A Formula for Change


Tools to make you THINK differently about your business

 Formula for change

Have you ever thought about the ingredients necessary to make a sustainble organisational change?

And if you did what would those components of change be?

Fortunately, this thinking has already been done and can be pretty easily applied to any change management project or initiative.

In the ‘60’s there was a guy called David Gleicher who, whilst working at the consultancy practice Arthur D Little, developed a formula for change.  In the ‘80’s the formula was further refined by Kathie Dannemiller and it essentially provides a model to assess the relative strengths affecting the likely success of an organisational change program.

The original formula, created by Gleicher and published by Richard Beckard is:

C = A × B × D > X


  • C is change;
  • A is the status quo dissatisfaction;
  • B is a desired clear state;
  • D is practical steps to the desired state;
  • Xis the cost of the change.

The now more common Dannemiller version is:

Formula for change

What this means is three factors must be present for meaningful organisational change to take place.

These factors are:

  • D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now;
  • V = Vision of what is possible  
  • F = First concrete steps that can be taken towards the vision.
    • And the product of these three factors needs to be greater than
  • R = Resistance to change 

Essentially, you need to ensure you overcome any resistance, so a picture needs to be painted where:

  • Dissatisfaction with the current situation is high
  • There is a compelling vision of the future and
  • The first steps on that journey to the vision have been established. 

If all of these components are in place there is a good chance of resistance being overcome and change being made.

However, the converse is also true. The formula for change suggests that a successful organisational change is possible only when the product of D, V and F, is greater than the resistance to change. Since the formula involves the multiplication of the three variables, if any variable is completely missing or is too low, the end result will also be low. This implies that falling short on any one of these variables will make it difficult to get past the (always present) organisational resistance.

How to use the concept

D – Dissatisfaction with the current situation

If people are completely satisfied with the current situation, they will have no reason or motivation to change. So, management needs to explain why the current situation is unacceptable or what is undesirable about the way things are being done currently.

Take a real-life example. Why would you change your refrigerator if you have no problems with it? (my dad is very proud of the fact that he has a fridge, his beer fridge, that he bought before I was born… and at the time of writing I’m at least 30!..well, possibly a bit older …nearly twice that!) When you’re comfortable in your current situation, you have no inclination to leave your comfort zone and embrace change. Change is welcomed only when there is a high degree of dissatisfaction.

To create that willingness for change, you need to explain why things cannot go on the way they currently are. When you’re trying to publicise dissatisfaction, you need to throw light on three different perspectives:

  • Problems for your organisation as a whole
  • Problems for your consumers or clients
  • Problems for your colleagues and fellow staff

V – Vision of the possibilities

If you’re not aware that life could be better …the company could have better results (whatever that means for the change being pursued) why would you (or others) embark on the change?

In order to accept and embrace change there needs to be a concrete and tangible vision, a better future and better results. The picture painted of what lies ahead has to be crystal clear which means that management has to make efforts to get everyone to buy into this vision of the future.

When we talk about the vision of the future, every person involved will be keen to know what’s in store for him or her. Thus, when painting this picture of the future, you must explain how the organisation will benefit from the change and what will be the employee’s new place or role after the change.

The clearer the vision, the more enthusiastic people will be to invest effort into realising it. Let people know how the change will benefit them and they are far more likely to become foot soldiers on the march to achieving the change.

F – First steps towards change

The formula suggests that being dissatisfied with the current situation and possessing only a beautifully painted vision of the future is not enough to motivate people to change. That’s where the third variable of the formula for change steps in.

The people you are leading need to know if there is a clear-cut strategy to achieve the vision, so ….to set out and properly articulate what will be done and how it will be done. People need to know that there is a well thought out and realistic plan of action plan in place.


It’s a cliché to say the only constant is change …but did you know the original recording of this saying was actually 2500 years ago, originally uttered by the pre-socratic philosopher Heraclitus…

There will always be change and some will see it, some will deny it, others will embrace it.  But as leaders and managers we need to manage it and manage our people through it, and on the shoulders of giants we can stand; the work of Gleicher and Dannemiller gives us a concept we can use to ponder and consider the impacts of the changes we need to make and how to mobilise staff so that they make that journey, at worst willingly at best enthusiastically.

Related tools and ideas

  • Force Field Analysis
  • RACI - (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed)

Recommended references

  • Who Moved my Cheese - Spencer Johnson; a fantastic little book on change management, can be read in a couple of hours
  • Our Iceberg is Melting - John Kotter - a fable of resistance to change and heroic action
  • The Heart of Change - John Kotter - real life stories from people in the change management trench

Downloadable resources

  • None 

 To find out how Statius can help you deliver:

• Better strategies
• Better systems
• Better measurement and 
• Engaged people delivering 
• Better results

Call us now on 0208 460 3345 or email sales@statius.co.uk

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