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For change to occur a number of factors need to be in place. Beckhard and Harris put these factors into a change formula.

This change formula is deceptively simple but extremely useful.  It can be brought into play at any point in a change process to analyse how things are going.

It can help to highlight several of the following problem areas:

  • Staff are not experiencing dissatisfaction with the status quo
  • The proposed end state has not been clearly communicated to key people
  • The proposed end state is not desirable to the change implementers
  • The tasks being given to those implementing the change are too complicated, or ill-defined.

Change formula

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.

C = [ABD] > X

C    =   Change

A    =   Level of dissatisfaction with the status quo

B    =   Desirability of the proposed change or end state

D    =   Practicality of the change (next practical steps, minimal risk and disruption)

X    =   Perceived ‘pain’ of the change (discomfort, exposure, difficulty, risk)

For change to happen, the forces for change must outweigh the perceived costs of change

Factors A, B, and D must outweigh the perceived costs [X] for the change to occur.
If any person or group whose commitment is needed is not sufficiently dissatisfied with the present state of affairs [A], eager to achieve the proposed end state [B] and convinced of the feasibility of the change [D], then the pain [X] of changing is too high, and they will resist the change.  The cost is not so much about the monetary value – but the perceived cost/effort involved.

If any A, B or D are zero or near zero, the resistance to change will not be overcome.
This means, that if the vision is not clear, or dissatisfaction with the current state is not felt, the likelihood of change is severely reduced.  These factors do not compensate for each other if one is low.  All factors need to have weight.

Click here to download this quick reference guide for Beckhard and Harris’ change formula