisational change has followed the model suggested by Lewin (1947), who described organisational change as a process of three phases: unfreeze, move, refreeze. Lewin (1947) model was followed by further contributions to change management, such as Kenter et al.

What is refreezing in organizational development? ›

Refreezing is the process of fixing these new ideas into the minds of the employees and managers so that they form the new set of beliefs, values, and norms of the organization.

What do you mean by freeze and unfreeze of raws? ›

Freezing panes could hide rows or columns, or cause the column headings to always be visible even after scrolling. To unfreeze panes, open your Excel spreadsheet. Select the View tab from the toolbar at the top of the screen and click on the Freeze Panes button in the Windows group.

Is it unfrozen or unfreeze? ›

unfreeze verb (REMOVE ICE)

How do I unfreeze my account? ›

The best way to unfreeze your bank account is to erase the judgment against you. This is called “vacating” the judgment. Once the judgment is vacated, your account will be released automatically. A creditor or debt collector has no right to freeze your account without a judgment.

Why is Lewin's change model good? ›

Why is Lewin's Model Good? The Kurt Lewin change model is good and still used all these years later because it's based upon sound behavioral psychology that is designed to understand why people resist change and put the forces in place to drive people to change acceptance and support.

What are the benefits of Lewin's three step model? ›

Benefits: The benefits to the Lewin model are fairly obvious in that it's the simplest model out there. This makes it easy to plan around, especially in organizations not accustomed to the science of change management. At the same time, it does try to minimize the difficulty with opposition by addressing it head on.

What is freezing in management? ›

Freezing (or Refreezing)

During this phase, people adapt to the changed reality. They start to find ways to take advantage of the opportunities it offers. Alternatively, they make a decision to opt out of the change and move on. This is the stage where your team needs to offer practical help and support.

What are the 3 major change process in Organisation? ›

5 Steps in the Change Management Process
  • Prepare the Organization for Change. ...
  • Craft a Vision and Plan for Change. ...
  • Implement the Changes. ...
  • Embed Changes Within Company Culture and Practices. ...
  • Review Progress and Analyze Results.
19 Mar 2020

What are the 3 models of change? ›

While there are many change management models, most companies will choose at least one of the following three models to operate under:
  • Lewin's Change Management Model.
  • McKinsey 7-S Model.
  • Kotter's 8 Step Change Model.
28 Aug 2012

What is a synonym for refreeze? ›

Synonyms & Near Synonyms for refrozen. quick-frozen, supercooled.

Can you refreeze a frozen pizza? ›

You can cook and eat thawed but still cold food mixtures like casseroles, pot pies, frozen dinners or pizzas but do not refreeze them.

Which of the following change models is most widely used in organizations today? ›

Kotter's Change Management Model

Kotter's change management theory is one of the most popular and adopted ones in the world. This model has eight stages, and each of them focuses on employees' response to change.

Which of the following change management models include a bottom up approach? ›

The ADKAR Change Management Model

The ADKAR Model is a bottom-up method created by Jeffrey Hiatt. It puts the focus on the people behind the change.

Who is the father of change management? ›

Kurt Lewin is widely understood as the 'founding father' of Change Management, with his 'changing as three steps' concept of unfreezing, movement and refreezing regarded as a classic approach to managing change.

Why is change model important? ›

A change model helps to identify potential areas of resistance and implement strategies designed to reduce or eliminate resistance before the change process starts. An aligned benefit is that a model of change helps to create an effective communication strategy.

What is an example of unfreezing? ›

Examples of unfreeze in a Sentence

The warm weather unfroze the lake. The Justice Department agreed to unfreeze the company's assets. I had to wait for my computer to unfreeze before I could read my e-mail. He helped me to unfreeze my computer.

What are the 3 stages in the change process? ›

These three distinct stages of change (unfreeze, change, and refreeze) allow you to plan & implement the required change. A well-thought combination of change models and change management tools can go a long way in steering your employees through the change.

What do you mean by refreezing? ›

to freeze or be frozen again after having defrosted.

What is refreezing in organizational development? ›

Refreezing is the process of fixing these new ideas into the minds of the employees and managers so that they form the new set of beliefs, values, and norms of the organization.

How do you refreeze change? ›

Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze | Kurt Lewin's 3-Step Model - YouTube

What is Lewins change theory? ›

The Change Model.

Lewin's theory proposes that individuals and groups of individuals are influenced by restraining forces, or obstacles that counter driving forces aimed at keeping the status quo, and driving forces, or positive forces for change that push in the direction that causes change to happen.

What are Kurt Lewin's three stages of change? ›

This study examined the three stages of Lewin's model: unfreezing, movement, and refreezing. Although this model establishes general steps, additional information must be considered to adapt these steps to specific situations.

What are 4 phases of change? ›

When change is first introduced at work, the people affected will typically go through four stages. These can be visualised on the change curve. The stages are shock, anger, acceptance and commitment.

Why is Lewin's change model good? ›

Why is Lewin's Model Good? The Kurt Lewin change model is good and still used all these years later because it's based upon sound behavioral psychology that is designed to understand why people resist change and put the forces in place to drive people to change acceptance and support.

What are the types of change management? ›

Within directed change there are three different types of change management: developmental, transitional, and transformational.

What is a synonym for refreeze? ›

Synonyms & Near Synonyms for refrozen. quick-frozen, supercooled.

Can you refreeze a frozen pizza? ›

You can cook and eat thawed but still cold food mixtures like casseroles, pot pies, frozen dinners or pizzas but do not refreeze them.

Why should you not refreeze food? ›

The short answer is no, the flavor and texture will be affected when food is refrozen. Cells within the food expand and often burst when food is frozen. They often become mushy and less flavorful. This is why fresh foods taste better than frozen foods.

Why is refreezing important? ›

The purpose of the final step—refreezing—is to sustain the change you've enacted. The goal is for the people involved to consider this new state as the new status-quo, so they no longer resist forces that are trying to implement the change.

Which of the following model of change proposed the sequence of unfreeze move refreeze? ›

Most of the research adopting a process view to study organisational change has followed the model suggested by Lewin (1947), who described organisational change as a process of three phases: unfreeze, move, refreeze. Lewin (1947) model was followed by further contributions to change management, such as Kenter et al.

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