Saturday, January 31, 2009

Beckhard’s Change Equation

One of the simplest yet most powerful change models I’ve ever used is the Change Equation, developed by Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher. Try whipping this model out the next time your team is planning or discussing a major change; it never fails to focus a team on what needs to be done and stimulate some lively discussion!

Here’s the model (picture from George Ambler’s The Practice of Leadership blog):

Three factors must be present for meaningful organizational change to take place. These factors are:

D = Dissatisfaction with the status quo;
V = Vision of what is possible;
F = First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision.
R = If any of these factors are missing or weak, then you’re going to get resistance.

The model has two very practical applications:

Before the change:
When planning a major change, planning teams need to make sure all three elements are built into their plans.

During the change:
Use it as trouble-shooting tool for figuring out why people are resisting the change.

Here is some additional information on the three change elements for supervisors and managers to use:

D = Dissatisfaction with the Present:
• We must be clear why things need to change
• We need to articulate why it is unacceptable and undesirable to conduct business in the same way
• If we, and our people, are not dissatisfied with the present situation, then there is no motivation to change.
• Managers and Supervisors need to provide your organizational cases for change here. You should include the perspectives of the three publics:
--Shareholder Perspective (i.e. market share, revenue, cost of goods)
--Customer Perspective (i.e. customer satisfaction, quality)
--Employee Perspective (i.e. employee satisfaction, turnover)

V = Vision of the Future:
• It is critical the employees fully understand and can picture
--our future as an organization and
--their place in the new organization.
• Supervisors/Managers need to share their vision for the future organization:
--Share where the organization is headed to remove/reduce dissatisfiers
--Make sure you describe the future in a way that is very clear and easy for anyone in the organization to envision.

F = Practical First Steps:
• Employees still need one important factor: their role.
• Supervisors/managers need to make sure each employee understands what steps they need to take in order for this change to be successful:
--they need to know what to do to prepare themselves for the change (i.e. skill development),
--they need to know how they will be contributing to the successful implementation of changes (i.e. reengineering, job changes).

Again, the nice thing about this model is that it is simple. You don’t need to pay a consultant to explain it to you or figure out how to implement it. Give it a try!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I've been through lots of change in organizations through working in the Human Resources section, but I've never seen something this succinct to lay it out.

As always, your blog is a continual education for me. Thanks for the hard work!


Dan McCarthy said...

RutgersFan -
Hey thanks, I'm glad this one hit the mark for you.

Anonymous said...

Dan -- absolutely fantastic post. I've spent the last several days trying to compile a significant amount of information on change management in order to put together a presentation for a large hospital I am assisting in their leadership development and change management journey. This equation is so elegant and sublime yet incredibly powerful. As always it is a great joy to read your posts you do a fantastic job! Keep up the great work -- John

Dan McCarthy said...

thanks, John! Let me know how it works out for you.

Anonymous said...

I've often felt that we need a word like "understand" that captures the *emotional* quality of an idea.

It's not enough here to understand the need for change or understand the vision of the future... they've got to feel it in their bones.

Hubbard used 'grok' for this concept in _Stranger in a Strange Land_, but the word didn't quite get into the mainstream. (I'm working on an alternative... will blog on it this week...)

Nice job as always, Dan.