Theory and Management of Organizational Development

Kurt Lewin and Friends: Kurt Lewin introduced two ideas about change that have been influential since the 1940s. The first idea states that what is occurring at any point in time is a resultant in a field of opposing forces. That is, the status quo- whatever is happening right now- it the result of forces pushing in opposing directing. For example, we can think of the production level of a manufacturing plant as a resultant equilibrium point in a field of forces, with some forces pushing toward higher levels of production and some forces pushing toward levels of production. The production level tends to remain fairly constant because the field of forces remains fairly constant. Likewise, we can think of the level of morale in that plant as a resultant equilibrium point. Although morale may get a little better or a little worse on occasion, it generally hovers around some equilibrium point that is the resultant in a field of forces, some forces pushing toward higher morale, and some pushing towards lower morale. With a technique called the force-field analysis, we can identify the major forces that make up the field of forces and then develop action plans for moving the equilibrium point in one direction or the other. This concept is useful for thinking about the dynamics of change situations.

Lewin’s second idea was a model of the change process itself. He suggested that change is a three- stage process: unfreezing the old behavior (or situation), moving to a new level of behavior, and refreezing the behavior at the new level. Change entails moving from one equilibrium point to another. Take the example of a man who smokes cigarettes and wants to quit. The three-stage model says he must first unfreeze the old behavior of smoking, that is, believe that cigarette smoking is bad for him and that he should stop smoking. Next, that is, believe that cigarette smoking is bad for him and that he should stop smoking. Next, he must move, that is, change his behavior from being a smoker to being a smoker to being a nonsmoker. Finally, the nonsmoking behavior must become permanent- not smoking becomes the equilibrium point. Refreezing the desired behavior requires establishing a new field of forces to support the new behavior.

A three-stage Model of the change process :

Stage 1: Unfreezing: creating motivation and readiness to change through.

a.     Dis-confirmation or lack of confirmation

b.     Creation of guilt or anxiety

c.      Provision of psychological safety

Stage 2: Changing through cognitive Restructuring: Helping the client to see things, judge things, feel things, and react to things differently based on a new point of view obtained through.

Stage 3: Refreezing:  Helping the client to integrate the new point of view into:

a.     The total personality and self-concept

b.     Significant relationship

Lewin’s three-stage model is a powerful tool for understanding change situations. Edgar Schein took this excellent idea and improved it by psychological mechanisms involved in each stage.

In stage 1, Unfreezing, dis-confirmation creates pain and discomfort, which cause guilt and anxiety, which motivate the person to change. But unless the person feels comfortable with dropping the old behaviors and acquiring new ones, change will not occur. That is, the person must develop a sense of psychological safety on order to replace the old behaviors with new behaviors.

In stage 2, moving, the person undergoes cognitive restructuring. The person acquires information and evidence showing that the change is desirable and possible. This motivating evidence showing that the change is desirable and possible. This motivating evidence is gained by, for example, identifying with ex-smokers and learning about the health risks of smoking.

The primary task in stage 3: refreezing, is to integrate the new behaviors into the person’s personally and attitudes. That is, stabilizing the changes requires testing to see if they fit- fit with the individual, and fit with the individual’s social surroundings. The phrase significant relationships refer to important people in the person’s social environment-do these significant others approve of the changes?

Another modification of Lewin’s model was proposed by Ronald Lippitt, Jeanne Watson, and Bruce Westley. They expanded the three-stage model into a seven-stage model representing the consulting process. Their seven stages are as follows:

Phase 1.  Developing a need for change. This phase corresponds to Lewin’s unfreezing phase.

Phase 2. Establishing a change relationship. In this phase a client system in need of help and a change agent from outside the system establish a working relationship.

Phase 3. Clarifying or diagnosing the client system’s problem.

Phase 4. Examining alternative routes and goals; establishing goals and intentions of action.

Phase 5. Transforming intentions into actual change efforts. Phase 3, 4 and 5 correspond to Lewin’s moving phase.

Phase 6. Generalizing and stabilizing change. This phase corresponds to Lewin’s refreezing phase.

Phase 7. Achieving a terminal relationship, that is termination the client-consultant relationship.

This seven-stage model lays out the logical steps involved in OD consulting.

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