What is the Calm Waters Metaphor?
by SREE RAMA RAO on MARCH 4, 2010
Until recently the calm waters metaphor dominated the thinking of practicing managers and academics. The prevailing model for handling change in calm waters is best illustrated in Kurt Lewin’s three step description of the change process. According to Lewin, successful change requires unfreezing the status quo, changing to a new sate, and freezing the new change to make it permanent. The status quo can be considered an equilibrium state. Unfreezing is necessary to move from this equilibrium. It can be achieved in one of three ways: 1) The driving forces, which direct behavior away from the status quo, can be increased.
2) The restraining forces, which hinder movement from the existing equilibrium, can be decreased.
3) The two approaches can be combined. Exhibit The change Process
Unfreezing Changing Refreezing
Once unfreezing has been accomplished the change itself can be implemented . However, the mere introduction of change does not ensure that it take hold. The new situation, therefore, needs to be refrozen so that it can be sustained over time. Unless this last step is attended to, it is likely that the change will be short lived and employees will revert to the previous equilibrium state. The objective of refreezing the entire equilibrium state, then, is to stabilize the new situation by balancing the driving and restraining forces. Note how Lewin’s three step process treats change as a break in the organization’s equilibrium state. The status quo has been distributed, and change is necessary to establish a new equilibrium state. This view might have been appropriate to the relatively calm waters metaphor is increasingly obsolete as a description of the kinds of seas that current managers have to navigate. How does the White Water rapids Metaphor of change functions?
This metaphor takes into consideration the fact environments are both uncertain and dynamic. To get a feeling for...
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