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The answer is in the change equation

Why is it so hard to change?

2021 March 29 | by Arduino Mancini Change management - Motivation and needs

It happens pretty often that we want to generate a change in a problematic situation, and the reasons can be the most diverse, personal or professional.

Changing jobs, buying a house, changing cars, quitting smoking, managing time differently, changing partners, changing business strategy, having a child, making a significant investment.

The above are situations that we have all faced at least once in our lives, and they all have something in common:

they involve a change of direction,
a change that is not so easy to achieve.


The situations we face are often very different, and finding effective solutions can be pretty complicated.

However, I believe that a tool can help you face the most difficult situations with confidence.

The “change equation” (developed by Gleicher, Beckhard and Harris) is a model that we can use in both the work environment and our personal lives.

Let’s go straight to the point.

According to the equation, Resistance to change in a person, group, or organisation will be overcome if:

  • there is a real dissatisfaction with the current situation;
  • the people (one person or more) involved have a clear and desired vision of how the future might be after the change;
  • the actions to implement in the short term are known and perceived as feasible.

The authors have effectively described the model with inequality:

D x V x F > R

D = Dissatisfaction with the current situation

V = Vision (desired) of how the future might be after the change

F = First steps, actions to implement in the short term are known and perceived as feasible.

R = Resistance to change

If only one of these variables is null or not so strong to generate the motivation to change, Resistance cannot be overcome.

Let’s make an example.

Suppose a company wants to change its existing production process with one that has three advantages:

  • provides substantial savings in personnel costs;
  • decreases production time;
  • requires limited investment with a high return.

What does the project mean for production staff?

Here is something we can assume:

  • a reduction of staff (who will lose their job?);
  • new things to learn (I will have to learn everything all over again. Will I manage?);
  • disorientation, which leads to keeping the situation as it is (why change if things are going well?).

It is clear that only by involving staff in the transition, employing effective communication and a lot of patience will it be possible to implement the process with a low conflict.

In essence,

the Vision of the future must be shared as much as possible.

How can we make this happen?

By explaining to people, taking the time needed, three things (which I mention here as an example):

  1. the current production process no longer supports the company’s competitiveness (Dissatisfaction). If we do not change, margins will shrink, putting too many jobs at risk;
  2. in the future (Vision), the company will be more competitive and production staff more prepared to manage advanced production processes. The colleagues made redundant will partly be relocated to other production units and partly leave the company, which will plan specific actions to minimise their discomfort;
  3. the new process implementation will be effectively-prepared by a detailed presentation to the staff involved, training plans and gradual migration (First Steps).

If the three previous points’ outcome is higher than the Resistance to change, it will be possible to implement the new process with a low conflict level.

I almost forgot!

Successful organisational communication must have one essential characteristic:

It must be truthful.

Do you have experience with such change processes?

Could you apply the change equation to your private life?

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