Kurt Lewin’s and Lippitt’s Change Theories

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Change is an important aspect of the healthcare practice. Healthcare organizations are continually faced with new concepts that require system adjustment. In order to align with the changes and operate optimally, healthcare organizations require strategies to guide the change process (Kritsonis, 2005). Knowledge of change theory and the theory’s framework is paramount in ensuring success in the change process. This paper discusses Lewin’s change theory and Lippitt’s theory of change.

Kurt Lewin’s Change Theory

Kurt Lewin is commonly referred to as the father of psychology. Lewin’s change theory is based on a three-stage model. The model is called the unfreezing-change-refreeze model. The theory stipulates that there are different forces that result in the change process (Kaminski, 2011). The theory is based on three concepts, which include the driving forces, restraining forces, and equilibrium forces. The driving forces facilitate the process of change. The driving forces direct change to the expected direction. The restraining forces oppose the change process. Equilibrium entails the balance between the driving and the restraining forces.

Lippitt’s Change Theory

Lippitt’s change theory is based on a seven-step process (Kritsonis, 2005). The seven steps include identification of the problem, assessment of the motivational factors, identification of the capacity for the change, the commitment to the change process, the role of change agents, the process of maintaining the change, and finally the termination of the change agent. The final process happens when the change is integrated into the culture.

Similarities between the two Theories

The theories apply similar approaches to achieve change; the core issue is to ensure that change is effective. Lewin’s change theory is rational and goal-oriented. Similarly, Lippitt’s change theory is goal-oriented. The second similarity is that Lewin’s theory is a three-stage process that includes unfreezing, change, and refreezing. On the other hand, Lippitt’s change theory is an expansion of the three stages; it breaks the three stages into seven steps (Kritsonis, 2005). The two theories depend on a change agent to drive the change process. For example, Lewin’s theory requires a change agent to move the change from equilibrium while Lippitt’s approach requires a change agent to ensure that change is accepted and spreads it to all parts of the system. The two theories are based on the motivation and capacity of the organization to accommodate the change.


Lewin’s change theory is based on three forces that determine the direction of the change. The theory is centered on an external agent of change. Lippitt’s change theory targets the spread of change to all units of the system. According to Kaminski (2011), the change is initiated in all sections of the system. This is contrary to Lewin’s theory in which the change starts from equilibrium. The other difference is that Lewin’s theory ensures that change is made a habit by refreezing. This entails the application of reinforcing measures to avoid backsliding. This is unlike Lippitt’s change theory in which the final stage is the withdrawal of the change agent. The other difference is that Lippitt’s theory is based on the introduction of an external agent to effect the change while Lewin’s theory depends on internal mechanisms to plan and execute the change.

Application of Lewin’s Change Theory in Clinical Setting

In the clinical setting, the adoption of an electronic information system is critical to reducing medical errors. However, many healthcare organizations have not embraced the change; they still use the manual system, which is prone to errors. In order to facilitate the change, the first step is unfreezing. This involves the identification of the method that is to be applied to initiate the change. The stage includes the creation of the necessity for the change. For instance, electronic clinical documentation reduces medical errors. The second step entails the change process. This involves the introduction of the new methods to serve as drivers of the change. The last stage is refreezing. In this stage, the intended change is established as a new habit and part of the operating procedure in the organization (Kritsonis, 2005). Refreezing entails reinforcing the new behaviors to avoid a possible backslide.

Lewin’s theory is based on a simple model. The model helps in the identification of the problem that needs to be changed through the unfreezing phase. The model helps the proponents of the change to examine the various forces that may aid or slow the change process. Furthermore, the rate of acceptance is high because the change starts within the system, unlike Lippitt’s change theory in which an external agent affects the change.


Lewin’s model of unfreezing-change-refreezing is best suited for personal and organizational change. The theory is based on the concept of driving, retraining, and equilibrium forces. The major setback of the theory is that for the change to happen, the change agent must be sufficient. Therefore, for the change to be successful, the driving forces should be enough to overcome the restraining forces.


Kaminski, J. (2011). Theory applied to informatics: Lewin’s Change Theory. Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics, 6 (1), 2-19.

Kritsonis, A. (2005). Comparison of Change Theories. International Journal of Scholarly Academic Intellectual Diversity, 8 (1), 1-7.

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