Lewin’s Theory of Change
Lewin’s Theory of Change and Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Organizational Change are similar in their approach; although one is a basic step model and the other a more deliberate step-by-step model they share similarity. Lewin stated that we need to understand the situation and system as a whole as well as the component parts that make up the system, whereas Kotter’s framework helps managers know what they should do, when they should take specific actions, and when and how they are ready to move to the next stage (Cawsey, Deszca & Ingols, 2016). Other similarities between the two theories are: the first step of Lewin’s model unfreezing sums up the first four steps of Kotter’s theory during this phase there is the creation of awareness of how the status quo, or current level of acceptability, is hindering the organization in a way; Lewin’s second step (change or transition) sum occurs in steps five and six of Kotter this is the phase when people begin to learn the new behaviors, processes and ways of thinking (“A comparison”, n.d.); and the last step of Lewin (refreezing) equates to the last two steps in Kotter’s theory, this represent the act of reinforcing, stabilizing and solidifying the new state after the change (“A comparison”, n.d.). Both theories are very effective to the change process.
The change Path model differs from the two theories described above, according to Cawsey, Deszca & Ingols, (2016) “Change Path Model combines process and prescription” (p. 53), it provides more detail and direction compared to both Lewin and Kotter’s theories. This theory critically analysis the environment and assess the factors both internal and external that are in favor and those that are against the change (Cawsey, Deszca & Ingols, 2016). The theory involves a lot of analysis and stakeholders are involved in the change process. The insights, I gained from this assignment are (1) The significant difference between the Change Path model on one side and Lewin and Kotter’s theory on the hand is that the Change Path model uniquely combines personal, organizational and environmental experience in dealing with change whiles the other two doesn’t; (2) The lack of consideration of human feeling and experience could be a problem for both Lewin and Kotter’s theory (“A comparison”, n.d.).
A comparison between Lewin´s and Kotter´s models of change. (n.d.). Retrieved July 1, 2018,
Cawsey, T. F., Deszca, G., & Ingols, C. (2016). Organizational change an action-oriented toolkit.
Los Angeles: Sage Publ.
Kurt Lewin Three Step Model = renowned approach to change. Utilizes three stages to approach organizational change, unfreeze, change, and refreeze (Cawsey, et.al., 2016). There are specific undertakings in each stage. Unfreeze determines what change is needed, getting the strong backing from higher echelon, create the need for the change and manage and understand any doubts and concerns. Change is where effective communication must occur regularly. Rumors are dissipated, empowerment is bestowed and people need to be involved in the process. Refreeze is anchoring the changes into the culture, develop ways to sustain the change, provide support and training and to revel in the success. This particular model has the methodology that change is constant and ongoing.
John Kotters Eight Step Model for Change = a simple to understand methodology to get buy-in. Kotter built on Lewin’s three step change model beginning by listing common errors made by leaders when attempting to initiate change (Lunenburg, 2010). The eight steps are: (1) Create a sense of urgency, involves inspiring the action, picking the communication channels and understand why changes fail. (2) Build a guiding coalition, is engaging and maintain sponsor involvement. (3) Form a strategic vision and initiatives, is thinking about that organizational change. (4) Enlist a volunteer army, comprises of creating a communication strategy and accommodating the different communication styles. (5) Enable action by removing barriers embraces inspiring action and addressing responses to the change. (6) Generate short term wins incorporates measuring the change effectiveness. (7) Sustain acceleration features managing any resistance. (8) Institute change combines learning and coaching as enablers (Cawsey, et.al., 2016).
Change Path Model = Combines process and prescription (Cawsey, et.al., 2016). The steps are (1) Awakening which begins with continuous scanning of both internal and external environments, confirming the problem and identifying the gap(s). (2) Mobilization assesses the power and cultural dynamics and communicates the need for organizational change. (3) Acceleration consistent effort to reach out to engage and empower others. (4) Institutionalization requires the tracking of the change on a frequent basis through multiple balanced measures.
Comparisons: All come into play when change is needed or identified. All address problem solving, resistance, and integration (implementing the change) and measurement evaluation. Resistance is expected in every change process and is considered a natural part of it. In the early stages of change, people will form initial expectations about what the benefits of change will be for the organization as a whole (Zafar & Naveed, 2014). Communication is key and every model mentioned has it embedded to be addressed. The models help describe the need for change, enlist a change team, pursue vision and strategies, motivate, communicate and take some action.
Contrasts: The Lewin and Kotter models are very similar, but categorized differently. Lewin’s model emphasizes working around resistance through good communication. An analogy used is reshaping an organization like a block of ice that is melted, remolded and then frozen again. Kotter’s model is top down and can be very time consuming. Change Path Model is more detailed and provides more direction than Lewin but less instruction than Kotter (Cawsey, et.al., 2016).
Cawsey, T.F., Deszca, G., & Ingols, C. (2016). Organizational Change: An Action-Oriented Toolkit. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Lewin’s Theory of Change consists of three parts: (1) Unfreezing, which is essentially the “aha” moment that the current system or “status quo” is no long effective, (2) Change, which is when action occurs to correct the ineffective process or system, and (3) Refreezing, where the change becomes the new normal (Cawsey, Deszca, and Ingols, 2016).
Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Organizational Change is similar to Lewin’s model except that it expands on the number of steps taken to get through change. Kotter goes deeper into the change process by stating that a “sense of urgency” is needed in order to create the “unfreezing” that Lewin addresses, and that a team of 10-50 people should be brought together to lead the change. There are five more steps in Kotter’s process before the “refreezing” can begin: “develop a vision and strategy,” “communicate” in many ways and many times about the change, “empower employees” to accept and embrace the change, “generate short-term wins” to aid moral and encourage continued adherence to the change, and “consolidate gains and produce more change” (Cawsey, Deszca, and Ingols, 2016).
The Change Path model is slightly more expansive than Lewin’s Theory but less detailed and prescriptive than Kotter’s Model. It involves just four steps: “Awakening,” which is essentially unfreezing and making the case for change, “mobilization,” which involves defining the current state, the desired state and the gap between each, “acceleration,” which is where action takes place such as the change phase of Lewin’s Theory and consolidates several phases of Kotter’s model, and lastly, the “Institutionalization” phase which is the same as refreezing or “anchoring new approaches,” as Kotter puts it (Cawsey, Deszca, and Ingols, 2016).
One insight that I have gained in this analysis is that there are multiple approaches to change management and no real “one size fits all” approach. Rather, change agents are better off using these models more like guidelines and to provide context for change. Managers should be fluid in how they operate, not rigid. Kotter’s process, for example, is very linear. A study by Julien and Rachel Pollack (2014) found that organizations are complex and “top-led” model presented by Kotter is not realistic in many instances, where organizations are better off “engagin[ing] at multiple levels” to implement change (Pollack and Pollack, 2014).
A second insight is that action planning is really key to getting through change successfully. Without a vision and plan of how to get there, enacting change and making it part of the company’s DNA will be exponentially more difficult, if not impossible.
Cawsey, T. F., Deszca, G., & Ingols, C. (2016). Organizational Change: An Action-Oriented Toolkit (Third ed., pp. 37-60). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Pollack, J., & Pollack, R. (2015, February). Using Kotter’s Eight Stage Process to Manage an Organisational Change Program: Presentation and Practice. Systemic Practice and Action