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Cool change: Lewin’s change management model

Elissa Farrow
September 30, 2013

In previous blog posts we have looked at change management methodologies, including the Kotter model of change. Here I am going to outline Kurt Lewin’s 3-step model. All of these models and theories need to work within your chosen change methodology. I will also give some examples of how I have applied Lewin’s model.

Lewin’s model has 3 steps and 9 activities:

1. Unfreeze

  • Examine status quo
  • Increase driving forces for change
  • Decrease resisting forces against

2. Move

  • Take action
  • Make changes
  • Involve people

3. Refreeze

  • Make change permanent
  • Establish new way of things
  • Reward desired outcomes

It has some similarities to Kotter’s approach and has a focus of recognising that organisations need to change from business as usual, take action, and then embed the change within the organisation.

The model is underpinned by techniques to look clearly at where you are or the status quo, areas of resistance, driving forces and so on, and take those driving forces and acknowledge that these might need to be enhanced, increased to create that compelling vision like we heard of in Kotter’s model.

As with all change, resisting forces are the items that change managers need to navigate through, ideally with the support of a change champion. Moving is the planning component involving people, taking action and setting things up for the Refreeze stage.

Make the change permanent e.g. embed the system or the new policy or the new building or service standard. Reward desired outcomes through a range of techniques and incentives.

I was asked about this model at a conference I spoke at recently. I said I found it was relevant but the whole concept of refreezing in many organisations wasn’t occurring. It was more like a slushy type of finish, rather than a sense of being back on solid (frozen) ground.

How do you close a change project in a solid way?

Elissa Farrow
Elissa is a founder and lead consultant for About Your Transition and has extensive experience in strategic organisational adaptation design, facilitation and delivery. Elissa has supported organisations to define positive futures and then successfully transform to bring lasting benefits. She has proven adaptative capacity and can successfully transfer her skills to different contexts. In 2018, Elissa commenced her doctoral studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her published research is exploring organisational adaptation to the evolving field of artificial intelligence using qualitative and participatory research methodologies. Elissa is an experienced board director and considered a thought leader in her field having won a number of national and local awards for contributing to Women in Project Management and for Change Management Research.
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