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Appears in Collections:Management, Work and Organisation Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: The Origins of Lewin's Three-Step Model of Change
Author(s): Burnes, Bernard
Keywords: Kurt Lewin
Three Step Model
Field Theory
Group Dynamics
Action Research
Issue Date: Mar-2020
Citation: Burnes B (2020) The Origins of Lewin's Three-Step Model of Change. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 56 (1), pp. 32-59.
Abstract: At the time of his death in 1947, Kurt Lewin was seen as one of the foremost psychologists of his day. He is now best known for his Three Step Model of Change. However, this has been criticised for its ‘simplicity’ and it has even been suggested that Lewin ‘never developed such a model’, yet this ignores its links to the rest of Lewin’s work. Surprisingly, there appears to have been no rigorous attempt to understand the connection between Lewin’s early work on field theory and his later work on social and organisational change. In addressing this gap in the Lewin literature, this article will show not only that the Three Step Model of Change is far from being simplistic, but also that it was a well-thought-out approach to change based on his development of field theory. The main difference between the two is one of nomenclature rather than substance.
DOI Link: 10.1177/0021886319892685
Rights: Burnes B, The Origins of Lewin’s Three Step Model of Change, Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 56 (1), pp. 32-59. Copyright © The Author, 2019. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications. DOI:
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