The Change Formula

Why do so many change projects fail?

Yesterday, I attended a New Jersey Organization Development Network meeting where the presenters shared their story of business transformation at a very large and well-known company.

Then, the other night, at our weekly family "pizza nite," we had a big discussion (i.e argument) about a controversial topic at our church: whether to build a new church building, a parish center, and a gym for the school.

As a seasoned OD guy, what struck me about both discussions, was the relevance of the good old change formula (established by Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher, sometimes called Gleicher's Formula).

The Change Formula has several components and is written like this:

D x V x F > R

Here's a quick breakdown:

- D - To make change, there has to be Dissatisfaction with the status quo. This is critical, but not enough by itself. People live for years with dissatisfactory conditions, at work, and at home, and make little effort to change.

- V - Then you need a Vision for change, an idea for a new more desirable state. The Vision, if highly attractive, and if it is owned by members of the system in need of change, will energize the movement from inertia.

- F - To anchor the vision, you also need a roadmap that identifies the First Steps on the path toward the vision. If people can see the way forward, taking the first steps will seem less frightening and more doable.

- R - Having the first three components, however, will never be enough if they do not outweigh the Resistance that keeps us from changing. If the D, V, and F carry more energy than the Resistance, you'll have more of a chance of actually achieving real change.

Listening to the business transformation case, and the church debate, I was thinking: The change formula is still as useful as ever.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, Sept 18, 2009


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