Week Ten 3/22/15 to 3/28/15: Change Theory


Kurt Lewin and the Change Theory

Kurt Lewin  immigrated from Germany to the United States in the 1930s; and dedicated his entire career on the study of human behavior. He was deemed by his peers as the founder of social psychology (The Atlantic, 2015). During World War II there was a meat shortage; and the government needed help. Their goal was to change the eating habits of stateside Americans in consuming (the plentiful) organ meats instead of the popular (familiar) cuts of meat that were in shortage. This was a difficult task since the majority of Americans considered organ meats as taboo and a marker of poor social status (The Atlantic, 2015).

The way Lewin (and his partner in the experiment, Margaret Mead) approached this task was to understand the reason why people avoided organ meat; and the answer they came up with was unfamiliarity (The Atlantic, 2015). Meaning, if people are unfamiliar with what organ meats are then why would they consume it? The first step in familiarizing the public was in titling organ meat as “variety meat” and deeming one “patriotic” for eating variety meat. Also, print campaigns, community group cooking lessons and cook books (to teach how to prepare variety meats) were heavily marketed by the government to propagate the variety meat message (The Atlantic, 2015). Did the variety meat experiment work? Well, it did last throughout the war; and helped the meat shortage efforts, so it those terms it was successful.

This type of work led Lewin to creating his Change Theory (1947) that was a three-step model in organizational change:

  1. Unfreezing Stage: Those in a group need to unfreeze or let go of old ways (or prior thinking) in order to accept the new change.
  2. Change Stage: This stage is the actual change in the groups thoughts or behaviors; and the movement into the intended change.
  3. Refreeze Stage: This is the final stage which is cementing the change as now permanent (Burns, 2004).

change theory

How Does the Change Theory Apply to Death with Dignity?

This post began with a meat shortage story; and now I am asking you to apply this to the Death with Dignity law. Seems odd, but the point of the meat story was to highlight the importance of understanding your audience before broaching the word change. For most people, change does not come easily; and it can be a slow process. For instance, Death with Dignity was passed in Oregon in 1997. Here we are, almost two decades later, still trying to convince people that Death with Dignity is a good idea.

In Arizona, the Change Theory would definitely need to take hold in the state government. This will take an aggressive legislator to campaign for the bill; and to convince the majority of voters that mentally competent, terminally-ill patients have the right to choose how they want to die.


How can one person start change? In past posts, I have mentioned a grassroots movement starting through organizations like the Death with Dignity National Center. These dedicated volunteers have been campaigning and educating people across the country on what Death with Dignity means; and how others can be involved. This movement has been effective and there are many states that have drafted bills that mimic the Death with Dignity law in Oregon (e.g., New York) (Death with Dignity National Center, 2015).

Like I stated with the meat story, it is a good thing to familiarize and educate people about your mission; and hopefully change will come.


Burnes, B. (2004). Kurt Lewin and the planned approach to change: A re-appraisal. Journal of Management Studies, 41(6), 977-1002.

Death with Dignity National Center (2015). Death with dignity around the U.S. Retrieved from http://www.deathwithdignity.org/advocates/national

The Atlantic (2015). The World War II campaign to bring organ meats to the dinner table. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/09/the-world-war-ii-campaign-to-bring-organ-meats-to-the-dinner-table/380737/


8 thoughts on “Week Ten 3/22/15 to 3/28/15: Change Theory

  1. herendirav

    Thank you for that short lesson in history. I had never heard of this meat story, which by the way, I felt was very fitting with Death with Dignity, as this too is considered a topic of Taboo for many Americans, especially religious/conservative Americans. This story, along with Lewin’s Change Theory, is a great way to address that change is absolutely dependent of the audience, and the approach one takes in delivering the message/proposal for needed changes. Lewin’s theory, notes that simultaneous internal and external stimulation are essential for change to take place (McGovern & Rodgers, 1986). This leads me to question whether the appropriate stakeholders have taken note on the need for Death with Dignity. My nursing career has primarily been spent in high acuity areas, with patients who are extremely ill, and dying. As a nurse caring for these patients, and their families, it is easy for me to recognize that Death with Dignity would be a blessing for many, yet Arizona has failed to recognize that. You mentioned the Death with Dignity National Center, and how they campaign and educate the public on Death with Dignity. Do you know if there is any of this going on in Arizona?


    McGovern, W. N., & Rodgers, J. A. (1986). Change theory. The American Journal of Nursing, 86(5), 566-567.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dignitydiscussion Post author

      Actually, there is a meeting this weekend in Tucson hosted by Compassion & Choices of AZ, which is another death with dignity group with local chapters. The speaker will be an AZ State Senator who will discuss how to get another aid in dying bill up and running. The Death with Dignity National Center is located in Portland; and all I know is they do have representatives that speak across the country (especially in those states campaigning for these bills to pass).


  2. katherinemarshall37

    Death with Dignity is a topic that hits close to home and I have several contacts that work closely with working for this healthcare policy. I recommend you look at Wishes to Die For by Dr. Kevin Hasselhorst, what a great public activist!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. kelster71181

    I think for states that have to law in place there needs to be a catalyst for change. Something that sparks public outrage and injustice. If the catalyst is large enough and motivates enough people to stand with the cause, then change will take place. I think in both our causes we need catalysts for change. Don’t you agree.?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lwarrenheft

    If you consider the stages of change by Kotter, for example, where do you think that the Death with Dignity movement would fall? The first stage is the creation of a sense of urgency. It seems to me that many don’t really see the need for change or the need to act urgently. I also imagine there might be some issues with healthcare providers leading the change and how this might be viewed.

    Campbell, R. J. (2008). Change management in health care. The Health Care Manager, 27(1), 23-29. doi:10.1097/01.HCM.0000285028.79762.a1


    1. dignitydiscussion Post author

      Good point. This is not an issue that is urgent until someone is faced with making difficult choices regarding a terminal illness. I think people tend to not want to think about these types of issues?


  5. nanettewhittington

    Loved the meat story. How typical of us “Americans”. I used the Kurt Lewin model in my final DNP paper and I never saw this story regarding the basis of his theory. I found this very interesting and it is really common sense. As for healthcare, I call it “ritualistic nursing”. Especially if you have been a nurse as long as I have. Once I started this program, I really had to step back and look at the importance of Evidence-based practice and not just because “we do it because that’s what we have always done”.

    Liked by 1 person


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s