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Change is inevitable

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Human nature is to resist change. Most of us settle into familiar routines in our lives and jobs, and no matter how inefficient our routines may be, we are very reluctant to disrupt the flow of our conventions. 

As military members, we are, generally speaking, more conservative than the general population. This characteristic makes us even more resistant to change than others may be. 

Anyone who has spent much time in the military knows that change is inevitable and frequent. Changes in leadership, changes in world politics, and, indeed, changes in budget all necessitate change in our procedures. Changes may be major reconstructions of philosophies and activities or minor adjustments of established routines, but the dynamics of change remain the same. Those of us in leadership positions (most of us) are mandated to bring about that shift in routines. 

In the early 1950s, a theorist named Kurt Lewin published a model of change. He stated the process of change involves the three stages of unfreeze, movement and refreeze. 

In the unfreezing stage, the equilibrium of current ideas must be broken. This can be accomplished by increasing the force to change while reducing the resistance to change. The leader's role is to build trust, to maintain positive energies and attitudes, and to foresee possible hurdles to overcome. The senior leadership must be seen as supporting the shift. 

In the movement phase, the participants must move toward the new goal. As leaders in this stage, we must help others to see how the change will benefit us and encourage them to bring in fresh ideas and perspectives to accomplish the change. In the face of major change, this stage is an excellent time for team building and the development of professional relationships. 

In the final phase of Lewin's model, the participants will refreeze their routines. It is important in this stage that steps be taken to prevent the slide back into older methods.

The new procedures or philosophies must be integrated into the daily routines and become the new equilibrium. If necessary, policies and procedures must be re-accomplished to reflect the change. Once the change becomes institutionalized, the transformation is complete. 

Change is easier to accept if the participants can see the need and benefit of the conversion. By identifying the methods and phases of change, the leader can ease the transition for those affected by the change. Kurt Lewin's model of change gives us a framework to work through our inevitable revisions.