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Dealing With Resistance To Change

Usually, when change is in the air there is resistance to that change. In an earlier post, I spoke of Lewin’s model of change that is found in his Unfreeze-change-refreeze theory. Lewin encourages leaders to beware of two kinds of resistance. They are resistance that comes from social habit or custom and group oriented resistance based on created values. The leaders challenge is to break the habits, challenge the interests or `unfreeze’ the customs of the grouping order to overcome the forces of resistance. Lewin’s change management model is linked to force field analysis. He considered that, to achieve change effectively, it is necessary to look at all the options for moving from the existing present to a desired future state, and then to evaluate the possibilities of each and decide on the best one, rather than just aiming for the desired goal and taking the straightest and easiest route to it. He identified two questions to ask when seeking to make changes within the organization. First, the change agent would ask: Why does a process continue at its current level under the present circumstances? Secondly, the one desiring to overcome resistance would ask: What conditions would change these circumstances? These questions will help “unfreeze” the resistance in the group dynamic. As leaders, we can effectively deal with resistance to change by asking the right questions.


Cartwright, Dorwin. (1963) Field theory in social science. London: Tavistock Publications

Hartley, E. L. & Newcomb, T. M. (1947) Group decision and social change: Readings in social psychology. New York, NY: Holt

Lewin, K. (1948) Resolving Social Conflicts. Selected papers on group dynamics, New York: Harper and Row