In the current climate many companies are dealing with difficult situations and facing change. In the ideal world they may well not be choosing these changes, but are having to impose them and experiencing resistance.
For change to occur a number of factors need to be in place. Beckhard and Harris put these factors into a change formula:
C = [ABD] > X
C – Change required
X – Perceived cost of changing
B – Desirability of the proposed change
D – Practicality of the change
A – Level of dissatisfaction with the status quo
Level of dissatisfaction with the current situation – A
There has to be a level of dissatisfaction with the way things are. If the situation seems okay as it is, then why would we bother going through the hassle of changing things. A London-based company decided to move their headquarters outside London. Most of the people there were perfectly happy and had no desire to relocate. So the organisation needed to put a lot more effort into explaining why being in the current location was a problem for the business, and the consequences of staying there. They needed to create a Sense of Urgency. In contrast another company I know were relocating from a very old, almost delapidated warehouse building to brand new offices – the change for them was a no-brainer and people couldn’t wait for it to happen.
Desirability of proposed change – B
There also needs to be a clear vision for the proposed change so people know where it’s heading and what it will mean for them, so they have a reason to start taking action. Even if people are unhappy with the status quo, if there is no suitable alternative to move towards, they will stay where they are.
Practicality of the change – D
People need to believe that the proposed changes are realistic and doable. It’s not necessary, or even practical, to try and plan out the whole thing in detail, but a high level description of how to get there with clear first steps, should be in place.
Perceived cost of changing or resistance – X
This refers to the amount of perceived upheaval and disruption involved in the change. Maybe people believe that this new way just isn’t possible, or that it’s too risky, or that they will lose too much if it happens.
The first three factors combined need to be greater than the perceived cost of changing, for change to occur.
Beckhard and Harris’ change equation is a useful way to capture whether a change programme is covering all the necessary factors . It can be used at the beginning or at any time during a change programme.
If you are experiencing resistance to change on your projects, why not use this equation to review which factors are in place and where you might need to focus more attention.