An Introduction To Kurt Lewin’s 3-Stage Model of Change

Business projects are all about change. Change is necessary to survive in today’s business environment as businesses strive to respond to customers’ ever changing needs.

In most businesses today, the term change management is familiar though how change is managed differs across domains depending on the nature of the business, the personnel involved, and the amount of change that is involved in the project. The capability to manage change in an increasingly competitive business environment can make the difference between a project that is successful and one whose outcome is not acceptable to the business. Kurt Lewin defined one of the foundational models of change management in 1947. The change management model provides guidance and a framework of how to assist the business in implementing change. According to Lewin, the change management process can be understood by categorising it into three stages.

The 3 stages are explained below.


This involves creating an environment where the desire to change is pervasive and motivates employees to move towards the new direction. It involves setting the stage for change by justifying the need to alter old behaviours, processes, technology and business practices. For the proposed changes to be understood and supported by key stakeholders and staff, communication at this stage is extremely important.

This stage may also involve analysing the factors that are for and against the change in what is known as the force field analysis.


Once the environment for change has been created in the unfreezing stage, the actual change begins where stakeholders embrace new ways of working and learn new attitudes, values, processes, technologies or behaviours. The activities involved in this stage focus on putting change in action. The challenges in this stage are the hardest to overcome as some stakeholders may develop cold feet and second thoughts and want to draw back. Communication, support and education are extremely important in suppressing the impediments to change.

Refreezing or Freezing

This stage signifies the act of stabilising, solidifying and reinforcing the new system within the organisation after the change. The system or organization, through the adoption of new structures and habits, is refrozen into a new state. This stage is particularly essential in ensuring that stakeholders do not fall back into old ways of working but has been criticized due to the fast paced change that is characteristic of today’s business environment.

A simple illustration of Lewin’s change management theory:

The US automobile sector has for a long time manufactured automobiles with increasing gas consumption capabilities. This is because the price of gas in the US was a little cheaper than other countries and as a result, companies manufactured cars, which consumed more gas. However, since gas prices have reduced significantly, the US car manufacturers have resorted to adopting new technologies in the industry to effectively compete with European car manufactures. Now, here’s Lewin’s change management model in action: US automakers have unfrozen, changed, and refrozen the whole idea of manufacturing larger gas consuming vehicles into more fuel efficient vehicles in order to compete favourably in the market.  

While in some organizations, change managers are assigned to key projects, BAs also have a key role to play in justifying the need for change and assisting stakeholders in getting comfortable with the changes that lie ahead.

Picture Attribution: “Time For Change” by Salvatore Vuono/