In order to evaluate organizational change, it is crucial to understand the models of organizational change. Change models can reveal the compelling forces of change, what will happen, and how it will happen. It is sometimes difficult to find a model that best fits the nature of the organization. However, the use of any change model is beneficial because it offers a guideline to follow and predict the presumed results of the change initiative (Mento, Jones, & Dirndorfer, 2002). While there are many change management models, a few of the well-known models are: Lewin’s change management model and Bridge’s transition model. This paper will discuss Lewin’s change management model and Bridge’s transition model. Within each change model, it will address the role of the leader in the change initiative, overcoming resistance to change, and communication process of both models. It would also assess the strengths and weaknesses of each model.
Lewin’s Change Management Model
According to Kurt Lewin, successful change in any organization should follow three steps: unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. Unfreezing involves overcoming the pressures of individual resistance and group conformity. Changing or movement happens when the change is initiated and the organization is getting ready to move into a transition stage. Refreezing occurs after change has been accepted and the organization can operate under the new changes (Robbins & Judge, 2009).
Lewin’s model identified that most people prefer to function within their comfort zones. Most people like the comfort, sense of identity, and control from the environment that they are familiar with. In this model, the leader’s role is to remove the resistance of change through motivation. One way to deal with the resistance is to use positive incentives to encourage employees to accept the change. For example, management can increase the pay for those who accept the change. Management can also address the concerns regarding the need for change (Robbins & Judge, 2009).
It is important to communicate directly with the employees who are most affected by the change. Leaders move through the change process by promoting effective communications and empowering people to embrace the change. Employees who are not involved with planning the change could lead to increased resistance and decreased motivation. Zigarmi & Witt (2007) states that change are successfully implemented when people have an opportunity to express their concerns and influence how the change is implemented (p. 17).
Lewin’s change model is a simple and easy to understand framework for managing change in an organization. Most companies prefer to use this model to enact major changes. However, it takes considerable time to put into practice. This model can be compared to overcoming bad habits by changing them with new or better habits. The organization has to be determined and dedicated to make the change and do what is necessary despite obstacles involved in the process (Brisson-Banks, 2010).
Bridge’s Three-Phase Transition Model
For many logical reasons, people are often uncomfortable with change. This could lead them to resist and oppose change initiatives that may come their way. It is important to understand how people feel as change happens so that leaders can guide them through the process. Bridge’s transition model can help organizations understand how people feel during the change process so that they can guide their employees to support and accept the change.
The model emphasizes three stages of transition that people go through when they encounter change. These are: ending, neutral zone, and new beginning. In the ending stage, people must let go of the past before they can embrace the new. This is the initial stage of transition that people go through when presented with change. It is often marked with resistance because people are being forced to let go of something they are comfortable with. As a leader, it is important to accept the employee’s resistance and be able to understand their emotions. Give them time to accept the change and let go. Leaders should acknowledge the loss and a variety of reactions and be able to give people instructions on how to move on to the next stage (Brisson-Banks, 2009). When communicating with employees, leaders must listen empathetically and communicate honestly about what is going to happen. Leaders should explain to employees that their knowledge and experience would apply once the change is implemented.
It is also important to assure them that resources would be provided so that they can work effectively in the new environment (Mind Tools, 2014). In the neutral zone, people begin to explore their comfort with the new change. Individuals in this stage may feel disoriented with decreasing motivation and increasing anxiety and uncertainty. Employees may have increased workload as they transition into the new system and new ways of working. They might resent the new change initiative; have low morale and productivity; be anxious about their role or status in the company; and be skeptical about the change initiative (Mind Tools, 2014). This stage is a terrific time to inspire people to try new ways of thinking and working. As people go through this neutral period, a leader’s guidance is important in this stage.
People may feel lost and it is the leader’s role to provide them with a solid sense of direction. They should encourage employees to talk about their feelings and remind them of the team goals (Mento et al., 2002). In order to overcome resistance to change, leaders can involve people in designing the new change initiative. They can create short-term structures and lead them to innovate. Leaders must explain the neutral zone and validate feelings. They must be optimistic about the change and share information as often as possible. Short term goals are important at this stage so that employees can experience some quick wins to increase their enthusiasm (Mind Tools, 2014). When communicating with employees, allow them to voice their concerns regarding the change. Leaders should remain optimistic and be able to admit when they do not have an answer for people’s concerns. Leaders must meet with their team frequently to provide them with feedback on how they are performing.
They must be able to do what they can to boost morale and continue to remind people of how they can contribute to the success of the change (Washington University, n.d.). In the new beginning stage, people begin to embrace the new change (Washington University, n.d.). Employees develop the skills they need to function effectively in the new way and is beginning to see quick wins from their efforts. At this stage, people are likely to experience openness to learning, positive attitude, increased productivity, high energy, and renewed commitment to the group or their new role (Mind Tools, 2014). As employees embrace the new change, it is necessary for leaders to help them maintain it. Leaders can picture the future and plan the next steps.
While they plan the long-term objectives of the organization, they must take the time to celebrate the change they’ve all been through and reward their team for all their hard work. Leaders must communicate a picture of how the new organization will look and feel. Communicate a step by step understanding of how the organization will change and remember to avoid complacency so that people would not revert back to previous stages (Mind Tools, 2014). This model is beneficial in understanding how people feel as they are guided through the change process. It also clarifies the psychological effect of the change. However, it is not a substitute for other change management models such as Lewin’s change management model. Bridge’s model must be used along with other change management models (Brisson-Banks, 2009).
Change management is a challenging process to carry out and manage for any organization. With so many change management models, it is not always easy to find one that fits the organization’s nature. However, the use of change models is fundamental in the successful implementation of the change processes in organizations. This paper examined Lewin’s change management model and Bridge’s three phase transition model. It discussed the leader’s role in each model, how to overcome resistance, and their communication process.
It also assessed the advantages and disadvantages of using each model. Lewin and Bridge’s models have significant commonalities between them. These models can be used as a guide to assist organizations through the world of constant changes. There is no definite model that exists for each organization, but each model has helpful ways of managing change that can be customized according the organization (Brisson-Banks, 2009).
Brisson-Banks, C. V. (2010). Managing change and transitions: a comparison of
different models and their commonalities. Library Management, 31, 241-252. doi:10.1108/01435121011046317 Mind Tools. (n.d.). Bridges’ transition model – Change management tools from MindTools.com. Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/bridges-transition-model.htm Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. (2009). Organizational behavior (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Washington University. (n.d.). Three phases of transition – William Bridges. Retrieved from http://www.washington.edu/research/rapid/resources/changeModels/mc_three_phases.pdf Zigarmi, P., & Witt, D. (2007). Leading Change. Retrieved from http://www.kenblanchard.com/img/pub/leading_change_handout.pdf
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