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A Useful Tool - The Change Formula?

The Change Formula is broadly attributed to Robert Gleicher, though I have seen other claims to have been the creator. Whatever the answer it is a very useful tool for anyone looking to mobilise and lead change. The formula is written as

C = D x V x F > R

One can read this as

(C)hange happens


The level of (D)issatisfaction (with the current state of affairs) amongst those involved

multiplied by

A clear (V)ision of how the future should look

multiplied by

An understanding of the (F)irst steps to be taken

is greater than

The (R)esistance the change will face

The multiplications in the formula are important as in the absence (value = zero) of any of D, V or F then Change will fail in the face of any Resistance.

This is also true if any aspect has a very low score.

The value of the formula is both in preparing and communicating change endeavours, and in diagnosing troubled undertakings.

For new endeavours it is useful for a leader to understand the existing levels of dissatisfaction and work to ensure they are widely understood . This may require either the exposure of issues or the amplification of implications, but is often the starting point for successful change.

Put simply unless people are or understand why others are sufficiently dissatisfied they are unlikley to actively engage with the proposed change.

Following this and assuming there is sufficient dissatisfaction (ie why are we changing?), people respond best when they understand where they are going (ie why and how it will be better?), especially if it will be uncomfortable for them along the way. Vision in this context, is an articulation of what they can expect to see and feel at the end of a successful change.

The importance of first steps is to help people set out on the journey, individually and collectively. By anology, if I told a Londoner he was going to France, I may tell him the first steps are to buy a train ticket to Paris and pack a bag for a week. These are things that start the process.

First steps can also give early feedback and help build belief and commitment.

In terms of resistance the key is to consider why people may resist and how strongly. The nature of the resistance is most likely financial or emotional. By considering these causes of resistance a change leader can both

a) assess how strong their DxVxF has to be, and

b) how they might reduce the R.

The other use of the formula is when a change is in trouble or at least not progressing as expected or desired.

If as the leader you cannot get a change moving it is worth looking at the D or levels of dissatisfaction amongst your stakeholders. Possibly your people are too comfortable where they are and how they work now? They may not understand why it is important (to you and them) to change.

If a change keeps starting, but faltering it is possible that people are lacking sufficient vision of where they are going. They get excited about a first step but then do not know what to do next.

If a project is spinning its wheels ie doing a lot of work with little in the way of results, then maybe the team don't have a clear understanding of the first steps? They maybe caught in analysis, not able to see how to deliver the vision.

I could go on, but I hope I have shared the essence of the change formula and that you, the reader, can see ways it may help your personal endeavours.

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