The formula for change provides a model to assess the relative strengths affecting the likely success of organisational change programs. The formula 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.
Gleicher (original) version: C = A × B × D > X
- C = A × B × D > X
- is change;
- is the status quo dissatisfaction;
- is a desired clear state;
- is practical steps to the desired state;
- is the cost of the change.
Dannemiller version: C = D × V × F > R
- C = D × V × F > R
Three factors must be present for meaningful organizational change to take place. These factors are:
- is change;
- Dissatisfaction with how things are now;
- Vision of what is possible;
- First concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision.
If the product of these three factors is greater than
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.
Elaine Dickson attributed the formula to Beckhard in 1971, via a National Training Laboratories Institute for Applied Behavioral Science professional OD training program (in Bethel, Massachusetts), in her 1982 book Say No, Say Yes to Change: Finding Growth Opportunities in Life's Changes (Broadman Press, p. 142).
It was Kathleen Dannemiller who dusted off the formula and simplified it, making it more accessible for consultants and managers. Dannemiller and Robert W. 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.
Todd Muffley, Owner of Plan B Marketing, Inc. revised the formula in early 2007 to place an emphasis on 'Vision' using multiplication only as it applies to this section. (D+FS)*V>R. By doing this, he de-emphasized dissatisfaction (feelings) and first steps (basic knowledge) and emphasized the importance of being able to see the future state of change within yourself.
Researchers have attempted to test the formula's effectiveness empirically. Čudanov et al. developed a quantitative measurement instrument, based on Beckhard and Harris's version of the formula, that can be utilized in change management practice. The instrument aims to support change readiness in all phases of the change management cycle, on the one hand, and to provide insights into change success factors, on the other. Post-implementation assessment can reveal key factors that cause change failure. The measurement instrument of Čudanov et al. is shown in the wikibook Handbook of Management Scales.
- 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. (1975). Strategies for large system change. Sloan Management Review, 16(2), 43–55.
- 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.
- 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.
- Čudanov, Mladen; Tornjanski, Vesna; Jaško, Ondrej (2019). "Change equation effectiveness: empirical evidence from South-East Europe". E+M: Ekonomie a Management. 22 (1): 99–115. doi:10.15240/tul/001/2019-1-007.
- See the following pages of the Handbook of Management Scales:
- wikibooks:Handbook of Management Scales/Change initiation - Change success
- wikibooks:Handbook of Management Scales/Change initiation - The degree of dissatisfaction with the status quo
- wikibooks:Handbook of Management Scales/Change initiation - Clarity and strength of vision of change
- wikibooks:Handbook of Management Scales/Change initiation - Clarity of actions towards preferred future state
- wikibooks:Handbook of Management Scales/Change initiation - Resistance to change