The calm waters metaphor has been dominating the thinking of managers and academics until very recently. The best way to illustrate the prevailing model for handling change in calm waters is by using Kurt Lewin’s three-step description of change process. According to Kurt Lewin, unfreezing the status quo, changing to a new state, and refreezing the new change to make it permanent are needed for a successful change. The status quo can be considered as an equilibrium state, and unfreezing is required to move from this equilibrium. There are three ways to achieve this:
- The driving forces that direct behavior away from the status quo can be increased.
- The restraining forces that hinder movement from the existing equilibrium can be decreased.
- The two approaches above can be combined.
When unfreezing has been accomplished, the change itself can be implemented. However, the mere introduction of change doesn’t insure that it will last. The new situation needs to be refrozen so that it can be sustained over time. If this last step is omitted, there is a strong chance that the change will be short lived and the members of the organization will revert to the previous equilibrium state. In short, the objective of refreezing is to stabilize the new situation by balancing the driving and restraining forces.