Formula for change
The formula for change was created by David Gleicher while he was working at Arthur D. Little in the early 1960s, and refined by Kathie Dannemiller in the 1980s. This formula provides a model to assess the relative strengths affecting the likely success of organisational change programs.
Dannemiller version: D x V x F > R
Three factors must be present for meaningful organizational change to take place. These factors are:
D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now;
F = First, concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision;
If the product of these three factors is greater than
R = Resistance
then change is possible. Because D, V, and F are multiplied, if any one is absent (zero) or low, then the product will be zero or low and therefore not capable of overcoming the resistance.
To ensure a successful change it is necessary to use influence and strategic thinking in order to create vision and identify those crucial, early steps towards it. In addition, the organization must recognize and accept the dissatisfaction that exists by listening to the employee voice while sharing industry trends, leadership ideas, best practices and competitor analysis to identify the necessity for change.
It is often inaccurately attributed to Richard Beckhard because he published the formula in both versions of his widely read book Organizational Transitions. In the original 1977 version, Beckhard and Harris gave full credit to Gleicher. In the second edition from 1987, they did not even mention Gleicher's name once in the entire book, but did present the equation as a formula for overcoming resistance. Note that Elaine Dickson attributed Beckhard's work to him in 1971, via a National Training Laboratories Institute for Applied Behavioral Science professional OD training program (in Bethel, MA), in her 1982 book Say No, Say Yes to Change: Finding Growth Opportunities in Life's Changes (Broadman Press, p 142).
Gleicher (original) version: C = (ABD) > X
The original formula, as created by Gleicher and published by Beckhard, is:
C = (ABD) > X
where C is change, A is the status quo dissatisfaction, B is a desired clear state, D is practical steps to the desired state, and X is the cost of the change.
It was Kathleen Dannemiller who dusted off the formula and simplified it, making it more accessible for consultants and managers. Dannemiller and Jacobs first published the more common version of the formula in 1992. Paula Griffin stated that Gleicher started it, Beckhard and Harris promoted it, but it really took off when Dannemiller changed the language to make it easier to remember and use.
- Cady, S.H., Jacobs, J., Koller, R., & Spalding, J. (2014). The change formula: Myth, legend, or lore. OD Practitioner, 46(3), 32–39.
- Wheatley, M. J., Tannebaum, R., Yardley, P. Y., & Quade, K. (2003). Organization development at work: Conversations on the values, applications, and future of OD (pp. 62–64). San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
- Beckhard, R., & Harris, R.T. (1977). Organizational transitions: Managing complex change (1st ed.). Addison-Wesley series on organization development. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing.
- Beckhard, R., & Harris, R.T. (1987). Organizational transitions: Managing complex change (2nd ed.). Addison-Wesley series on organization development. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing.
- Beckhard, R. (1975). Strategies for large system change. Sloan Management Review, 16(2), 43–55.
- Dannemiller, K. D., & Jacobs, R. W. (1992). Changing the way organizations change: A revolution of common sense. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 28(4), 480–498.