Most theories of organizational change originated from the landmark work of social psychologist Kurt Lewin. Lewin developed a three-stage model of planned change, which explained how to initiate, manage and stabilize the change process. The three stages are unfreezing, changing and refreezing. Before reviewing each stage, it is important to highlight the assumptions on which, this model is based:
- The change process involves learning something new, as well discontinuing current attitudes, behaviors and organizational practices.
- Change will not occur unless there is motivation to change. This is often the most difficult part of the change process.
- People are the hub of all organizational changes. Any change, whether in terms of structure, group process, reward systems or job design requires individuals to change.
- Resistance to change is found even when the goals of change are highly desirable.
- Effective change requires reinforcing new behaviors, attitudes and organizational practices.
The following are the three stages of change:
The focus of this stage is to make organization open to change. In doing so individuals are encouraged to replace old behaviors and attitudes with those desired by management. Managers also need to devise ways to reduce the barriers to change during this stage.
The focus of this stage is in providing employees with new information, new behavioral models, or new ways of looking at things. The purpose is to help employees learn new concepts to implement change. Role models, mentors, experts, benchmarking organization against world-class organizations and training are useful mechanisms to facilitate change.
The focus of this stage is stabilizing the change during refreezing by helping employees integrate the changed behavior or attitude into their normal way of doing things. This is accomplished by first giving employees the chance to exhibit the new behaviors or attitudes. Once exhibited, positive reinforcement is used to reinforce the desired change. Additional coaching and modelling are also used at this point to reinforce the stability of the change.
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