Change is a common thread that runs through all businesses regardless of size, industry and age. Our world is changing fast and organizations must change quickly, too. Organizations that handle change well thrive, whilst those that do not may struggle to survive. One of the cornerstone models for understanding organizational change was developed by Kurt Lewin back in the 1940s, and still holds true today. His model is better known as Unfreeze - Change - Refreeze, which refers to the three-stage process of change that he describes. Lewin, a physicist as well as a social scientist, explained organizational change using the analogy of changing the shape of a block of ice. Therefore it is the purpose of this piece of work to bring forth a critique of the three stage model.
Kurt Lewin (1947) developed a change model involving three steps: unfreezing, changing and refreezing. For Lewin, "the process of change entails creating the perception that a change is needed, then moving toward the new, desired level of behaviour and, finally, solidifying that new behaviour as the norm". The goal during the unfreezing stage is to create an awareness of how the status quo, or current level of acceptability, is hindering the organization in some way. The idea is that the more we know about a change and the more we feel that it is necessary and urgent, the more motivated we are to accept the change. Once people are unfrozen they can begin to move into the implementation phase, also called the changing stage. During the changing stage, people begin to learn the new behaviours, processes and ways of thinking. The more prepared they are for this step, the easier it is to complete. Lewin called the final stage of his change model freezing, but many refer to it as refreezing to symbolize the act of reinforcing, stabilizing and solidifying the new state after the change. The changes made to organizational processes, goals, structures, offerings or people are accepted and refrozen as the new norm or status quo.
One of the key recompenses of the force field analysis is that it provides a visual summary of all the various factors supporting and opposing a particular idea, with all the data that has been collected regarding a potential decision consolidated into a single graph (Kennedy 1991). In addition, force field analysis also expands the evaluation beyond the data itself to look at qualitative factors that may have an impact on the success or failure of the decision being analysed. On the other hand, Lewin's model is very rational, goal and plan oriented. The change looks good on paper, as it makes rational sense, but when implemented the lack of considering human feelings and experiences can have negative consequences. There may be occasions when employees get so excited about the new change, that they bypass the feelings, attitudes, past input or experience of other employees. Consequently, they find themselves facing either resistance to change or little enthusiasm.
Force field analysis requires the full participation of everyone involved to provide the accurate information required for an effective analysis. This can be a detriment when full participation is not possible, resulting in an analysis that does not provide a realistic picture of the supporting and opposing forces. Longo (2011) perceived another handicap as the possibility that the analysis won't result in a consensus among the group. In fact, a force field analysis may actually cause a division in the group between those who support the decision and those who oppose it. More so, another of the key things to keep in mind when using force field analysis is that the analysis developed is entirely dependent upon the skill level and knowledge of the group working on the analysis. In most cases, force field analysis is based on assumptions, not facts; even if the assumptions are based on accumulated data, the interpretation of the data should not be construed as being objective within the overall process of evaluating the driving and restraining forces.
The unfreezing stage definitely is everything but plain sailing. During this phase it is very likely that an organisation's core values and beliefs as well the way things are done could be disputed, an event which