Kurt Lewin 3 stage theory is commonly known as Unfreeze-Change (Transition)-Refreeze model. According to Lewin’s model, behavior can be described as dynamic balance of forces that work in opposing directions (Bazerman & Moore, 2009). The first stage of this model is unfreezing. In this stage, people move from a state of not being ready to change to being willing to change. Therefore, it basically revolves around getting ready to change by understanding the necessity of change and thus being ready to move from the comfort zone. The second stage is change or transition. Once people have been unfrozen, they have to be kept going. Kurt did understand that change is a process and not an event, and so this stage presents the transition process. It is in this stage that people make the necessary changes and start their journey towards new ways of being. The third stage is refreezing. In this stage, individuals move from the transition state to a productive and stable state. Once changes have been initiated in the first two stages, this stage establishes stability, whereby the changes are embraced and thus become the new norm.
However, there are mechanisms that make each of these stages hard to implement. For example, during the unfreezing stage, the restraining force is mainly an individual’s comfort zone. It usually becomes difficult to move a particular person from his or her comfort zone. According to Burnes (2004), the transition or change stage is the hardest of them all. The restraining forces in this stage are that people might be unsure or fearful. At the third stage, the individual has already accepted the changes and therefore, the challenge or restraining force lies in forming new relationships as well as getting used to routines. Though it is criticized for being too rigid, Kurt Lewin’s model of change can greatly improve a person’s decision-making ability. This is because it helps a leader in making radical changes, minimizing the disruption of operations and ensuring that there is a permanent adoption of change.
Bazerman, M,H. & Moore, D.A (2009) Judgment in Managerial Decision Making. Hoboken NJ: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Burnes, B. (2004) Kurt Lewin and the Planned Approach to Change. Journal of Management Studies, 2004; 41(6): 978-1002.