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Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze (Kurt Lewin Change Management Model)

Contributor(s): Trea Lavery

Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze, also known as the Kurt Lewin Change Management Model, is a method for managing change within an organization. The method involves preparing employees for change, making changes, and finally integrating and normalizing those changes within the organization.

The name of the Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze model comes from the idea of an ice block that needs to be transformed into a new shape. The ice block cannot be forced into the new shape without breaking. Instead, it must be melted (Unfreeze), poured into a mold (Change) and frozen again in the new shape (Refreeze).

In the Unfreeze stage of the change management process, there is usually a motivating event which creates a need for change to occur, such as falling profits, a lawsuit or simply employee dissatisfaction. Once the decision has been made that change is needed, a change management strategy has to be communicated throughout the organization to prepare employees for the change.

In the Change stage, the actual changes to the company’s organizational structure, business practices, staffing or other areas are determined and implemented. These changes can be large or small, depending on the needs of the company, but all changes should be carefully determined with input from employees and may take time to implement.

In the final stage, the Refreeze stage (sometimes called “Freeze”), the changes made in the second stage are normalized in the organization’s day-to-day activities. This process can be very slow, depending on the scale of the changes being made, because it can take a long time for members of the company to get used to new practices. Also, because many organizations are changing constantly, it can be difficult for the Refreeze stage to be completely successful. However, this stage is very important for getting the changes to last and making sure that employees are able to deal with changes efficiently.

The Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze model was created by physicist and social psychologist Kurt Lewin. Lewin’s background in physics inspired his illustration of social change using the ice block metaphor.

This was last updated in August 2017

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