Lewin’s model assumes that change must be controlled. As noted in Stacey and Grey “everything is change except…the ability to control it and the structure of power and inequality”. It is evident that an assumption that effective change comes from a managed or controlled process is a core assumption of Lewin’s approach. For example, the 3 step model represents only one quarter of Lewin’s planned approach to change, which includes: force field theory; group dynamics and action research. If implemented holistically this represents a comprehensive planned approach. Specifically on force field analysis, this requires the full participation of everyone involved to provide the accurate information required for an effective analysis. This is a highly controlled process and if implemented as intended by Lewin would be slow and incremental, therefore not fit for swift transformational “bold stroke” type change or continuous dynamic change. Less controlling models would be more effective in modern business environments. For example, complex theory models (e.g Dunphy and Stace’s contingency model of leadership and change (1993))
Lewin’s model promotes the interests of management. Stacey and Grey argue that managerial control is well establish in OCM and “informs informs perhaps the most enduring of OCM metaphors, that of unfreeze–change–refreeze”. However Burke W. W. et al argue “Lewin recognised that change could be initiated from the top, bottom, or middle but that it could not be successful without the active, willing, and equal participation of all.” Whilst Lewin might not have advocated top-down management, his approach makes assumptions that could lead to achieving the interests of management. For example, the model conveys a “resistance” assumption which must be addressed during the ‘change’ step and a “regression” assumption which must be addressed during the ‘refreeze’ step. This highlights an approach “framed unquestioningly in the interests of management” Sturdy and Grey; (2003).
The “ubiquity of change” is a criticism Sturdy and Grey have attributed to OCM and Lewin’s 3-step model does appear to advocate change. Sturdy and Grey argue that OCM and the freeze/unfreeze metaphor “envisaged change as an intervention”. However Longo argues xxx. Lewin’s states that “motivation for change must be generated before change can occur” (Longo; 2011). That very line in itself, specifically “motivation for change”, carries a pro-change bias. Furthermore, the concept, during the “change” phase, of trial and error until a solution is found, assumes a solution (change) is the correct approach. Whilst there is a clear pro-change bias, it is however short of what Stacey and Grey describe as a “totalitarianism of change”.
The organisation is an isolated entity. Lewin’s planned approach ignore power and politics and the conflictual nature of such entities in organisational environments. For example the model assumes all stakeholders in a change programme are committed to making a change happen. The model also pays lip service to humaniterianism. For example there is an assumption aligned with the force field analysis theory that the full participation of everyone is always achievable, as Lewin advices that only full participation would result in the accurate information required for an effective analysis. incorporate understandings of economic and socio- logical institutionalism into accounts of change, thus moving the focus beyond the organisation as an isolated entity.
4. Sturdy and Grey (2003)
Sturdy and Grey challenge the widespread assumption that change can and should be managed, and note a number of objections to conventional approaches, mainly pro-change bias, managerialism and the mechanistic approach of OCM models The analysis above shows the impact these assumptions have had on the general interpretation and implementation of Lewin’s approach, which has been made stricter than Lewin intended. The following evaluates the impact of Sturdy and Grey’s main objections to conventional approaches in the context of the implementation of the Home Office International Strategy.
Pro-change bias. Sturdy and Grey makes reference to “the demonisation and pathologising inherent in the commonly used OCM phrase ‘irrational resistance to change”. This was evident during the change project to implement the International Strategy. This project was one of several incremental changes following the ‘bold stroke’ of UKBA’s abolition. The need for change was therefor implied, which sat uncomfortable in certain quarters of the Home Office, who were not persuaded by the need for a strategy. Resistance was regarded as irrational internal politics and no sincere attainment was made to explore a solution that works for the resistors.
Managerialism. Sturdy and Grey argue that ” humanism represents a refinement of, rather than an alternative to, managerial control”. The lack of enabling structures or even enabling managers through training is an example of the fact that humanitarianism was not an issue considered in its own right during the implementation of the International Strategy. An alternative to managerial control, would be a good model to use in situations like this where employees agreement or participation is required. Kanter et al’s “long march” and Beer and Nohria’s Theory O are making headways in the right direction but more needs to be done to challenge managerialism and mainstream humaniterialism.
Mechanistic approach of OCM models. The International Strategy project exemplifies over mechanisation. besides evidence gathering, there was no attempt to investigate, react or address and issues out of the mandate given by top leadership. For example, when resistance was encountered the top-down approach was in the way of any meaningful discourse.
Despite the misunderstandings and misrepresentations. Lewin still has limitations. mainly its mechanistic approach, promoting the interest of management, and its view of the organisation as an isolated entity, which makes the model unsuitable for modern business environments. As seen in sturdy and Grey change agents need to be awake to the ‘practical relevance’ of models like Lewin and how they are being applied in an ‘ever-changing world of practice’.
5. Kanter et al: Ten Commandments for Executing Change (1992)
I have chosen Kanter et al. (1992) for two reasons. First, for their position “that change is multi-directional and ubiquitous” and “that change happens in all directions at once and is a continuous process”. As a result, Kanter et al therefore relates to modern dynamic perspectives of change, whereas Lewin is more relevant to incremental and isolated change projects due to its mechanistic approach. Second, the potential it provides through the “long march” approach to address the social perspective of change management.
In looking at approaches to Change, Kanter et al. provides an effective distinction between two types change management:
Bold Strokes – Arguably, the abolition of UKBA represents a bold stroke. This was a major strategic decision taken at the top of Government with a rapid and significant impact. This change on its own did not change culture and did not rely on co-operation from employees to be successful. The implementation of the International Strategy undertaken as a “bold stoke”. This error was the primary reason, in my view that the program was suboptimal.
Long Marches – As mentioned previously, the implementation of the Home Office International Strategy, should have been primarily undertaken as a “long march”. This was a smaller initiative, designed to create long-term change at operational level, where widespread involvement and support from employees was necessary for success.
For both approaches, Kanter et al offer in the “Ten Commandments for Executing Change”. Below illustrates the impact Kanter metal would have had on the International Strategy change project.
I believe however that the two approaches (bold stroke and long march) could have been used effectively in tandem, as advocated by Beer and Nohria (2000), in this example by capitalising from momentum generated by “bold stroke” abolition of the UKBA to garner a sense of urgency, whilst not loosing focus of the fact that the main approach ought to be a “long march”.
Implementation of Lewin is not as he originally intended. One size can not fit all.
Lewin’s 3-step model is the most used, widely quoted and respected. The model provides a simple outline that assists agents visualise, plan, manage and audit each of the stages of change. However, Lewin has its shortcomings and is therefore arguably unsuitable for modern business environments. Kanter et al. (1992) suggest that Lewin’s model of change is too simplistic as it is based on an incorrect view that organisations are essentially stable and static.
There are several approaches to change, and I would need to find the right one or the combination that best suits the situation at the time. On balance, my preference would be Kanter et al xxx, recognise its limits xxx.
“Contingency rejects notions of the ‘one best way’ approach as it proposes that any approach depends on a number of contextual factors regarding environment e.g. scale of change, and leaders. Dunphy and Stace’s contingency model of leadership and change (1993)” this is complicated to follow…..
I share the view expressed by Beer and Nohria (2000) that just one approach to change may be sub-optimal. Beer and Nohria (2000) advocate using the two approaches in tandem. Theory E, which is similar to Kanter et al.’s ‘bold stroke’, and Theory O, which is similar to Kanter et al.’s ‘long march’. Focusing on the rapid restructuring elements of Theory E but following this with the human capability development offered by Theory O.
The problem with the implementation of the Home Office International Strategy was the erroneous decision to attempted a ‘bold stroke’ approach, when in reality either the ‘long march’ approach or a combination of the two was more suitable.
Sturdy and Grey (2003) argue that Theories E and O still assumes that all change is ‘good’ and risks being carried out primarily in the interests of management, and could conflict with the interests of other stakeholders. Here, I disagree with the authors, as the first Kanter et al first commandment is “analyse the organisation and its need for change”. It is clear therefore that there is no assumption here that change is the answer.