Beckhard’s Change Formula


Richard Beckhard’s formula for change proposes that the force of the dissatisfaction with the status quo combined with the forces of a compelling vision, first steps, and believability, all have to be greater than the resistance to change.

Compelling Vision and Dissatisfaction with Status Quo: The first two variables combine to provide the primary forcing function for change. The dissatisfaction pushes the individuals to change but does not provide a direction. They know they are not happy but don’t know how to make it better. The vision pulls the individuals to change and provides a direction for change. Why don’t we like the current system/situation? What will the new system/situation do for us? Beckhard calls this the “desirability of the end state.”

First Steps: It is seldom that we know all the required steps to accomplish a transformation but it is important to have a good idea what the first steps will be. A high level project plan with the major activities, deliverables, and benefits can help increase the motivation to change. Beckhard calls this the “practicality of the change.”

Believability: The first three variables must form a believable package that is supported by credible leadership – words and deeds. A vision and a plan without resources is just a fantasy. The product of these first four variables must combine and be greater than the resistance to change.

Resistance to Change: Few people like change, but we like change that is imposed on us the least. At the same time that organizations work on increasing the variables on left side of the equation they also work on reducing the variable on the right. This is often accomplished by involving the people in designing the change. Beckhard calls this the “cost of change.”

If you are dealing with a change initiative that has stalled – chances are one or more of the variables in this formula is the problem.

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