Navigating change is a constant organizational issue, whether it’s on a small or large level. When it’s planned change, managers can stay ahead of change resistance and create a calculated plan to put change in place. There are several models and processes for managing organizational change. Let’s take a look at them now.
Lewin’s Three-Step Model
Kurt Lewin, a researcher and psychologist we studied earlier when we talked about leadership styles, proposed that successful change in an organization should be conducted in three steps: unfreezing, movement, and refreezing.
In the “unfreezing” process, the equilibrium state can be unfrozen in one of three ways. The driving forces, which direct behavior away from the status quo, can be increase. The restraining forces, which hinder movement from the existing equilibrium, can be decreased. Or, managers can put a combination of the two to use.
The second part of the process, “movement,” is the actual implementation of change. New practices and policies are implemented.
In the third step, “refreezing,” the newly adopted behaviors and processes are encouraged and supported to become a part of the employees’ routine activities. Coaching, training and an appropriate awards system help to reinforce.
Lewin’s model of change has four characteristics:
- It emphasizes the importance of recognizing the need for change and being motivated to implement it.
- It acknowledges that resistance to change is inevitable.
- It focuses on people as the source of change and learning.
- It highlights the need to support new behaviors.
Action research is a change process based on systematic collection of data and then selection of a change action based on what the analyzed data indicate. The process of action research consists of five steps, very similar to the scientific method:
In the diagnosis stage, information is gathered about the problem or concerns. During analysis, the change agent determines what information is of primary concern and develops a plan of action, often involving those that will be impacted by the change. Feedback includes sharing with employees what has been discovered during diagnosis and analysis with the intent of getting their thoughts and developing action plans.
Finally, there is action. Employees and the change agent (this is a person who champions and sees change management from start to successful finish) carry out the actions required to solve the problem. Then, the final step is evaluation, where the action plan’s effectiveness is reviewed and, if necessary, tweaked for better performance.
This approach is very problem focused, where many people approach a problem with a more solution-centered outlook. It also minimizes resistance to change because it involves affected employees all along the process.