Two Change Theories

Compare and Contrast Two Change Theories

Change is inevitable in healthcare system. Planned change is critical for many reasons, but it can be difficult to implement. Comprehending and employing change theory framework can aid change agents to increase the chances of success. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast Lewin’s three-step change theory and Lippitt’s phases of change theory

Kurt Lewin’s change theory involves three stages: unfreezing, moving and refreezing. The three stages are used to identify and look into the forces and factors that influence a situation (Current Theories, 2012). According to Lewin, behavior is a dynamic balance of forces working in opposite directions.  Restraining forces impede change as they push workers in the opposite direction. Driving forces promote change because they drive workers to the desired direction (Current Theories, 2012). Unfreezing stage unfreezes the current status quo or situation, which is in an equilibrium state. Unfreezing is achieved by increasing the driving force and reducing restraining forces in order to overcome strains of group conformity and individual resistance. The second stage, movement, the target system is moved to a new level of equilibrium. In this stage, employees are encouraged to view the problem afresh and to work collectively in search for new information. Refreezing is the third stage, which occurs after the change has been implemented. Refreezing stabilizes the new equilibrium stemming from the change through the balancing of the restraining and driving forces (Mitchell, 2013). Lewin’s change theory demonstrates the impacts of forces which either hinder or promote change. Consequently, change will take place when the strength one force is far greater than the strength of the opposing force.

Lippitts’ phases of change theory is an extension of Lewin’s change theory. It is a seven-step theory that concerns more with the change agent’s role and responsibility. Thus it does not concern itself with the evolution of the change. These steps include diagnose the problem, assess motivation and capacity, assess change agent’s motivation and resources, select progressive change objective, choose appropriate role of the change agent, maintain change and terminate the helping relationship (Mitchell, 2013). According to Lippitt, changes that spread to immediate subparts of the system or neighboring are more stable (Mitchell, 2013). The seven phases focus on those impacted by the change.

Both Lewin’s change theory and Lippitt’s theory are the same problem-solving approaches to implementing thoughtful, calculating and meaningful change. In addition, Lippitt’s theory is an extension of Lewin’s change theory. Lippitt’s first three phases correspond to Lewin’s first stage of unfreezing, the fourth, fifth and sixth phases correspond the second stage of movement while the seventh phase of terminating the helping relationship corresponds to refreezing phase.

Lewin’s theory is rational, goal and plan oriented. However, it overlooks human experiences and feelings because it is focused on the evolution of change rather than the role of change agents. On the other hand, Lippitt’s phases of change theory is more comprehensive and detailed than Lewin’s change theory. Because it focuses on the role of change agents, it does consider personal factors that affect the implementation process.

Determine which theory makes the most sense for implementing your specific EBP intervention. Why?

Lippitt’s theory makes more sense to me than Lewin’s change theory. To begin with, it is more detailed despite requiring high level of understanding. It makes more sense because it provides a more comprehensive plan how to produce change and it is supported by the key components of the nursing process including assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation.

Has any of your mentors used either theory, and to what result?

My mentor has applied Lewin’s change theory recently by introducing new paperwork signing every hour to supplement hourly rounding. The change looked good enough on paper but generated negative consequences upon implementation. This is because the mentor got excited about the new planned change (paperwork signing) that he sidestepped past inputs, feelings and attitudes of other staff members. As a result, he found himself facing strong resistance.    


Current Theories. (2012). Nursing Theories.  Retrieved on August 23, 2021 from

Mitchell, (2013). Selecting the Best Theory to Implement Planned Change. Nursing Management, 20(1); 32-37

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