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Explaining the Burke-Litwin Change Model

written by: Sidharth Thakur • edited by: Ginny Edwards • updated: 6/7/2013

The Burke-Litwin change model revolves around defining and establishing a cause-and-effect relationship between 12 organizational dimensions that are key to organizational change. Let’s take a look at how this change model can make the process easier.

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    Assessing Key Factors

    The Burke-Litwin change model strives to bring in change in the performance of a team or an organization by establishing links between performance and the internal and external factors which affect performance. This change model is based on assessing the organizational as well as environmental factors which can be tweaked so as to ensure a successful change. The Burke-Litwin change model begins with outlining a framework, comprising the affecting factors which can be manipulated to guarantee a smoother transition from one phase of the change process to another. The most critical aspect here is establishing the links between the twelve dimensions of this change framework.

    Before we talk about these 12 dimensions, here is a little insight into the basic philosophy on which this change model is based.

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    The Basic Philosophy of Burke and Litwin Change Model

    Here are some of the key points of this change model:

    1. The most dominant factor that triggers organizational change is the external environment. It is the external environment that makes an organization to change its mission, culture, leadership and its operating strategies.
    2. The changes in the 12 key dimensions, as identified by the Burke and Litwin model, bring about a series of changes in the structure, practices and the system of the organization.
    3. All the affecting factors put together affects the motivation level of the individuals in an organization, which in turn impacts the overall performance.
    4. The 12 key dimensions of the change model interact with and affect each other. And understanding the linkage between these supportive pillars is the key to effective and smoother change.
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    The 12 Dimensions

    The 12 Dimensions 

    Here is a brief description of each of the 12 dimensions identified by the Burke-Litwin change model. For practical use it would be better to look at these key factors and questions and seek answers to them.

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    1. External Environment: The key external factors that have an impact on the organization must be identified and their direct and indirect impact on the organization should be clearly established.

    2. Mission and Strategy: the vision, mission and the strategy of the organization, as defined by the top management should be examined in terms of the employees’ point-of-view about them.

    3. Leadership: A study of the leadership structure of the organizationshould be carried out, which clearly identifies the chief role models in the organization.

    4. Organizational Culture: An organizational culture study should seek information on the explicit as well as the implied rules, regulations, customs, principles and values that influence the organizational behavior.

    5. Structure: The study of structure should not be confined to hierarchical structure; rather it should be a function based structure focusing on the responsibility, authority, communication, decision making and control structure that exists between the people of the organization.

    6. Systems: Systems includes all types of policies and procedures with regards to both the people and the operations of the organization.

    7. Management Practices: This would entail a study of how well the mangers conform to the organization’s strategy when dealing with employees and the resources.

    8. Work Unit Climate: It is a collective study of how the employees think, feel and what do they expect. The kind of relationships the employees share with their team members and members of other teams is also an important aspect of work unit climate.

    9. Tasks and Skills: This involves understanding what a specific job position demands and the kind of kind of skills and knowledge that an employee must have in order to fulfill the task responsibilities of that job position. It’s important to see how well jobs and employees have been matched.

    10. Individual Values and Needs: This dimension seeks to explore the employee’s opinion about their work so as to identify the quality factors that will result in job enrichment and better job satisfaction.

    11. Motivation Level: Identifying the motivation level of the employees will make it easier to determine how willingly they would put in their efforts to achieve organizational goals. This would also involve identifying motivational triggers.

    12. Individual and Overall Performance: This dimension takes into account the level of performance, on individual and organizational levels, in key areas like productivity, quality, efficiency, budget and customer satisfaction etc.

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    Putting the Burke-Litwin Change Model to Effective Use

    Burke-Litwin model provides an effective strategy to manage organizational change, but its effectiveness is subject to how well each of the twelve dimensions identified by it are explored and put to use. The other most critical aspect is how well the management and the staff collaborate to achieve the new strategies and goals as proposed in the change.