Overview and Rationale
In the early 1940s, German American physicist and social scientist Kurt Lewin developed
an ideal framework for companies and people to understand the process of organizational
change. The method of Lewin is often called the three-stage hypothesis. According to his
interpretation, this process of organizational transformation involves freezing, transition or
change, and refreezing. Since then, this model has been among the main pillar models that have
been significant in organizational change today. Kurt Lewin stated that organizational or
individual change is a complex exercise including several transitional stages and processes,
including incomprehension before a level of stability or balance is achieved (Hussain et al.,
To describe his role model, Lewin was thinking of an analogy of how an ice block can
change its form and become an ice cone by unfreezing. Lewin's theory is a practical and easy
model that allows individuals to recognize the change process (Saif et al., 2015). As Kurt argues,
the process of change leads to a notion that change is required before an individual or
organization reaches its intended behavioral level and strengthens that behavior as a norm. In
addition, Lewin argues that people have to restrict their habits and structures to overcome
resistance to change. Lewin further advised Memon (2021) that the changeover is a laborious
procedure because it disrupts a tranquil atmosphere. Workers should, therefore, only agree to
change when they are aware of the ramifications of the change. That's why Lewin insisted that
staff change their conduct to prevent any resistance.
Lewin also devised four laws, which he named "golden rules" to assure the success of
change implementation. Such rules include that there should be an excellent rationale for
implementing the change process and that the process should be progressive. Secondly, there
should be no unexpected or random changes because they all have to be properly planned.
Finally, every person affected by the change process should be included in designing the
proposed change (Hussain et al., 2018). Lewin created this model partly because of his argument
that the lack of communication between the organization and all individuals affected by the
proposed changes is the inability to make the organizational change. Employees are, therefore,
inclined to consent to any changes presented and forsake their customary ways if they feel
included in the change process (Memon, 2021). Therefore, Lewin explained that to manage the
change, all employees need to understand why they need the change before starting the change
The Three Stages of Implementing Change
Lewin thought that because many people are likely to resist change naturally, there is a
need to create awareness before initiating the process. Therefore, the unfreezing stage's main
objective is to create awareness of how the current condition or exiting accountability levels is
negatively affecting the organization (Hussain et al., 2018). According to Memon (2021), such
conditions include the status quo, organizational structures, individuals, and ways of thinking
that ought to be evaluated so that employees can see the importance of change to the business to
create and maintain competitive advantages within the existing market. The unfreezing stage
ensures proper communication about any change to employees to avoid denial, doubt,
uncertainty, and impatience that may resist the proposed change. In other words, the unfreezing
process ensures that individuals are ready for change by preparing them before the actual process
to avoid resistance.
In his model, Lewin argued that change is a process and not an event, calling it the entire
process transition (Zogjani & Raçi, 2015). Once proper communication has been done to all the
employees concerning the proposed change, the organization is ready to make the time change a
reality. Despite the readiness, some individuals may be struggling with reality during this stage.
Hence the step is characterized by fear and uncertainties that are difficult to overcome.
According to Memon (2021), employees in this stage start to understand the new process, ways
of thinking, and behaviors. This stage is important because when the employees become more
prepared, they are likely to adapt to the change without any resistance. Thus, education, time,
communication, support, and coaching are paramount factors for individuals introduced to
change. In this stage, the leaders initiating change to deal with resistance using the gradual
implementation of change to avoid any possible resistance.
According to Lewin, this step aims mainly at ensuring no employee reverts to their
conventional ways of thinking or working before the change is implemented to make sure that
change is not lost. In the third stage, according to Memon (2021), any change made to
organizational goals, structures, offerings, and processes is accepted and frozen as the new status
quo. Therefore, as soon as the change is accepted and implemented, strengthening it follows as
among the organizational cultures and the accepted way of thinking. This stage requires
motivation, like rewarding employees for their efforts to reinforce the new status quo during the
change process. This stage maximizes the process of cementing the chance as the new
organizational norm as rewarding positive behaviors is likely to be repeated (Saif et al., 2015).
Zogjani & Raci (2015) hold that motivating the employees for work well done increases their
production level, which in turn increases the whole productivity of the organization, thus a high
rate of returns.
Application to Current Business Environment
An unstable business environment is characterized by the present global marketplaces,
including the KSA’s market, technological advancement, rushing to make new strategies to
overwrite the current market demand, and competitive events. Thus, all organizations must
flexibly familiarize their processes and structures to become competitive and withstand any
advancement in the marketplace (Saif et al., 2015). In this view, implanting any change would be
very difficult to match with the above advancement in the specific marketplaces using Lewin’s
change theory. Also, many people have criticized and challenged this theory because it is a
simple model that individuals believe can handle the complex world of modern businesses.
On the other hand, others claim that it can be inappropriate to apply this theory, for
instance, in Saudi Arabia, where the change process of most businesses depends on the strategy
of the country’s vision 2030. Meaning, the country’s vision 2030 is perceived as a political
strategy that conflicts should accompany. Because this theory does not recognize the role of
politics and power (Memon, 2021), implementing such changes in firms in Saudi Arabia can be a
hard task. Besides, Lewin’s change theory does not address the radical and transformational
changes tendering it unfit for implementing incremental changes in an organization. In other
words, it is a challenge to change from manual to artificial intelligence through this theory, as
simple as it is. Also, Lewin’s theory cannot handle such a hard task with a high rate of resistance
from the employees. However, Lewin’s change theory can be applied in Saudi Arabia and other
market environments across the globe, such as small and medium enterprises that call for simple
incremental changes because the model is simple. For instance, it can be applied to a small unit
of businesses such as departments to allow them to achieve their goals.
Since Lewin’s change can only be applied to small business enterprises, it needs to be
modified to fit other businesses in Saudi Arabia and beyond the world. This theory can be
modified by merging it with Kotter’s 8-step change theory that emphasizes individuals who
experience larger organizational changes instead of individual changes in Lewin’s change theory.
Although Lewin’s change theory focuses on the individual’s behaviors during the transition
processes, Kotter’s change theory will assist the organization in emphasizing implementing
complex organizational changes. The first step of Kotter’s change theory in implementing
change begins with establishing the need for change, creating alliances or coalitions, creating a
vision for change before removing any possible obstacles (Tang, 2019). Other steps include
creating short-term wins, anticipating the change, and lastly, strengthening that change into the
status quo. Therefore, combining Lewin’s theory and Kotter’s theory will ensure that the
management of the organizational change process in all aspects is a success and that the
organization is likely to benefit from the change process as planned. A successful change process
will reduce the employees’ resistance as well as turnover.
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