7 Stage Model of Change - Ronald Lippitt - Marcr (2022)

It’s not my intention to give full information or an extensive discussion on every theory. This website is intended to be a starting point and the main difference with other websites is the visual representation of the theory, which I hope will help get to grips with the theory. There are also links it the bottom to get your further research started.

Ronald Lippitt 1958

7 Stage Model of Change - Ronald Lippitt - Marcr (8)Description

Lippitt suggests that there are in total 7 steps to implementing change within a client. My feeling is that, in some ways, this is a reworking of a familiar theme. The same can be said of the other theories of change of course. As we will see below, there are significant similarites between them and they differ in the detail. This is not to discredit Lippitt or his model, it’s an observation that has its implications for practice. It makes it simpler for us practitioners to integrate all of these models within the work we do with clients. Some models have nuances which may be of benefit as well.

7 Stage Model of Change - Ronald Lippitt - Marcr (9)Lippitt’s Model links to other models of change

Schlossberg makes the distinction between anticipated and unanticipated changes for instance, whereas Lippit starts from a place of planned change where he expects individuals subject to the change to resist. Lippitt’s model on the other hand, offers more detail than that of Lewin. He also uses systemic approach, which comes from his background in working with leadership systems (committees, organisations) and not individual clients in a career context. The illustration below largely translates this into a model for career guidance. You’ll also find that Lippitt’s theory has been used in nursing in the UK because it maps on well to their planning system.

7 Stage Model of Change - Ronald Lippitt - Marcr (10)Lippit’s model in more detail:

7 Stage Model of Change - Ronald Lippitt - Marcr (11)

7 Stage Model of Change - Ronald Lippitt - Marcr (12)

7 Stage Model of Change - Ronald Lippitt - Marcr (13)


Ronald Lippitt was first a student under, and later a colleague of, Kurt Lewin. When you do some research into Lippitt, you’ll often see his name mentioned along with Lewin. In fact, they did a lot of work together amongst which a study on group dynamics with 3 groups of children under 3 models of leadership, which would now be frowned upon. However much they worked together, Lippitt’s theory of change is very different to that of Lewin. Or is it?

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If you look closely, you can aregue that Lippitt’s 7 stages are an extention of Lewin’s 3 stages. Or the reverse, that they can be clustered back into Lewin’s unfreeze-change-refreeze model of change. Lippitt initially saw his own work as a continuation and development of Lewin’s model (Lippitt et al., 1958, p.130).

7 Stage Model of Change - Ronald Lippitt - Marcr (14)Lippitt in practice

Lippit didn’t see his model as a sequence of steps to be taken one after the other. He argues that some can happen at the same time and some of the phases may become mixed up (Lippitt et al., 1958, p.130). This differs a lot from Lewin’s and other models where the different steps or phases need to be walked through in sequence. Especially in Lewin’s model, there is very little if anything to switch around before it stops making sense altogether.

Lippitt also mentions that this could be a cyclic, rather than a linear process (Lippitt et al., 1958, p.130), bringing it in close proximity to Prochaska and DiClimente’s work and even that of Schlossberg with its 4Ss cycle.

Although I’ve gone back to Lippitt’s original work, I’ve translated some of the language in his work to a more modern context as well as a career guidance environment. Because there is so little to find about Lippitt’s theory of change, I found, I’ve gone into quite a bit more detail than intended. Some of the secondary sources I found were either a mistranslation of his work or were very specific to a particular work or organisational context (eg.: nursing).

Phase 1: Developing a need for change; diagnosing the problem (Lippitt et al., 1958, p.131)

  • The creation of problem awareness and a strong feeling in the client for a need for change.
  • Recognising the existence of any communication blockages between client and practitioner
  • The creation of at least some confidence within the client that their situation can move to a more desirable state and tackling defeatist beliefs
  • The client has to be helped to believe that external help or the practitioner’s help is relevant and available and linked to that
    • working with the client to resolve resistance to help from outside/by the practitioner – the client may see this is a failing on their part for not being able to resolve change to a positive outcome themselves for instance. There could also be cultural or social foundations for resistance we need to be aware of.

Phase 2: Change relationship; assessing motivation and capacity for change (Lippitt et al., 1958, p.133)

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This phase may reveal or generate problems for the client:

  • in communicating their need for help with change in a way that the practitioner understands and accepts or
  • by the client needing to assess the validity of the practitioner’s assessment and ability to help

Lippitt argues that one of the crucial features of this phase is the way that the client starts to think about working relationship with the practitioner, the first impression they have of the practitioner. Reassuring the client and using a friendly and open way of communicating with them that is not authoritative is important. This includes the client’s attitude towards and opinion of career guidance/counselling and your position within the organisation if your work is within a school environment for instance. Building trust is important in this phase.

Also, the client may not be sure about the process and may expect relatively ‘quick and easy solutions’ offered by the practitioner. We need to help the client create realistic expectations.

Phase 3: Clarification; diagnosing the client system’s problem (Lippitt et al., 1958, p.136)

  • In this phase, the client often needs to cope with a broader and more involved diagnosis of the problem and the consequential change, according to Lippitt. As a result, the client may come to think that their problem is too complex to be resolved and change may not happen or may be too difficult.
  • Another client response Lippitt identified is of the client becoming hostile [sic] and uncooperative, closing down communication with the practitioner or denying the working relationship information to work with.

Lippitt argues that it usually comes down to helping the client strike a balance between helpless dependency on ‘outside help’ and defeatism or hostile rejection of ‘the diagnosis’.

Phase 4: Establishing alternative routes (Lippitt et al., 1958, p.137)

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The client starts translating ‘the diagnosis’ into possible routes forward. Alternative routes forward are discussed between client and practitioner.

  • Motivation is important in choosing alternative solutions and making a decision as to which one would be best. Commitment requires an emotional and material/practical investment and the client will make assessments as to the resources that are required, which will affect motivation positively (“oh, that’s easy ehough”) or negatively (feeling overwhelmed for instance).
  • There is a realisation that old habits and practices will need to be given up. This may result in a tendency in the client to retract back to known habits and practices or this may cause anxiety or fear of failure.

Phase 5: Transforming intentions into actual efforts to change (Lippitt et al., 1958, p.139)

So far, success is measured by the extent to which plans and intentions are translated into actual action for change or achievements. Lippitt doesn’t seem to have a lot to say about this phase that is of use to us in a career context other than that the practitioner may not be able to see the efforts for change in the environment the client has to apply them.

Getting feedback on the consquences (or effects) of the change process may be difficult, he also argues, which may cause the client to discontinue their efforts to implement or continue implementing the changes agreed upon. I feel this is far less likely in the working relationships we work within and with the clients we support.

I’ll leave it up to you (and each one of us) to draw consequences or fill in the blanks when relating the phase 5 header to our working environment.

Phase 6: Stabilising change (Lippitt et al., 1958, p.140)

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Lippit rightly claims that one critical factor in the stabilisation of change is that of the spread or ‘non-spread’ of the changes to ‘neighbouring systems or subsystems’, which can be translated to whether the changes are integrated within the client’s framework of habits and whether their surroundings support maintaining the change.

Here too, if we stick to Lippitt’s work, he doesn’t have a lot to say about the individual client and the one to one working relationship we have with them. His work is more focused on organisational change.

Phase 7: Terminal relationship (Lippitt et al., 1958, p.142)

Lippitt claims that the client’s dependency on the practitioner is a mojor issue when terminating the relationship. I agree that this may be an issue in counselling and other relationships where there has been an intence and longer term working relationship between the client and the practitioner, this may be a real issue. I can’t speak for anyone else but in my practice, most of the time the working relationship is short in nature. This is in no small part because of how career guidance is perceived and funded in England, promoting short term interventions with a focus on (if some agents had their way) employability and the economy at large, rather than longer term career management.

Another issue at the end of our working relationship is the question of whether the client has integrated the techniques and behaviours to implement and sustain change enough to ensure their long term viability. At the end of the working relationship we need to make sure that we fully understand how far and how well change behaviours and thinking has been integrated within the client’s natural thinking and behaviour. We also need to act if this is not the case, postponing the point of termniation of the working relationship.

7 Stage Model of Change - Ronald Lippitt - Marcr (15)Critique

I feel that Lippit leaves me with something to think about, rather than with a set of techniques to use with clients. Lippitt’s theory is also far wider than the context we work within in career management and counselling. This can be helpful in drawing us out of our ‘natural environment’ and look at things in a different way. However, I sometimes struggled, reading Lippitt’s work, to related it to career counselling and management. This doesn’t mean that the model itself can’t be useful for career guidance work and looking at the illustration above, the essence is very easy to use in career guidance work.

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7 Stage Model of Change - Ronald Lippitt - Marcr (16)However, does it add anything over and above other models? What do you think?

  • Taking the basics, or the implications described by Lippitt, how do you feel you can use the model ini your work?
  • Comparing it to other models of change, what do you think? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
  • Is it valid in helping both you and your clients to move successfully through change?
  • Also, apply it to change you’ve been through. How relevant is it in retrospect? How would it have changed the process of change for you?
  • Here too, have a look at Brown and see how it measures up.

7 Stage Model of Change - Ronald Lippitt - Marcr (17)Useful links


  • Lippitt, R., Watson, J., & Westley, B. (1958).The dynamics of planned change. New York, Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc.

Further reading:

  • Lippitt, R. (1981). Humanizing planned change. In H. Metzer (Ed.),Making organizations humane and productive: A handbook for practitioners(pp. 463–474). New York: Wiley.
  • Lippitt, R. (1983). Future before you plan. In R. A. Ritvo & A. G. Seargent (Eds.),The NTL Manager’s handbook(pp. 374–381). Arlington: NTL Institute.


What is the Lippitt Change Theory? ›

Lippitt, building on Lewin's original theory, created the Phases of Change Theory that encompass the following change phases[3]: Becoming more aware of the need for change. Develop a relationship between the system and change agent. Define a change problem. Set change goals and action plan for achievement.

Who expanded the three stage model into seven stage model? ›

Kurt Lewin developed a change model involving three steps: unfreezing, changing and refreezing.

What are the change models in nursing? ›

The seven steps of the planned change model include: (1) diagnosing the problem; (2) assessing the motivation and capacity for change in the system; (3) assessing the resources and motivation of the change agent; (4) establishing change objectives and strategies; (5) determining the role of the change agent; (6) ...

What is a planned change model? ›

Planned change is the process of preparing the entire organization, or a significant part of it, for new goals or a new direction. This direction can refer to culture, internal structures, processes, metrics and rewards, or any other related aspects.

What are the 7 leadership styles in nursing? ›

Leadership Styles
  • Transformational. Transformational leaders form strong relationships and inspire nurses to act independently to achieve a hospital's greater vision. ...
  • Autocratic. ...
  • Democratic. ...
  • Laissez-Faire. ...
  • Pacesetting. ...
  • Strategic. ...
  • Servant.

Why Lewin change model is important? ›

It is designed to understand why people resist change and put the forces in place to drive people to change acceptance and support. One of the biggest reasons that Lewin's change management model works is that it uses clear concepts and illustrations that make change management easy for many to understand.

What are Kotter 8 steps to change? ›

8 Steps in Kotter's Change Model are:
  1. Create Urgency.
  2. Put A Team Together.
  3. Develop Vision and Strategies.
  4. Communicate the Change Vision.
  5. Remove Obstacles.
  6. Set Short-Term Goals.
  7. Keep the Momentum.
  8. Make Change Stick.
21 Dec 2021

What change model did Netflix use? ›

Netflix organizational change is a real-life example of Lewin's change management model. Every organizational change has a few stages of completing the entire process. The most significant factors are technology, culture, and environment that stimulate an organization to accept the change.

What is the difference between Lewin's model and Kotter's model? ›

Lewin's change model is a three-step process developed to help leaders facilitate and understand transitions. Kotter's change model employs an eight-step process that addresses the people affected by the change rather than focusing on the change itself.

Why are change models used in healthcare? ›

The Change Model provides a valuable framework to enable effective and sustainable change that delivers real benefits for staff, patients and communities. It has been co-produced with hundreds of health and care staff and based on credible evidence and experience.

What is the most popular change model? ›

Kotter's change management theory is one of the most popular and adopted ones in the world. This model has eight stages, and each of them focuses on employees' response to change. Increase urgency – Creating a sense of urgency among employees may be the best way to motivate and engage them during the process.

What is 4P model in change management? ›

To embrace and implement Transition, your team and employees must understand and benefit from communications on the 4 P's: Purpose, Picture, Plan and Part.

What are the steps to change? ›

And we all know that change is not only constant, it is accelerating.
The Five Steps of Change
  • Step 1: Awareness. ...
  • Step 2: Desire. ...
  • Step 3: Knowledge. ...
  • Step 4: Action. ...
  • Step 5: Perseverance.
15 Apr 2015

What are examples of planned change? ›

The introduction of employee welfare measures, changes in the incentive system, introduction of new products and technologies, organizational restructuring, team building, enhancing employee communication as well as technical expertise fall under the category of Planned Change.

Who created the 7 leadership styles? ›

Lewin's Leadership Styles

Psychologist Kurt Lewin developed his framework in the 1930s, and it provided the foundation of many of the approaches that followed afterwards.

What are the 7 dimensions of leadership? ›

It turns out that leadership has seven dimensions: 1) Physical Intelligence, 2) Emotional Intelligence, 3) Heart Intelligence, 4) Communication Intelligence, 5) Pragmatic Intelligence, 6) Neuroscience Intelligence, and 7) Consciousness Intelligence.

What are the 7 leadership styles and meaning? ›

The seven primary leadership styles are: (1) Autocratic, (2) Authoritative, (3) Pace-Setting, (4) Democratic, (5) Coaching, (6) Affiliative, (7) Laissez-faire.

What is the biggest limitation of Lewin's change model? ›

The major disadvantage of the change management theory is the insecurity among employees. Employees tend to get worried about their performance when they hear about a new change.

What is Lewin's change model called? ›

One of the cornerstone models for understanding organizational change was developed by Kurt Lewin back in the 1940s, and still holds true today. His model is known as Unfreeze – Change – Refreeze, which refers to the three-stage process of change that he describes.

What is the purpose of change models? ›

The Change Model is a framework for any project or programme that is seeking to achieve transformational, sustainable change. The model, originally developed in 2012, provides a useful organising framework for sustainable change and transformation that delivers real benefits for patients and the public.

How do I apply John Kotter's theory of change? ›

What are the 8 steps in the Kotter Change Model?
  1. Create a Sense of Urgency.
  2. Form a Guiding Coalition.
  3. Create a Strategic Vision.
  4. Initiate Change Communication.
  5. Remove Barriers to Change.
  6. Generate Short-Term Wins.
  7. Make Change a Continuous Process.
  8. Incorporate Changes in the Org Culture.
3 Dec 2019

How do I reference the Kotter change Model? ›

Kotter, J. P. Leading Change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996.

Is there a most important step in Kotter's 8 steps explain your perspective? ›

This first step of Kotter's 8 Step Change Model is the most important step according to John Kotter. By making employees aware of the need and urgency for change, support will be created. This requires and open, honest and convincing dialogue. This convinces employees of the importance of taking action.

What change model did Microsoft use? ›

Microsoft teams used the Prosci ADKAR model (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement) to identify potential blocks to adoption of the new business intelligence platform. This model provides insight into where to focus resources to encourage the desired shift in behavior.

What is Netflix new rule? ›

Netflix announced today that it will begin testing a new “add a home” feature to charge users who share their account with others in select countries. The test marks the streaming giant's latest effort toward cracking down on password sharing.

How did Netflix go through organizational change? ›

In 2007, Netflix underwent major operational and organizational change by introducing streaming to its traditional DVD rental model. In 3-4 years, streaming became its primary business and focus. Using the four types of change introduced by Balogun & Hailey (2004), the change is most fitting of evolution.

Which model is better Adkar or Kotter? ›

When planning for resistance, Kotter, Lewin and ADKAR might be the way to go. Kotter provides steps for implementation while Lewin and ADKAR are more general in their approach, encouraging organizations to develop their own way of reaching goals.

Why is Kotter's change model the best? ›

The greatest strength of Kotter's model is its first two steps – creating a sense of urgency and creating the guiding coalition. Far too many leaders lurch into a programme of organisational upheaval without having properly convinced people first that there is a genuine need for change.

What is McKinsey 7's change management model? ›

The McKinsey 7-S Model is a change framework based on a company's organizational design. It aims to depict how change leaders can effectively manage organizational change by strategizing around the interactions of seven key elements: structure, strategy, system, shared values, skill, style, and staff.

What are the types of changes and give the examples? ›

  • Reversible change - eg. Melting of ice.
  • Irreversible change - eg. Burning of paper.
  • Periodic change - eg. Swinging of pendulum.
  • Non-periodic change - eg. Occurrence of floods.
  • Desirable change - eg. Ripening of fruits.
  • Undesirable change - eg.Rusting of iron.
  • Natural change - eg. ...
  • Man-made change - eg.

Which change management model is best for healthcare? ›

The Prosci ADKAR model that can be used for change management strategies in healthcare is one of the most popular because it's based on the stages people need to traverse to make it through a change successfully.

What is the best way to implement change in healthcare? ›

Implementing Change
  1. Communicate. Frequent and effective communication is especially important during change, because so much is going on. ...
  2. Foster a Team Culture. ...
  3. Identify and Empower Champions. ...
  4. Provide Feedback and Positive Reinforcement.
20 Jul 2010

What is the most common health care model? ›

The out-of-pocket model is the most common model in less-developed areas and countries where there aren't enough financial resources to create a medical system like the three models above. In this model, patients must pay for their procedures out of pocket.

Who invented change model? ›

A leader in change management, Kurt Lewin was a German-American social psychologist in the early 20th century. Among the first to research group dynamics and organizational development, Lewin developed the 3 Stage Model of Change in order to evaluate two areas: The change process in organizational environments.

Is there a universal model of change? ›

The Universal Model of change allows you to identify these rhythms of life earlier and faster (not only in hindsight) and to know what to do to help yourself.

Which change model is useful for individual change? ›

ADKAR model

Created by Jeffrey Hiatt, the ADKAR change model helps facilitate change on an individual level since change is often less about the changes themselves and more about people's reactions to them.

What is Lewin's theory of changes and give me an example? ›

Understanding Lewin's Change Management Model

First you must melt the ice to make it amenable to change (unfreeze). Then you must mold the iced water into the shape you want (change). Finally, you must solidify the new shape (refreeze).

What is Lewin's 3 step model of change explain? ›

Lewin developed the change model as a way to illustrate how people react when facing changes in their lives. The three stages of this process include unfreezing (the person has an existing state), moving or changing towards new ways of being, and then refreezing into a new state altogether!

What is the best Change Theory in nursing? ›

The Change Theory of Nursing was developed by Kurt Lewin, who is considered the father of social psychology. This theory is his most influential theory. He theorized a three-stage model of change known as unfreezing-change-refreeze model that requires prior learning to be rejected and replaced.

What are the benefits of Lewin's three step model? ›

Lewin's change management model is a three-stage model which can be easily adopted by any business entity. The three stages are unfreeze, change, and refreeze. The model allows organizations to adapt quickly in challenging and rapidly evolving environments.

What is Kurt Lewin's formula? ›

Kurt Lewin's behavior equation is “B = f(P, E)”. It states that an individual's behavior (B) is a function (f) of the the person (P), including their history, personality and motivation, and their environment (E), which includes both their physical and social surroundings.

What are the 4 categories of change? ›

The Four Categories of Change. Addition, subtraction, transposition, and substitution comprise the four categories of change.

What are Levels 3 stages of change? ›

These three distinct stages of change (unfreeze, change, and refreeze) allow you to plan & implement the required change. A well-thought combination of change models and change management tools can go a long way in steering your employees through the change.

What is the main idea of theory of change? ›

A theory of change is a method that explains how a given intervention, or set of interventions, is expected to lead to specific development change, drawing on a causal analysis based on available evidence.


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