Lewin s Change Theory in .NET

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82 Lewin s Change Theory
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One of the simplest and older models of the change process comes from psychologist Kurt Lewin1 This simple model (Figure 82) starts from the assumption that things are in a steady state Things might be getting better or worse, but they re doing so in a predictable way Into this steady state we introduce the need to change The model doesn t explain why we introduce change The rst thing that needs to happen in order to facilitate change is to unfreeze the current status quo The need for change needs to be explained and people need to be prepared for change For whatever reason, it needs to be explained that the status quo is no longer an option Consequently, some unlearning is required: people need to be prepared to give up some existing behaviours and understandings
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Originally from Lewin (1951), this model has been expanded upon elsewhere by Edgar Schein
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Unfreeze
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Change
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Refreeze
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Figure 82 Lewin s basic change model
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The second step is for the change to take place At a high level, the model doesn t explain the details of how the change happens Once the change is complete the model enters the nal stage, where the changed system is frozen in the new form At a high level, this model serves to outline a simple change process The need to move from what we do now to an environment in which things are different is clear Moving from one position to another clearly requires change What is less clear is whether we actually wish to freeze the resulting changes In an environment in which external change is happening constantly, do we really want to freeze ourselves And, if we accept the learning is change argument from earlier, do we ever want learning to stop Indeed, can we stop learning There are times when we want change to happen quickly and there are times when we want it to happen slowly Rather than refreezing after change, we may simply want to slow things down and ensure that change continues at a sustainable pace Lewin s model is a useful starting place to understand change, but it says very little about what we actually do For that, we need other models to understand the process further
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Change Models
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83 Satir s Theory of Change
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Satir s change model2 derives from work on family theory Like the Lewin model, it starts with the status quo, although in this model the current position is shown as the rst stage in the model Gerry Weinberg3 has done much to map Satir s model into the software development domain Figure 83 shows Satir s model graphically and is almost self-explanatory In this model we start in a stable state; things are better on some days and worse on others, but on the whole we continue just as we always have done Then something happens Satir calls this a foreign element , but it could be something, someone or some event This could be a relatively minor change, or it could be major change such as switching to a new programming language At rst, we try to resist the change and carry on as before, but performance declines as nothing that we do any longer produces the same result Now we re no longer in our old state, but we don t know how to act in the new state For the individual, chaos ensues: dread, panic, despair and apathy To the rest of the world this may look like normality, but to the individual things are unclear
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Performance Foreign body enters Transforming idea
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Time Starts in status quo Chaos New status quo
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Performance declines
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Satir s change model
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See Satir (1991) See Weinberg (1997)
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Eventually, we have a transforming idea that enables us to understand what s happening and start to make sense of the changed world Things don t get better instantly: over time, as we integrate this idea into our thinking and the way in which we act, our performance starts to return to our initial state For a therapist it may be enough that our performance returns to normal , but for the organization and those attempting change there s little point in the change if it doesn t lead to improved performance For example, with a new programming language, at rst we use the syntax of the new language but continue to think and design in the idioms of the old one Our performance suffers as we try to make sense of the new language in the terms of the old one During this phase we may blame the language and we may feel inadequate Eventually, we come to understand the new language and our performance starts to improve After a while we re thinking in the new language and taking full advantage of the capabilities At this point we have reached a new, hopefully improved, status quo Lewin s model is hidden inside Satir s model Both start with the status quo, then something happens to change it unfreezing for Lewin and a foreign element for Satir In the Lewin model change follows, but Satir recognizes that we don t move seamlessly from one state to another For the individual, things may get worse before they get better; there may be confusion and the bene ts of the change may take time to be recognized Finally, both models end up at a new status quo Satir s model is useful for those introducing change, because it explains what s happening When we introduce change, we re acting as the foreign element We re suggesting that things should be different For a while, people don t know how to act and may be worried by our new ideas Even when people embrace new ideas and ways of working, it takes time to fully appreciate how to use them During this time we mistake this reaction for resistance or a failure to get it Eventually things do improve, but it takes time for the full bene ts to be recognized During this time we may suffer setbacks, but the overall trend is upwards
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