Comparison of Lewins Change Model and John Kotters eight stage process Essay

Comparison of Lewins Change Model and John Kotters eight stage process

Change, inevitable or not, needs to be tackled carefully in order to minimize the effects of the transition phase accompanied by it or to simply adjust successfully. As far as organizational change is concerned, ‘change management’ has cropped up as an essential concept in the businesses today as the adjustment process greatly determines the efficient workings of an organization and needs to be looked into deeply. To understand this, two of the most significant models happen to be ‘Lewin’s change model’ and ‘John Kotter’s eight stage process’. A comparison of both follows in the rest of this paper.

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Kurt Lewin’s model for change consists of three stages, namely unfreeze, change and refreeze. The first stage of the process engages the act of preparing an institution to acknowledge a change and this is done through the collapse of the existing workings before setting up a new system or simply put, unfreezing. This can be done in an organization by showing how the current method of working is not good enough and that a change is essential to improve the business returns. In essence, a need for change is created and what needs to be done is simply make people re-think or re-analyze the core of the organization and motivate them towards change.

Now that uncertainty has already been created, the next step is where people begin to look for new working methods by stepping in a new direction. This part is called ‘change’. For the change to occur successfully, people need to realize how it benefits them and this is done through communication and time and eventually the incident of change settles in. Employee participation/action is empowered and problems or concerns are dealt with.

The ‘refreezing’ takes place when the change has been accepted and the new stability needs to be established and made firm. The change is made sustainable and reward and feedback systems are created with the change being cherished throughout.

In comparison to Lewin’s three-stage model, Kotter came up with an eight-stage change model in the book ‘Leading Change.’ The first of the eight, ‘creating urgency’, talks about giving people the initial motivation and starting an honest dialogue about the situation in the marketplace. In comparison to Lewin’s model, Kotter’s model isn’t only about showing the employees poor statistics and sales strategies but is in fact, an attempt to engage people in a sincere conversation about the proposed change.

The second step is to form a powerful coalition by realizing that change has to be led and for this, the true leaders of the organization have to be identified in order to work on team building. This is essential because, as stated in the book ‘leading change’, change efforts take “actual broad-based employee empowerment”. (Kotter, 1996, 127)This clause of the model differs from Lewin’s model, which says nothing about teamwork or coalition formation even though it happens to be of great significance where change management is concerned.

Moving on, the third step is creating a vision for alteration. This step along with the fourth step, ‘communicating the vision’ is somewhat similar to the ‘unfreezing’ step in Lewin’s model, which also talks about communicating the vision. Both models stress on addressing people’s issues and concerns about the proposed change although only Kotter talks about creating a vision independently from communicating it. He identifies both steps individually and therefore gives separate importance to both.

The fifth step in Kotter’s model is removing obstacles and talks about checking for barriers that may appear as processes or structures and then getting rid of them. This, in effect, empowers the employees who are required to execute the change. In comparison to Lewin’s model, this step is something completely new, which isn’t addressed in Lewin’s three stages of change. Removing obstacles is an essential part in the change process and has to given importance, which is only seen in Kotter’s model.

Creating short-term wins is the sixth step in Kotter’s change model and refers to producing results that the staff can see by thriving to achieve short-term goals. This would give the team a taste of victory and hence keep them motivated toward the change. This, too, is a practical way of supporting the change process but is not mentioned in Lewin’s model.

The seventh step is a continuation of the sixth and talks about building the change. This is basically the idea of achieving more and more from the change by setting further goals to build on the momentum already achieved.

The last of the eight steps is to anchor the changes in corporate culture by making sure that the change shows in every aspect of the organization and the company’s leaders continue to support the change. This step also involves celebrating the successes of the change as also mentioned in Lewin’s last step of ‘refreezing’.

A general comparison of both models shows that whereas Lewin provided an overview of the change process in his three-stage model, Kotter provided a detailed analysis in his eight steps. In essence, both models had the same basic content, however, Kotter went into a greater depth of the issue and stressed on the practical workings of the change process by going step by step and identifying even the minutest of clauses involved. Lewin, on the other hand, included most of Kotter’s steps in his three basic headings.


Kotter, John P. (1996) Leading Change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press. Pp 127

Ritchie, Bronwyn. (2006)“Lewin’s Change Management Model: Understanding the Three Stages.” Leading Change. Harvard Business School Press.’s.htm.


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