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A Look at the Components of Leavitt's Diamond

written by: Sidharth Thakur • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 5/20/2013

Leavitt offered a new approach to looking at organizations, in which every organization consists of four interactive components. This approach is now widely used for making organizational change more effective. Keep reading to learn more about these components and their interactive behavior.

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    The Four Components

    Leavitt’s diamond proposes that every organizational system is made up of four main components: People, Task, Structure and Technology. It is the interaction between these four components that determines the fate of an organization.

    This organizational tool was conceptualized by Dr. Harold Leavitt, who served as a professor at two universities, Claremont University and Stanford University. He also emphasized that any change in one of these elements will have a direct effect on all the other elements, and thus they will also need to be tweaked to accommodate the change. Leavitt’s diamond is an integrated approach and is widely used for managing organizational change. Let’s go deeper into each of the components of this diamond and how they interact with each other.

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    The people are the employees of the organization. When using this approach, you don’t just look at employees as accountants, receptionist, mangers, etc. Instead you also look at their skills, efficiency, knowledge and productivity. Now let’s take a look at how this component will need to be modified with respect to changes in the other three components.

    • Change in Tasks: Changes in how things are done. If you’re planning to change the tasks, you will have to educate and train the employees to make them familiar with the new methods.
    • Change in Structure: Change in structure would imply changing job roles. Here again the employees would need help to learn about their new job duties and responsibilities.
    • Change in Technology: Shifting to a new technology requires extensive training, so that the employees can handle the new technology efficiently – without causing any damage to themselves or the technology. This may even involve hiring new skilled employees to handle the new technology.
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    This component can include goals in addition to tasks. Thus this component would include looking at two things – firstly how things are being done and secondly what are you trying to achieve. Here again, you must focus more on the qualitative aspects of the tasks and goals rather than the actual tasks and goals. When looking at tasks think about their relevance and their benefits, and when looking at goals think about the yield and productivity. Now let’s see how tasks are affected by change in other factors.

    • Change in People: If you’re changing your manpower, you’ll need to modify the tasks or goals to make right and optimum use of their skills and knowledge. For instance, if you’re employing a computer literate accountant, would you still keep going with your old style of manual bookkeeping?
    • Change in Structure: What happens if an organization decides to shift from a pyramid hierarchical setup to a flat organization, can it continue with the change without altering the tasks or processes? No, and the same is true for goals. If you’re merging two departments into one or splitting a department into two, you cannot continue with the same goals.
    • Changes in Technology: Shifting to a newer technology would require making changes to the way things are done. Also, as you move on to more advanced technology, the goals must be raised to reap benefits and to cover the costs of the technology. In some cases the goals may need to be completely changed.
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    The structure component of Leavitt’s Diamond includes not only the hierarchical structure, but also the relationships, communication patterns and coordination between different management levels, departments and employees. This would also include how authority and responsibility flow within the organization. The structure needs to be altered, when changes are made to any other component of the diamond.

    • Changes in People: If you’re hiring more skilled and more qualified people, you won’t need the same kind of supervision as is needed for less skilled and less qualified employees. This would mean cutting down the number of supervisory posts. Now, it’s not just about hiring afresh, the same would be true if you empower your existing employees through training. As we mentioned earlier, the approach is more focused on the qualitative aspects of each factor, so if you’re simply replacing your receptionist with a new one, it doesn’t count – and surely that wouldn’t require any changes to the structure.
    • Changes in Tasks: Let’s say you decide to make your company more customer-centric. For this, you’ll need to set up a new customer support department or you may need to have more people out in the field. That explains how the structure may need to be changed, with a modification in goals. When business processes are reengineered, the need for some of the job posts or even management levels may completely perish.
    • Changes in Technology: Computerization or automation often requires revamping the organizational structure to benefit from the technology upgrade. New job posts may be created and old ones closed down to make best use of the new technology. And even if no changes are needed in the job posts, changes may be needed in interdepartmental coordination or the communication pattern.
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    Technology is that component of the organization which aids or facilitates the people to perform the tasks. Computers, equipment, LAN lines, barcode readers, software applications, etc. are all counted under technology. Technology too, like all the other components of the Leavitt’s diamond, will need to be changed when modifications are made to any other component.

    • Changes in People: If you’re hiring computer literate employees, you cannot ask them to work on typewriters. Similarly, if you’re hiring engineers instead of mechanics, the old tools and equipment may not be enough. So, to take full advantage of your manpower, you’ll need to change the technology in accordance with the change in the knowledge, qualifications and skills of your workforce. Even if you want your employees to handle additional tasks, you may have to provide them with technology that helps them in this direction. For instance, if you want your programmer to make field visits to clients, you need to equip him with a laptop and a wireless Internet data-card to help him perform the added task.
    • Changes in Tasks: Changes in tasks or goals may also compel you for a technological change. For instance, if you want to use your customer support center for order processing as well, you will need to replace your existing software with a new application which has customer service and order processing integrated into one.
    • Changes in Structure: If you want to cut down staff from a particular department, you will have to automate some processes, to maintain the same level of production. Whether you’re trying to shrink your organization structure or expand it, technological changes will be needed to support the new structure.

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    Image by – Sidharth Thakur