How Do You Spell Change?

Many of you remember the popular antacid commercial that asked; "How do you spell relief: R-O-L-A-I-D-S." So having said that, let me ask all you word smiths out there, or those that like things spelled out in nice mathematical formulae; is there a formula for change? Well as it turns out there is, and it looks like this: D x V x F > R

How's that again? Pretty simple right? Actually, it really is fairly straightforward, and simple to understand, once we tell you what the characters mean. It is, however, not necessarily all that simple to implement. Ok, for those of you that skipped Algebra, here's what the formula means: let's look at it again, D x V x F > R, where...

D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now

V = Vision of what's possible (tangible and concrete)

F = First steps that can be taken towards achieving the vision

R = Resistance to the change (monetary, psychological, etc.)

It was created by Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher and later refined by a lady by the name of Kathie Dannemiller and it is commonly referred to as Gleicher's Formula. Clearly there is a back story somewhere with respect to Beckhard not getting billing for this "discovery" but more to the point, this formula provides a model to assess the relative strengths affecting the likely success (or otherwise) of organizational change programs. So, if Mr. Spock was correct when he stated that "Change is the ultimate process of all living things," and organizations fall under the category of living entities (since they are constantly growing or shrinking) they should also be following the precepts of this formula. So let's apply it to a company and see how we do.

Consider the Susquehanna Hat Company and let's look at their sales. Sales are way off (by over 30%, year over year). The business owner might be looking at the D here and easily determine that he/she is dissatisfied with how things are. "Multiplying this by the V, the vision of what's possible, they could at least be doing what they did last year and the F, the first steps that need to be taken; these three factors have to give us a total that is greater than their inherent resistance to the changes necessary. So what are the First steps necessary? Well, they must determine, probably by doing a SWOT analyses, how they got themselves into their current set of circumstances. This is no place for a snap decision to occur like, let's add 10 more salespeople, or let's cut cost by 20%. One doesn't know what's wrong until one digs really deep.

Some of you out there are old enough to remember John F. Kennedy. What you might not have known about him is he singlehandedly crippled the hat business in the United States when he simply started walking around without any head wear at all. Most men figured if the sexiest man that ever lived in the White house could walk around without the ubiquitous fedora so could they. Oddly enough, he made this the accepted fashion and this still lingers to this day. If we were looking at the sales chart back in Kennedy's day we would see an incredible resistance to change the current set of circumstances in the scenario we are using and in fact the R would probably be greater than the three multiplied variables. As it turns out that was exactly the case, and guess what, the Susquehanna Hat Company is no more.

Some of our readers might be commenting that the Susquehanna Hat Company is no more because it never existed in the first place (it was merely the creation of Abbott and Costello in one of their most famous skits) and they would be correct. But following the logic of the formula, the premise remains intact. So if you are looking to make some changes in your organization, consider using our friend Gleicher's formula before you start hiring and firing, or spending all sorts of money. It will force you to consider options that you hadn't considered before as being viable. Perhaps, you might determine that you aren't ready to make the changes you thought you should. On the other hand it might force you to confront the ugliest reality that exists and drive you to make the changes you must make if you are to survive.

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