The Change Equation

Change strategies have a remarkably high failure rate, as high as 70% according Ken Blanchard’s 2010 report, “Mastering the Art of Change”. This means more often than not a huge amount of resources are wasted attempting to implement change. Therefore, assessing the likelihood of a change initiative being successful and identifying the factors that could reduce its success are essential. The change equation provides an excellent resource to begin this discussion. Beckhard and Harris (1987) developed the change equation to assess the likelihood of change being successful. Essentially, if the sum of the three elements on the left is greater than the element on the right the initiative will be successful. The model analyses the current organisational environment and employee attitude towards the change, as these are the most common change barriers.

The equation does not have any numerical values or measurements, but is simply used to provoke discussion and highlight important factors in the change process. Assessing the change equation can highlight areas where strategic action needs to take place in order for the change to be successful.


D + V + F > R


D = Current levels of dissatisfaction

If dissatisfaction exists within the area where the change will take place the workforce will be far more motivated to support it. For example, an inefficient process of sending queries to senior managers will frustrate employees and the suggestion of a new system will gather support. Change initiatives can be successful even when employees are content with current systems and processes, but generating support will be more difficult.


V = Shared vision of a better future

The proposition of a different future must be attractive to all employees for a change to be successful, as they must see a benefit to their day-to-day activites. If the result of the change only appeals to a few employees it will be difficult to generate enough support for it to be a success.


F = First steps in direction of new vision

The first steps of any initiative will be the most crucial. This is the opportunity to demonstrate to employees the result of the change is not only desirable but also possible. The initiative must be carefully planned and communicated across the organisation to ensure everyone is on board with it. As the first few steps are taken, individuals will start to believe in it and support will grow.


R = Resistance to change

Unfortunately, resistance to change is inevitable as individuals become comfortable with their day-to-day processes, even if they are inefficient. Even if a change initiative aims to bring about a better process it is often hard to envisage how this would work and employees are also unwilling to learn and adapt to a new process. Employee resistance is by far the largest barrier to change.


Beckhard, Richard, and Reuben T Harris. (1987). Organizational Transitions. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., 1987. Print.