The Burke-Litwin Change Model

Unraveling the Dynamics of Organizational Change
external image autumnleaves_borchee_226x150.jpg
© iStockphoto/borchee

Change is the only constant – or so the adage goes.

Change is often a complex and arduous process, and not something you want to attempt without a solid plan.

When organizations need to change, that planning process is often complicated by the need to change many elements in unison.

This interrelatedness of organizational parts can contribute to the failure of change programs. When one variable is missed, bypassed, or underestimated the whole system fails to change, leaving managers and employees with the unenviable task of putting things back to the status quo. The really brave will attempt the change process over again; others will accept defeat and resign themselves to doing what they've always done.

When what people have always done already isn't working however, the results of failed change can be devastating. Whether it's revamping an accounting process, implementing a new IT system, or embarking on a new competitive strategy, positive change is revitalizing and productive. That's why it is so important to understand what needs to be addressed during any change process and why.

When you understand the dynamics of organizational change, you can apply the principles to any type of change initiative that comes your way. That's an exciting and valuable skill to have and one that will make you a hot commodity in today's workplace.

An useful model for understanding the organizational change process is the Burke-Litwin Change Model published by George H Litwin and W Warner Burke in 1992. This model shows the causal effects of change between 12 key areas of organizational design. Using the model, you can learn which organizational variables to change and why. You can then use this understanding to analyze, diagnose and even predict the effects of change throughout an organization.

"The authors go beyond description and suggest causal linkages that hypothesize how performance is affected and how effective change occurs. Change is depicted in terms of both process and content, with particular emphasis on transformational as compared with transactional factors". The authors of model by quoting this have linked the change with performance.


Burke-Litwin Model of Organization Performance by W. Warner Burke and George Litwin, Journal of Management, Vol. 18, No. 3, 523-545 (1992)