To make the change more lasting, Kurt Lewin, proposed three phases of the change process for moving the organization from the present to the future. These stages are: (1) Unfreezing, (2) Changing and (3) Refreezing.
The process of unfreezing simply makes the individuals or organizations aware of the necessity for change and prepares them for such a change. Lewin proposes that the change should not come as a surprise to the members of the organization. Sudden and unannounced change would be socially destructive and morale lowering.
The management must pave the way for the change by first “unfreezing the situation,” so that members would be willing and ready to accept the change. This way, if there is any resistance to change, it can be neutralized. According to Schein, unfreezing is the process of breaking down the old attitudes and behaviours, customs and traditions so that they start with a clean slate.
This can be achieved by making announcements, holding meetings and promoting the ideas throughout the organization via bulletin boards, personal contacts and group conferences. One type of message to the members of the organization, suggested by Kreitner is as follows:
“We can all improve the effectiveness of our organization while increasing our personal satisfaction, if we all cooperate in a comprehensive programme of finding out where we are, where we want to go and how we can get there”.
The unfreezing process basically cleans the state so that it can accept new writings on it which can then become the operational style.
Once the unfreezing process has been completed and the members of the organization recognize the need for change and have been fully prepared to accept such change, their behaviour patterns have to be redefined. H.C. Kellman has proposed three methods of reassigning new patterns of behaviour. These are:
Compliance is achieved by strictly enforcing the reward and punishment strategy for good or bad behaviour. Fears of punishment, actual punishment or actual reward seem to change behaviour for the better. For example, many people have stopped smoking because of the warning given by the Surgeon General of the United States that smoking causes cancer of the lungs.
Identification occurs when members are psychologically impressed upon to identify themselves with some given role models whose behaviour they would like to adopt and try to become like them. Many public organizations use celebrities as role models in advising young people not to try drugs.
Internalization involves some internal changing of the individual’s thought processes in order to adjust to a new environment. Members are left alone to look within themselves and they are given freedom to learn and adopt new behaviour in order to succeed in the new set of circumstances.
Sometimes, soul searching brings about a new dimension to the philosophy of existence and thus brings about changes in such behavioural patterns that are not considered socially, morally or professionally redeeming.
Refreezing occurs when the new behaviour becomes a normal way of life. The new behaviour must replace the former behaviour completely for successful and permanent change to take place. Accordingly, in order for the new behaviour to become permanent, it must be continuously reinforced so that this new acquired behaviour does not diminish or extinguish.
This must be clearly understood that the change process is not a onetime application but a continuous process due to dynamism and ever changing environment. Accordingly, the process of unfreezing, changing and refreezing is a cyclical one and remains continuously in action.
The implementation of this three steps change model can be seen in the case of kidnapping victims or prisoners of war or deprogramming of some religious cultists. The prisoners of war, for example, may be brainwashed into believing that they are fighting a losing and immoral war and that their perceived enemy is really their friend.
This can be done by certain shock treatments which involve these three steps of unfreezing, changing and refreezing process as explained earlier. It these prisoners return back to their own country, the process can be repeated to bring them back to their original behaviour.
Another methodology to induce, implement and manage change was also introduced by Kurt Lewin, who named it “force-field analysis”. This analysis is based upon the assumption that we are in a state of equilibrium when there is a balance between forces that induce change and forces that resist change. To achieve change, we must overcome this status quo. The change forces are known as “driving forces” and the forces that resist change are known as “restraining forces” as shown below.
Managers who are trying to implement change must analyze this balance of driving and restraining forces and then strengthen the driving, forces or weaken the restraining forces sufficiently so that change can take place.