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Gleicher’s Formula: A Scientific Approach to Change

written by: Sidharth Thakur • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 7/29/2011

Change is difficult to implement, but the formula proposed by Beckhard and Gleicher makes it easier by combating resistance with three variables of change. Learn more about the formula and its variables in this explanation.

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    The key to staying on the growth path or even to surviving in today’s business world is the business’s ability to accept and manage change. The idea of ‘change’ scares most organizations and managers. However, it doesn’t sound scary once you know what the prime elements of change are and how these elements can be used to overcome the resistance to change.

    What if someone told you there is a simple formula for change, and that organizational change can be expressed as a mathematical equation? This may leave you appalled, but all thanks to David Gleicher and Richard Beckhard for giving the business world a mathematical equation to manage change successfully. Though this formula was proposed jointly by these two experts, it is more commonly known as Gleicher’s formula for change. Let’s take a deeper look at what this formula is and how it can be used in practical situations.

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    Beachhard and Gleicher’s Formula

    Management thinkers and experts have proposed a lot of variations of this formula, by adding additional variables to the original three variables. However, the original formula still weighs above them all.

    The original formula proposes that there are three main variables that decide how meaningful the change will be and whether or not the resistance to change can be overcome. Here’s the equation:

    D x V x F > R = ∆

    Where:

    D – Signifies the degree of dissatisfaction with the current situation.Gleicher’s Formula for Change 

    V – The vision of what can be done and what is possible.

    F – A plan of the first concrete steps that can be taken towards materializing the vision.

    R – The resistance to change.

    ∆ (delta) – The change.

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    Interpretation of the Formula

    This formula for change suggests that a successful organizational change is possible only when the product of D, V and F, is greater than the resistance to change. Since the formula involves the multiplication of the three variables, if any variable is completely missing or is too low, the end result will also be low. This implies that falling short on any one of these variables will make it difficult to get past the resistance. The change plans can fall back if any of these factors are ignored during the change process.

    To implement the change successfully, management needs to strategically work towards increasing the three variables. And for that, understanding these variables and making them to work for you are the two important caveats to get the most out of this change formula.

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    D – Dissatisfaction With the Current Situation

    If people are completely satisfied with the current situation, they will have no reason or motivation to change. So, management needs to explain why the current situation is unacceptable or what is undesirable about the way things are being done currently.

    Take a real life example. Why would you change your refrigerator if you have no problems with it? When you’re comfortable in your current situation, you have no inclination to leave your comfort zone and embrace change. Change is welcomed only when there is a high degree of dissatisfaction.

    To create that willingness for change, you need to explain why things cannot go on the way they currently are. When you’re trying to publicize dissatisfaction, you need to throw light on three different perspectives:

    • Problems for the organization as a whole
    • Problems for the consumers or clients
    • Problems for the employees.
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    V – Vision of the Possibilities

    If you’re not aware of the possibilities ahead, why would you take on a new path? We all need a concrete and tangible vision of the possibilities and the end results, in order to accept and implement change.

    Management has to make efforts to get everyone to buy into this vision of the future. The picture of what lies ahead has to be crystal clear, because any ambiguity in what can be achieved will make everyone to go off-course.

    When we talk about the vision of the future, every person involved will be keen toOrganizational Change  know what’s in store for him or her. Thus, when painting this picture of the future, you must explain how the organization will benefit from the change and what will be the employee’s new place or role after the change.

    The clearer the vision, the more enthusiastic people will be to put in their efforts to realize it. Everyone wants a piece of that vision, so give it to them. Let them know how the change will benefit them, and they will all be your allies in achieving that change.

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    F – First Steps Towards Change

    Being dissatisfied with the current and possessing only a beautifully painted picture of the future is not enough to motivate people to change. That’s where the third variable of Gliecher’s formula for change steps in.

    Is there a planned path or a surefire way to achieve the vision? Unless everyone one knows how the vision will be achieved and what the process entails, they will not be open to change.

    Your employees want to know if there is some clear cut strategy to achieve the vision, so fill them up with details on what will be done and how it will be done. Management needs to educate the employees to the fact that they have a proper action plan in place, the vision is not a far-fetched dream, and whatever is being talked about is actually achievable.

    Now that you know what areas to work on, if you want the change process to be successful, you can easily beat down the resistance to change.

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    References & Credits:

    1. McCarthy, Dean, "Which Change Model Should You Pick?," Great Leadership, http://www.greatleadershipbydan.com/2009/01/beckhards-change-equation.html
    2. Mayfield, Shaun, "The Formula for Change: [D x V x F x CL > R]," http://www.shaunmayfield.com/1/post/2011/06/the-formula-for-change-dxvxfxclgtr.html

    Image Credit:

    Images by Sidharth Thakur