Beckhard and Harris' Change Equation

Overcoming Resistance to Change

Can people see that the alternative would be better?

© iStockphoto/mikdam

Traditionally, "change projects" have often been driven by technology implementations or upgrades, with business processes and working practices being changed to fit in with the new system.

In today's turbulent economy, however, change is just as likely to be driven by something else: a long-established competitor unexpectedly going bust, for example, or your bank calling in a loan, or a layer of middle management being made redundant.

Whatever the situation, when change looms on the horizon, chances are that you'll hear things like:

  • "I can't believe that restructuring the sales force is really going to increase sales."
  • "Upgrading the system is such a disruption. I just don't see why we need to go through all that work."
  • "Our current system isn't great, but what's so wonderful about the new one? How will that be any better?"
  • "I know that Corascon going under should be good news for us, but I can't work out what I should be doing about it."

With comments like these flying around, how will you get everyone to agree with the changes you have in mind? After all, you can't do this without them!

This is where Beckhard and Harris' Change Equation can help. In this article, we'll look at this equation, and see how you can use it to roll out successful change in the future.

Explaining the Change Equation

Richard Beckhard and Rubin Harris first published their change equation in 1977 in "Organizational Transitions: Managing Complex Change," and it's still useful today. It states that for change to happen successfully, the following statement must be true:

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