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The Change Formula: Myth, Legend, or Lore?



There is an interesting yet little known story about a model in the field of Organization Development. Referred to as the Change Formula, it is one of the most practical, widely recognized tool developed in the last 50 years. The formula describes the conditions, that when met, will move an individual, group, or whole system in a direction of their choosing. What is the formula?
By Steven H. Cady,
Robert “Jake” Jacobs,
Ron Koller, and
John Spalding
“Myths, lore, and legends are unique concepts that are told through story—some stories are true;
others are fictional (Morgan, 2010). One thing they each share in common is usefulness. They each
are helpful to us humans in solving problems, creating opportunities, and generally living a better life.
Each is helpful in different ways. So, which of these best represent the story of the Change Formula?”
The Change Formula
Myth, Legend, or Lore?
There is an interesting yet little known 
story about a model in the field of Orga-
nization Development. Referred to as the 
Change Formula, it is one of the most 
practical, widely recognized tool developed 
in the last 50 years. The formula describes 
the conditions, that when met, will move 
an individual, group, or whole system in 
a direction of their choosing. What is the 
formula? We share several iterations of it 
a bit later in this article. First we take you 
through a review of how history shapes 
various models, theories, methods, tools, 
and approaches. Then, we provide an 
account of the history that shaped the for-
mula. From there, we define and describe 
the formula with examples of how it can 
help you as an OD practitioner.
Myths, lore, and legends are unique 
concepts that are told through story—
some stories are true; others are fictional 
(Morgan, 2010). One thing they each share 
in common is usefulness. They each are 
helpful to us humans in solving problems, 
creating opportunities, and generally living 
a better life. Each is helpful in different 
ways. So, which of these best represent the 
story of the Change Formula?
The formula is not a myth, as myths 
tell sacred stories about origins and pow-
ers beyond our human control. It is not 
folklore, as lore tells a fictional story where 
the plot is timeless and contains elements 
of fantasy. The Change Formula is more 
of a legend. Legends are historical, telling 
a story from our past that is comprised of 
actual events of heroic proportions. Some 
might argue, that’s a bit grandiose; it’s just 
a formula. 
We propose that it is much more than 
that; particularly, when we tracked down 
and pieced together the events and people 
involved in its creation. In researching 
the model and looking at its relevance, we 
found differences in the stories of how the 
formula was originally created, who was 
involved, iterations in its development, 
variations in the number of the equa-
tion’s elements, and differences in mean-
ing. While some of this formula’s history 
and description was documented, much 
appears to have been passed on in meet-
ings, conversations, and through blogs and 
websites. Through all of our searching, we 
could find not one source that provided a 
complete story of the formula’s creation 
and evolution.
Three Generations
Our field is changing quickly. Thought 
leaders and founders are retiring and 
some are passing away. They served our 
world through some of the most daunting 
challenges of the 20th Century. Today, new 
fields and professions, like old wine with 
a new label are appearing (e.g., Change 
Management). It is incumbent upon us to 
encourage these new fields to connect with 
the history of Organization Development, 
in order to help our world build collec-
tive intelligence. In short, reinventing the 
methodological wheel appears to be upon 
us as we approach a renaissance in Orga-
nization Development. Our intention in 
sharing the story of the Change Formula is 
32 OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 3 2014
to take a positivist approach while building 
on the shoulders of those who came before 
us; honoring their work and intellectual 
contribution in a way that offers continuity 
for our field as it moves through the 21st 
Century. The formula has evolved through 
three generations of development.
A Formula is Born: Understanding Change
It was in the early 1960s when Raymond 
M. Hainer, a chemist who had worked on 
the Manhattan Project (Behrendt, 1955), 
was the head of Research and Develop-
ment at Arthur D. Little (ADL). Not only 
did Hainer want to unlock the mysteries 
of the physical sciences, but also of the 
social sciences, namely organizational 
behavior. He directed David Gleicher 
(pronounced g-like-her), Barry Stein, and 
a few other scientists to take up the chal-
lenge. Hainer hired Sherman Kingsbury 
to be the group’s leader (B. Stein, personal 
communication, 2014).
Created on a Chalk Board
As a Boston based group, the scientists 
from ADL, sought out the best organiza-
tional minds they could, most of which 
lived and worked in fairly close proxim-
ity. The exception was OD legend Herb 
Shepard from Case Western Reserve, 
where he created the first PhD program 
in OD. In fact, ADL hired the program’s 
first four graduates in the 1960s, which 
illustrates ADL’s emphasis on the OD 
scholar practitioner perspective. Shepard 
was the intellectual godfather of the ADL 
group, working as a consultant. ADL also 
hired a few local organizational professors 
as consultants. The short list of consultants 
included Warren Bennis, Dick Beckhard, 
and Ed Schein from MIT, Ken Benne from 
Boston University, and Chris Argyris from 
Yale. This founding group worked on what 
became known as Organizational Behavior 
at ADL (B. Stein, personal communication, 
One day, as the group was meeting, 
David Gleicher walked up to the black-
board to share his observations about the 
behavioral problem-solving work they were 
doing in organizations. He then wrote 
C=(ABD)>X on the blackboard. To Glei-
cher, it was nothing special, just a com-
mon sense way of thinking about the work 
that the group was doing. To the group, 
however, the formula became the go-to 
framework, especially for difficult prob-
lems that required an incredible amount 
of energy to resolve (B. Stein, personal 
communication, 2014). 
The Change Formula’s First Publication
The earliest known publication of the 
model was in the Sloan Management 
Review (Beckhard, 1975). The original 
publication (Beckhard) included an attri-
bution to David Gleicher by stating, “in 
determining readiness for change, there is 
a formula developed by David Gleicher of 
Arthur D. Little that is helpful” (p. 45). In 
this publication, the equation went from 
being called an equation to a formula and 
was printed as:
C = (ABD) > X, where
C = Change,
A =  Level of dissatisfaction with the 
status quo,
B = Clear or understood desired state,
D =  Practical first steps toward a 
desired state, and
X = “Cost” of changing
The next time the formula was published 
was by Beckhard and Harris (1977) with 
attribution to Gleicher on pages 25-27. It 
was a copy of Beckhard’s (1975) previous 
publication. A decade later, confusion arose 
after the publication of the second edi-
tion of Organization Transitions because 
Beckhard and Harris (1987) presented the 
Change Formula with no attribution to or 
mention of Gleicher. “A useful formula for 
thinking about the resistance process” (p. 
98) appeared with slight revisions to B and 
D; where B = Desirability of the proposed 
change or end state, and D = Practicality of 
the change (minimal risk and disruption).
Second Generation: Large-Group Events
In the 1980s, change was viewed as a mys-
terious, theoretical, and complex subject. 
Kathie Dannemiller’s original intent in 
creating the second generation of the for-
mula was to demystify change and provide 
a guide for individuals, groups, and whole 
organizations in creating their preferred 
futures. She wanted something simple 
enough to speak to the average employee. 
This is the thinking that inspired and drove 
Dannemiller to create the second genera-
tion of the formula (J. Jacobs, personal 
communication, 2014). 
A Culture of Collaborative Experimentation
Kathie Dannemiller of Dannemiller Tyson 
Associates (DTA) was studying and work-
ing at the University of Michigan under 
Ron Lippitt, who began his early work 
with Kurt Lewin examining patterns of 
leadership styles on aggressive behavior in 
social climates, e.g., autocratic, democratic, 
and laissez-faire (Lewin, Lippitt, & White, 
1939). Dannemiller was one of the first 
members of the National Training Labora-
tories (NTL); and, it was through the NTL 
experimentation and collaborative culture 
that several core organizational behavior 
theories and models were born. She was a 
pioneer in using these theories and models 
to facilitate rapid change employing large 
group meetings.
During that time, Dannemiller was 
introduced to the first generation formula 
by reading the Beckhard and Harris (1977) 
book Organizational Transitions. As the 
1980s unfolded, she began experimenting 
with the formula and its application as a 
foundation for large group methods at Ford 
Motor Company with Nancy Badore (Hel-
gesen, 1990). The second edition of the 
Beckhard and Harris (1987) book provided 
the formula, without a mention of Glei-
cher. Later, Dannemiller began attributing 
the Change Formula to both Beckhard and 
Gleicher when Beckhard told her Gleicher 
was a student of his and had created it with 
him while they were working together (R. 
Koller, personal communication, 2014).
Making the Formula Accessible
With a passion for usability and common 
sense, Dannemiller considered the formula 
from Beckhard’s book helpful, but not 
accessible enough for the general public. 
33The Change Formula: Myth, Legend, or Lore?
She thought Gleicher’s formula was bril-
liant, but looked and sounded too theoreti-
cal. She wanted people to feel smart rather 
than not enough or inadequate. Her experi-
ence that people could not easily relate to 
Gleicher’s formula drove her to revise it. 
Dannemiller set out to preserve and honor 
the integrity of Gleicher’s formula while 
making it more usable and, therefore, 
more accessible to the world (J. Jacobs, 
personal communication, 2014).
Dannemiller distilled the essence of 
the formula in a descriptive, rather than 
prescriptive fashion. She had an egalitar-
ian spirit and wanted this knowledge to 
be just as useful to everyone, from those 
working on the front-lines as it could be to 
the CEO and top leadership team (J. Jacobs, 
personal communication, 2014). Dannemi-
ller and Jacobs (1992) first published the 
more common version of the formula 
in 1992. Paula Griffin (Wheatley et al., 
2003) described the sequence of events as 
Gleicher starting it, Beckhard and Harris 
promoting it, and Dannemiller helping it 
take off when she made it easier to remem-
ber and use.
To make the formula more accessible, 
she used a mnemonic device in the revi-
sion. By mnemonic device, she changed 
Gleicher’s first element, A, to a D because 
D stands for dissatisfaction. As a result, 
the formula garnered higher face value as 
people felt validated when it was presented 
to them. Dannemiller (Dannemiller Tyson 
Associates, 1990) re-framed the Change 
Formula as the product of dissatisfaction 
with the current state of affairs (D), an 
ennobling vision of what we yearn to be, 
i.e., what is possible (V), and concrete first 
steps to take in the short term that are nec-
essary in order to reach the vision (F). The 
product of these must be greater than the 
resistance to change (R) in order to bring 
about real change.
D x V x F > R
To bring about a palpable paradigm shift 
in a large group, she (Dannemiller Tyson 
Associates, 1990) proposed that partici-
pants work on real organizational issues:
Start with building a common data-
base about:
»how we all see the past (dissatis-
faction) and why we need to 
»a positive picture of the future 
we all prefer (vision), and
»actions we can all agree are 
worthwhile in order to begin to 
change (first steps) (p. 8)
The first thing to note about the first gen-
eration Change Formula is that it includes 
a multiplier effect. In the second genera-
tion of the formula, Dannemiller and her 
colleagues suggested that each of the three 
elements needed to be shared collectively 
and significantly for change to occur. 
Depending on the organization and current 
realities one or more of the elements of the 
formula may have needed more attention. 
The goal was to create a solid and shared 
understanding in a critical mass of the 
organization around each factor.
The multiplier effect sets the stage for 
two helpful conversations when applying 
the formula to understanding a situation 
or designing a participative intervention. 
Both rely on the multiplicative nature of 
the formula. First, if any one element is 
low it leads to the product of the entire 
equation on the left side being low, making 
it unlikely to impossible that change will 
occur, since most people resist change 
at least to some extent. This conversa-
tion focuses on interventions designed to 
increase D, V, or F, while decreasing R.
Second, if any of the elements are 
missing (i.e., zero), the resulting product 
will be zero. Therefore, D x V x F = 0, 
which is not greater than resistance (R). 
This conversation is starker and addresses 
the issue of leaving out one of the ele-
ments, all together. For example, a leader-
ship team might believe that they have 
created a compelling vision (V), yet left the 
strategic planning session without clear 
first steps (F); hence, the CEOs finds that 
vision is ineffective and the strategic plan is 
collecting dust.
A Case Example: World Cafe in
South Africa
An information technology service center 
located in a sparsely populated city with 
few economic development opportunities 
faced a daunting challenge. The center’s 
most important task was to keep their main 
customer’s computers up and running. If 
an incident occurred that interrupted ser-
vice, the number of incident free days was 
reset to zero. The number of days between 
resets was alarmingly low.
As a result, the client was unsatisfied, 
so unsatisfied that the contract was in jeop-
ardy of being discontinued. That meant 
over 120 employees could lose their jobs. 
Management decided to launch a program 
titled 80 Days Around the World in which 
they put up large banners, and held a braai 
(i.e., a cookout) announcing a mandated 
target of 80 incident free days. The pro-
gram fell flat. Employees did not under-
stand nor see the need for such a target, 
and five months later, nothing improved 
and attitudes worsened. The average num-
ber of incident free days was 8.94, with a 
low of zero and a high of 24 days. Per-
plexed, management decided to relaunch 
The first thing to note about the first generation Change
Formula is that it includes a multiplier effect. In the second
generation of the formula, Dannemiller and her colleagues
suggested that each of the three elements needed to be shared
collectively and significantly for change to occur. Depending
on the organization and current realities one or more of the
elements of the formula may have needed more attention.
The goal was to create a solid and shared understanding in a
critical mass of the organization around each factor.
OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 3 201434
the program with bigger banners, t-shirts, 
fliers, and another braai. 
In response, consultants to the 
company offered a different approach; 
one where Whole System Collaborative 
Change (WSCC), also referred to as large-
group methods, would facilitate dialogue 
with employees based on the Change 
Formula (notice the S in Figure 1, which 
will be explained in the third generation 
discussion). Hesitantly, the director of the 
service center along with upper manage-
ment agreed to a two hour session with 
all employees, leaving a small number of 
employees to manage operations (90 out of 
120 participated). Facing the imminent loss 
of their client, they were out of options.
As mentioned, DVF can be the main 
focus for events, in which the collaborative 
methods are used with an “interdependent 
group of bodies forming a unified whole 
interacting under the influence of related 
forces” (Cady & Fleshman, 2012, p. 6). The 
methods use dialogue where the entire 
system is engaged in “creating itself anew,” 
shifting from imposing the change to 
collaboratively “crafting a transformation 
of the system by the system” (p. 6). Of the 
WSCC methods available, World Cafe was 
chosen as the intervention for this session 
(Holman, Devane, & Cady, 2007). 
During the session, the employees 
formed into small groups to discuss the 
questions formulated around the formula. 
They first discussed the D question, rotat-
ing three times to tables with different 
participants. Next, they discussed the V 
and then the F and S (together) in similar 
fashion, for a total of nine rotations (see 
Figure 1). Towards the end of the two 
hours, the manager was moved by the 
quality of the dialogue and solutions being 
He was so inspired that he formed a 
team of volunteers from the participants 
in the room to prioritize and coordinate 
the implementation. The organization saw 
results immediately. Attitude improved 
and, as shown in Figure 2, performance 
exceeded the expectations (Oelofse & Cady, 
2012). The higher performance continued 
beyond the 81-day mark shown in the study 
to more than 120 days and counting (Cady 
& Oelofse, 2014).
Third Generation:
Longer-term Change Initiatives
Large-group methods were widely used in 
the 1990s. By 2001, management con-
sultants found that clients became “more 
price sensitive and more inclined to seek 
out discounts” (Economist, 2002, para. 7). 
Large group events were viewed as easy 
cost cutting targets. The Change Formula 
was still being utilized; yet, interestingly, 
the use was more informal. Not much, 
if any, peer reviewed examination nor 
publication was offered. During the 2000s, 
the formula underwent two more changes 
that focused on WSCC, reflecting a move 
toward longer-term processes influenced 
by strength-based interventions.
Re-defining the D:
A Strength-Based Approach
The D in the Change Formula has also 
been described as data and desire (Cady, 
Hine, Spalding, & Meenach, 2011), 
emphasizing the importance of connect-
ing data to dissatisfaction and a resulting 
Number of days
Reset 1
Reset 2
Reset 3
Reset 4
Reset 5
Reset 6
Reset 7
Reset 8
Reset 9
Reset 10
Reset 11
Reset 12
Reset 13
Reset 14
Reset 15
Reset 16
Reset 17
Reset 18
Reset 19
Reset 20
Figure 2. Trend of Incident Free Days (reprinted from Oelofse & Cady, 2012, page 83)
What will happen if we don’t have something like
the service improvement program on site?
How can we improve the service improvement
program to achieve exceptional results?
How do you feel about the service improvement
Figure 1. The Change Formula Applied to Questions in World Cafe
35The Change Formula: Myth, Legend, or Lore?
desire for change. Dissatisfaction does not 
necessarily mean unhappiness, as there 
are plenty of people who are satisfied being 
miserable. This shifts the focus toward 
positive psychology and the possibility 
that a desire (D) for change can be rooted 
in a strength-based conversation (Pascale, 
Sternin, & Sternin, 2010). As a result, a 
person can be happy and desire more or 
something different as a result of what 
is possible.
It allows for people to look outside 
the organization at events, developments, 
and trends in the environment; asking 
such questions as, what is happening 
with competition, innovation, and best 
practices, both those inside and outside 
your industry? It also allows one to look at 
what is working in comparison with what 
is not working in the organization. What 
is underlying success in some efforts and 
why are others falling short? During a 
large group event, a consultant unfamil-
iar with the WSCC processes said, “I’ve 
never seen a system  talking to itself 
before” (S. Cady, personal communi - 
cation, 2014). 
Adding the S:
Sustaining Change Over Time
Concurrent with the tough economic 
times of the 2000s, leaders were asking 
the question, how do we sustain the hope, 
enthusiasm, and energy after a large-group 
event is over? As a result, firms utilizing 
WSCC methods moved beyond punctu-
ated one-time events to using the formula 
as a guide in weaving a series of events 
and other interventions into longer-term 
change programs, represented by change 
road maps.
This focus on a road map for change 
compliments the first steps (F) by ensur-
ing that they are realistic and achievable. 
The intention is for people in the system 
to have confidence that their actions will 
put them on the right path to achieving the 
collective vision. Desire (D) with no vision 
(V) or first steps (F) leads to a feeling of 
hopelessness and withdrawal of time and 
energy the next time they are invited to do 
so. Following the paradigm shift witnessed 
in the punctuated events, there was a 
polarity of both support and accountability. 
People needed the knowledge, skills, and 
abilities to fulfill commitments they made 
during the event and they also wanted to be 
held accountable for making good on these 
This led to conversations and debate 
among practitioners and scholars utilizing 
WSCC methods (Jacobs & McKeown, 1997; 
Cady & Dannemiller, 2000; Cady, 2008). 
Jacobs and McKeown (1997) proposed 
an additional variable beyond D, V, and 
F to reflect the shift in focus from events 
to change initiatives. They proposed C 
as Capability to change. This additional 
element opened the door to including the 
creation of systems, processes, structures, 
personal and team development, and 
other leverage points that would sustain 
the changes that large group events initi-
ated. Around that time, Cady was working 
closely with Dannemiller. During that time, 
they would have long debates about design-
ing change road maps (S. Cady, personal 
communication, 2014). Dannemiller would 
argue it was not possible to design an accu-
rate road map because they always changed 
(Cady & Dannemiller, 1999).
Barbara Bunker would often say, “the 
best plans are meant to be deviated from” 
(S. Cady, personal communication, 2007). 
Inspired by her words, Cady proposed a 
similar iteration of the formula in that he 
saw the need for sustainability (S). One of 
the issues plaguing change efforts of all 
types is ensuring gains are made over time. 
Cady’s depiction of the formula is:
D x V x F x S > R
“Teflon change” is all too familiar for 
many members of organizations, be they 
front line workers or CEOs. A common 
anecdotal complaint is that solid progress 
occurs for six months, even a year, before 
a slippery slope leads back to business as 
usual. There is a polarity, an ongoing oscil-
lation between today’s reality and tomor-
row’s possibilities. Robert Fritz (1989) 
described this as the creative tension that 
results in both believable and inspiring 
pictures of the future.
Sustaining the work following an 
event is particularly important, especially 
when there are a series of events engag-
ing a widely dispersed organization. As a 
result, current WSCC practice is comprised 
of punctuated events scheduled a year or 
more into the future, ensuring that both 
accountability and support are built into 
the change work as part of change initia-
tive. With the growth of project manage-
ment (e.g., the PMBOK, ADKAR) over 
the past decade came increased focus on 
long-term initiatives and program man-
agement. Creating sustainability can take 
many forms though we propose that the 
most significant contribution of adding the 
S to the Change Formula is the addition 
of change road maps to an organization’s 
efforts. Change road maps guide decisions 
and actions, anywhere from a year through 
to three or more years. 
A Case Example:
Road Map for Rapid Growth
An international apparel retailer needed 
to rapidly expand its operations in Europe 
By 2001, management consultants found that clients
became “more price sensitive and more inclined to seek out
discounts” . . . Large group events were viewed as easy cost
cutting targets. The Change Formula was still being utilized;
yet, interestingly, the use was more informal. Not much, if
any, peer reviewed examination nor publication was offered.
During the 2000s, the formula underwent two more changes
that focused on WSCC, reflecting a move toward longer-term
processes influenced by strength-based interventions.
OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 3 201436
to gain market share, enlarge its footprint, 
and gain efficiencies from this increased 
size. Changes required ranged from 
accelerating implementation of a Grow-
Fast  strategy to a redesigned structure and 
expanded leadership roles throughout 
the company. The long-standing feuds 
between merchandising and buying had to 
be replaced by a partnership-based rela-
tionship. A new FlowFast process to speed 
goods from manufacturing to market was 
also on the change agenda along with 
the launch of a European learning center 
to support  ongoing development of all 
employees. Taken together this list of initia-
tives was a tall order. The need to accom-
plish it rapidly only added to the degree 
of difficulty.
Senior leaders and a team represent-
ing a microcosm of the organization 
planned the entire Real Time Strategic 
Change effort. The road map for this effort 
extended over 18 months (see Figure 3). The 
different streams of work are illustrated 
by the different colors on the chart. The 
elements of the Change Formula are on the 
left side of the road map. The larger icons 
mean that the corresponding stream of 
work primarily addressed these elements. 
The smaller icons are elements that were 
also addressed by a stream of work, but 
only secondarily.
The first two of four large group 
meetings focused on the D in the Change 
Formula. They raised awareness and 
understanding of why the new GrowFast
strategy was needed, what it was, and 
changes that would be required to make 
it work. The third meeting combined the 
work of translating the vision (V) from a 
compelling picture of possibilities into 
specific actions with timelines, account-
abilities, and measures of success (F). 
The fourth large group gathering led to a 
number of actions and initiatives aimed 
at sustaining gains made during the first 
three sessions (S). Participants in this 
meeting learned about a FlowFast manage-
ment system that would embed better ways 
of doing business into daily work routines 
and practices. Ongoing planning and 
implementation work in each of the main 
areas of the business supplemented these 
large group meetings. 
Change Effort Roadmap
Purpose: To accelerate the effective implementation of the company’s European Expansion Strategy.
Buying Expansion Team Launch/Wo rk
Senior Leader Sponsor Work
Convene Advisory Council
Merchandising Launch Event
Merchandising Expansion Team Launch/Wo rk
Stores/Distribution/Support Launch Event
Organization-Wide Strategy Acceleration Event II
Stores/Distribution/Support Expansion Team Launch/Work
Functional Design Work
Interim Integration Event
Organization-Wide Strategy Acceleration Event III
Organization-Wide Strategy Acceleration Event IV
Functional Implementation Work
Individual Assessment and Development
Organization-Wide Strategy Acceleration Event IV
Expansion Team Work
Seniot Team Work
Advisor Council Work
Functional Work
Aug Sept Oct NovDec July Aug Sept OctNov DecJan FebMarch April May June
Figure 3. The Change Effort Road Map Seen Through the Lens of the Change Formula
37The Change Formula: Myth, Legend, or Lore?
This same DVFS mantra was rep-
licated within each of these streams of 
work, similar to the macro application 
of the formula to the overall road map. 
Successful new store openings in the UK 
and Germany, and a new country opening 
in Poland paved the way for the European 
Operations to be rewarded with additional 
funding from corporate to support the 
growth strategy. They achieved growth 
and implementation milestones ahead 
of schedule including the journey from 
identifying the need for a European learn-
ing center to its successful launch within 
six months.
The Future and Concluding Remarks
So, there you have it. We intentionally 
focused on the left-hand side of the equa-
tion and did not delve into resistance. The 
type of resistance reflected in the change 
formula does not represent every single 
type. That exploration will be left for future 
writing because contemporary researchers, 
especially positive organizational scholars, 
have identified an important part of resis-
tance most often called positive deviance 
(Pascale, Sternin, & Sternin, 2010; Spre-
itzer & Sonenshein, 2003) that was outside 
the scope of this article. 
It is important to emphasize that for 
the Change Formula, the key message is 
everyone’s truth is truth. Everyone from 
the CEO down to the front line employees 
need to have a place within each variable 
DVFS or the model will not work. For 
example, if the top leaders do not acknowl-
edge bottom-up problems publicly, it is not 
a true D. People tend to be in touch with 
their own perceptions while understanding 
little, or even caring about anyone else’s. 
Leaders and other organizational 
members alike have a firm grip on their 
own individual assumptions, experiences, 
and beliefs. To paraphrase Ackoff (1981), a 
pioneer in the field of Systems Thinking, 
everyone’s world view is horribly distorted 
by being their own. Good work on the 
Change Formula means both being curious 
about what others can contribute to the col-
lective understanding of each element and 
advocating for the value you add from your 
own point of view.
In closing, our intent was to provide 
an accurate picture of the organizational 
change model known as the Change Equa-
tion, The Formula for Change, and the 
Change Formula. With the help of Barry 
Stein, documentation now exists to clarify 
the formula’s beginnings. Next, we docu-
mented iterations and some contributions 
over time. If you do not see your version of 
the Change Formula, fear not. We are not 
done writing; contact us, as we are eager 
to learn different forms and applications 
of the formula. Whether you are a scholar, 
practitioner, or both, using the formula, 
we encourage you to join us and continue 
building on the shoulders of those who 
have come before us.
Ackoff, R. (1981). Creating the corporate
future: Plan or be planned for. New York: 
John Wiley & Sons.
Beckhard, R. (1975). Strategies for large 
system change. Sloan Management
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Beckhard, R., & Harris, R.T. (1977). Orga-
nizational transitions: Managing complex
change (1st ed.). Reading, MA: Addison-
Wesley Publishing.
Beckhard, R., & Harris, R.T. (1987). 
Organizational transitions: Managing
complex change (2nd ed.). Reading, MA: 
Addison-Wesley Publishing.
Behrendt, E. (1955). What really happened 
at Texas City. Popular Science, 166(4), 
151–154, 268, 270.
Bowling Green State University. (2008). 
Change . . . or die. Record of Progress:
The Annual Report of the College of
Business Administration at Bowling
Green University. Bowling Green, OH: 
Steven Cady.
Cady, S.H., & Dannemiller, K. (1999). 
Whole System Transformation. Pro-
ceedings from a Conference at Benedic-
tine University, Lisle, IL.
Cady, S. H. (2011). Blended large-group, 
whole system collaboration & change 
events. Conference proceedings from 
the 2011 Organization Development 
Network Conference, Baltimore, MD.
Cady, S.H., & Fleshman, K.J. (2012). Amaz-
ing change: Stories from around the 
world. OD Practitioner, 44(1), 3–9.
Cady, S.H., Hine J., Spalding J., & Meen-
ach J. (2011). Collaborative leadership: 
Using large group meetings to cause 
rapid change and breakthrough per-
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(Eds.), Lessons in leadership: Learn from
real world cases (pp. 153–163). Oxford, 
UK: RossiSmith Academic Publishing.
Cady, S.H., & Oelofse, E. (2014). NEXUS 
for Change Webinar. The World Cafe in 
South Africa.
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28(4), 480–498.
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Economist, 362, 5–S6.
It is important to emphasize that for the Change Formula, the
key message is everyone’s truth is truth. Everyone from the CEO
down to the front line employees need to have a place within
each variable DVFS or the model will not work. For example,
if the top leaders do not acknowledge bottom-up problems
publicly, it is not a true D. People are most often in touch with
their own perceptions while understanding little, or even
caring about anyone else’s.
OD PRACTITIONER Vol. 46 No. 3 201438
Fritz, R. (1989). Path of least resistance:
Learning to become the creative force in
your own life. New York, NY: Ballantine 
Helgesen, S. (1990). The Female Advantage.
New York, NY: Doubleday.
Holman, P., Devane, T., & Cady, S. (Eds.). 
(2007). The change handbook (2nd ed.). 
San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.
Jacobs, R. W., & McKeown, F. (1997). Large 
group interventions: RTSC as the key to 
sustained change. Conference proceed-
ings from the 1997 Large Group Inter-
ventions Conference, Dallas, TX.
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(1939). Patterns of aggressive behav-
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(2010). The power of positive deviance:
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MA: Harvard Business Press.
Spreitzer, G. M., & Sonenshein, S. (2004). 
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development at work: Conversations on
the values, applications, and future of OD.
San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Steven H. Cady, PhD, serves on the Graduate Faculty at Bowling Green State
University. He is the Director of the Institute for Organizational Effectiveness
and served as Director of the Master of Organization Development Pro-
gram. He has also been the Chief Editor for the Organization Development
Journal and co-author of The Change Handbook. He is the founder of www.–building a community of communities for Whole System
Collaborative Change. He can be reached at
Robert “Jake” Jacobs, MSOD, is a consultant working with a broad base
of collaborators around the world. He specializes in helping people and
organizations claim the futures they deserve. Jacobs recently joined forces
with Barry Johnson and Leslie DePol to form Polarity Partnerships. He is the
President of Global Consulting Services. He is the author of Real Time Strate-
gic Change: How to Involve an Entire Organization in Fast and Far Reaching
Change, and co-author of You Don’t Have To Do It Alone. He can be reached
Ron Koller, MM, is a doctoral student at Capella University and a partner
with Fenwick Koller Associates, a firm specializing in union-management
success. He was mentored by, partnered with, and co-authored with Kathie
Danne miller. Koller’s specialty is assessing change recipient responses to
strategic organizational change. He is co-author of Whole-Scale Change:
Unleashing the Magic in Organizations. He can be reached on his blog at or at
John Spalding, MOD, is passionate about change and uses his experience to
help organizations innovate leading edge ideas as a practicing Organization
Development consultant. Spalding obtained his master’s degree in Organiza-
tion Development from Bowling Green State University and participated in
the Dannemiller/Loup – Whole Systems Practicum in 2003. He has experience
consulting, designing, and organizing logistics for a variety of large-scale
change initiatives. He has taught at Owens Community College and is cur-
rently the editorial coordinator for the first interactive CourseBook on the
Principles of Management (McGraw-Hill). He can be reached at spalding@
39The Change Formula: Myth, Legend, or Lore?
... Spinning Wheels Model sponsorship from senior leaders 2. Insufficient change management resourcing 3. Resistance to change from employees 4. Middle-management resistance Many in the OD field have illuminated this concept. Kurt Lewin's Force Field Analysis , first presented in 1933 (Swanson & Creed, 2014) and Gleicher's Formula for Change, first published in 1975 and later modified by Dannemiller Tyson (Cady et al., 2014) are two resistance to change models that have stood the test of time, continuing to guide practitioners today. ...
... The second resistance to change theory, the Formula for Change, is one of the most widely recognized organization development tools created in the last fifty years (Cady et al., 2014). The Formula for Change, also known as the Paradigm Shift Model, (Dannemiller Tyson Associates, 2000), highlights the elements which must be present in order to overcome the resistance to change: ...
Full-text available
an independent insurance agency in Toledo, Ohio, and has spent over thirty years in the insurance industry. Diane is currently researching how organizations, specifically small businesses, counteract the effects of the Spinning Wheels model. Abstract This article details the development of a model that includes familiar OD concepts: resistance to change, cultural lock-in, and assumed continuity. Through the examination of behaviors that caused the demise of once-large companies, a model describing the behaviors was developed. The Spinning Wheel model identifies three factors (called C 3) that interact to paralyze a company, causing blindness to market forces. These factors-resistance to change, cultural lock-in, and assumed continuity-spin and reinforce the dysfunctional behavior in each of them, impeding an organization's progress. If these factors go uncorrected, the company's existence can be jeopardized. While these factors have been individually researched, there is little documentation on their interrelationship. The model is then applied to small business, an often ignored yet significant component of the American economy. This paper will provide a viewpoint that, in fact, small businesses suffer from spinning wheels just as do large corporations. The severity is much the same; only the dollars on the income statement and employee count are smaller. One particular segment of small business-independent insurance agencies-is used to test the applicability of the model. Through research and first-hand experience, the author provides evidence of the Spinning Wheel model's equally relevant and crippling impact to small business.
... Resistance to change is a heavily researched construct in the Organization Development (OD) profession. From Kurt Lewin's Force Field Analysis, first presented in 1933 (Swanson & Creed, 2014) to Gleicher's Formula for Change, first published in 1975 and later modified by Dannemiller Tyson (Cady et al., 2014) to Ford & Ford's work (2009a, 2009b) as a systems phenomenon, research on resistance to change continues. In the last 75 years of study, resistance has been seen as an obstacle to overcome; a restraining force; a behavioral force motivated to maintain status quo (Lewin, 1939;Piderit, 2000;Bareil, 2013). ...
Full-text available
This article outlines a model that proposes to answer why long-standing organizations fail. It packages familiar constructs in a novel way that offers a view of the internal dynamics at play in long-standing organizations. Coined the Spinning Wheels model, it identifies three factors (called C3) that interrelate and blind the firm to market forces, slowing innovation. If these factors go uncorrected, the company’s existence is jeopardized. While these factors have been individually researched, no documentation has been found on their interrelationship. These familiar constructs comprising the C3 are resistance to change, cultural lock-in, and assumed continuity. The model is explained in the context of large, familiar organizations. Following an explanation of the model, a brief literature review of the primary constructs is offered. Then an examination of its impact on small business is presented--a segment often ignored by researchers because of issues related to scale, similarity, and data limitations. Independent insurance agencies are used as a segment of small business. Finally, a proposed diagnostic assessment is introduced that offers one way the model could be operationalized as an aid to small business owners in assessing their organization’s ability to respond to market forces. Consultants can follow the flow of thought from academic research to real-world practicality and consider how this tool could address clients’ issues.
... Formula for Change (Beckhard, 1975) (Dannemiller & Jacobs, 1992) (Cady et al., 2014) is a model used to systematically implement programs, both in the public and private spheres, to overcome organizational inertia and improve efficiency and productivity. It is a specific approach to the management of linked human resources, which recognizes that change in an organizational environment depends on the corporate culture, the personality of the individuals and the motivations of the people involved. ...
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This chapter aims to analyse the concept and implementation strategies of Agriculture 4.0 within the framework of the study of disruptive technologies and eco-innovation, which allows facing the needs derived from a sustainable food system. To do this, it strategically reflects on the design requirements of a holistic model for the transformation of agricultural holdings, aimed at the implementation of sustainable agrotechnology. The Third Green Revolution, its antecedents, orientations, and purposes, as well as the concept and functional aspects of sustainable food systems are analysed. Finally, a model of transformation of agricultural holdings towards the implementation of Sustainable Agriculture 4.0 is proposed, as well as a generic methodology applicable to specific projects located in specific areas, through formula for change and cost-benefit analysis.
... Issues are minimum wage ( Figures 1-3) of our worker that's why the research was exploratory online and focused on the salary of specific aspects of a major retailer's business. 11 The case study approach is common in logistics and supply chain research whereby a better understanding of supply chain management challenges. Firstly in order to monitor the success of the strategy, the researchers did 'mystery shopping' check as well as online checks on the internet & the market? ...
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In the most recent year, Bangladesh’s clothing industry is contributing 84 percent of yearly fare with a commitment of more than 32 billion to the absolute economy. To precede, this achievement the lowest pay permitted by law and specialist distress is the most recent danger. Bangladesh market is ahead against some remaining contenders like India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Srilanka because of the low work cost of our nation. Then again, the lowest pay permitted by law is an appealing approach apparatus for neediness decrease and social equity in the eye of the public authority. Yet, European and American purchasers are thorough to choose the all-out FOB on one computer piece of clothing for their business strategy. In the present circumstance, we need to support this serious market. In this study, the author builds up an applied exploration structure for getting away from the pursuer. As per the reasonable system, information has been gathered from various useful sources in Bangladesh. For gathering information, the creators have taken 05 composite processing plants of Bangladesh. This exploration shows various ways for feasible extravagant sort of trendy items to conquer this test. The outcomes can be actualized by the industrial facility of Bangladesh for the future turn of events.
... The fear of losing status, such as formal and/or informal roles, is also frequently referred to as a barrier for succeeding with change (Beer 2007;Trader-Leigh 2002). Other streams of research stress that resistance can be overcome by demonstrating a compelling vision of a future state along with a clear process and an organization-wide sense of urgency/dissatisfaction with the current state (Kotter 2008;Beckhard and Harris 1987;Hayes 2018;Cady Jacobs et al. 2014). Conner (1992) argues for the need for messages of pain being dispersed in the organization, contributing to a strong motivation to leave behind the old way of working. ...
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This open access book is geared towards providing insights and stimulating new thinking about the changing nature of services, service work and workers, and service experiences during and after the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, particularly focusing on digital service technology. This book serves as a useful resource for business practitioners and academics in the areas of service and human resource management. Each chapter deals with specific current issues within these industries due to COVID-19 and issues that will come up post-pandemic. As COVID-19 is expected introduce novel methods to the service sector, such as untact service, telecommuting, alternative work arrangements, job crafting, and new work skills, digital technology is becoming more important than ever before. This books provides a range of examples and cases to elaborate on the effective application of digital service technology in order for businesses to stay relevant in the current climate.
... The fear of losing status, such as formal and/or informal roles, is also frequently referred to as a barrier for succeeding with change (Beer 2007;Trader-Leigh 2002). Other streams of research stress that resistance can be overcome by demonstrating a compelling vision of a future state along with a clear process and an organization-wide sense of urgency/dissatisfaction with the current state (Kotter 2008;Beckhard and Harris 1987;Hayes 2018;Cady Jacobs et al. 2014). Conner (1992) argues for the need for messages of pain being dispersed in the organization, contributing to a strong motivation to leave behind the old way of working. ...
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As COVID-19 affects populations across the globe, the measures to prevent its spread are increasingly affecting our economies. Restrictions on the movement of people and goods and regulations for social distancing and quarantine affect both the consumption and production of goods and services. In this article, we examine the impact of COVID-19 on professional advisory service providers assisting their clients to excel. We find that COVID-19 has rapidly broken down several previous barriers to digital transformation and has caused a rapid increase in the adoption of digital technology among professional advisory firms. We conclude that although there might be a corona bump of rapid digital implementation, a new normal has been established, which changes the operational context and implies that the rate of digital trajectory will be steeper, and the pace will be faster, than has been earlier anticipated. This implies that professional advisors will become better suited to advise on the increasingly complex digital context of their clients.
... В теории организационных изменений есть формула, которая называется формулой Глейчера [15] и записывается в виде произведения нескольких факторов, DVF>R, где D (Dissatisfaction) -фактор неудовлетворенности компании текущей ситуацией; V (Vision) -видение будущего, четко сформулированные цели перемен; F (First steps) -первые конкретные шаги компании к выбранной цели; R (Resistance) − сопротивление изменениям; > -знак неравенства, который в данном случае интерпретируется как утверждение, что для достижения поставленной цели энергия изменений должна быть больше энергии сопротивления. ...
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This thesis is about museums and crisis. Through research on the Imperial War Museum, known today as IWM, during the Second World War era, 1933-1950, it reveals how crises disrupt museums, and the contrasting defensive and revolutionary strategies which museums must adopt when mitigating crisis situations. The thesis is situated in a small but emergent literature concerning museums and crisis. Existing work comprises contemporary case studies on difficult museum experiences, predominantly financial difficulty, wherein crisis has been applied to describe an institution’s general state of organisational malaise. This thesis, by contrast, is innovative in that it comprises a historical case study on a museum facing wholesale physical and ideological collapse, and deploys newly developed crisis concepts to analyse different critical situations that can impact museums and to analyse the pathology underlying them. It draws on methodology informed by various case study, archival and historical theorists, and is produced using data extracted principally from documentary sources researched at the IWM museum archive and The National Archives. Through investigating the experience of the Imperial War Museum during the Second World War era, this thesis finds that museums can be harmed by two crisis types. The first comprises a surface-defensive crisis, where the impacted museum must rebut the crisis effects. This type was conceived through considering the impact of the wartime aerial attacks against London on the Imperial War Museum. The second type comprises a deep-revolutionary crisis, where the museum must transition from its existing crisis-ridden state to some new, more sustainable paradigm. This type was conceived through considering the threats posed by cultural irrelevancy, perceived during the war, against the Imperial War Museum after the conflict. Delivered via an original synthesis of historical, museological and crisis research, the outcome of these findings comprises a novel understanding of crisis in the museum context.
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Currently, an industry analysis becomes important in shedding light about Coach Ins.’s possible solutions to the perceived challenges. For example, an extremely intense competition in luxury goods has been attributed to low market-entry barriers because not all corporations pose the capacity of gaining great achievements. For instance, many firms have had to withdraw from the market due to failures arising from ineffective follow-up financial support. In addition, two sets of customer groups exist. On the one hand, fashion-conscious customers prefer designs that keep up with the latest fashion trends. On the other hand, rational customers are those who prefer affordable luxury goods that may not only be characterized by classic styles but also stay without being outdated for a substantial period. Prior to the provision of recommendations towards retaining a competitive advantage in the wake of increasing or stiffening global competition and a decline in consumer spending within the luxury goods industry, Kurt Lewin’s 3-stage model is selected and discussed as a guiding framework guiding technological change realization at Coach Inc.
A central idea in organizational research and practice is that change efforts demand a sense of urgency. It is also commonly accepted that renewal beyond incremental improvements demand individuals and teams to have what earlier research has called a “promotion focus”—to think innovatively, see opportunities, and think long term. Urgency, however, leads to a “prevention focus,” with which teams and their members are more inclined to seek incremental improvements and error reduction. Hence, urgency seems to both support change and prevent it. Earlier research has not established the conditions under which urgency may lead to creative and productive outcomes. This paper aims to do so. In a study of seven change initiatives at a large media company undergoing a serious crisis, we found that urgency cues could be productively handled by managers and project team members when they addressed three core relationships: (a) the success-failure relationship, (b) the safety-accountability relationship, and (c) the operative-strategic relationship. We make three related theoretical propositions regarding the role of urgency in innovation-driven change and transformation.
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We present a case study based on a body of methodologies within a field referred to as whole system collaboration and change, large-group methods or interventions, and large-scale change. The World Café conversational process was utilised as part of an intervention designed to improve employee commitment and ensure continued effort in a service improvement program at an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) company. We describe the process for evaluating the impact of interventions; and, we report that the intervention appeared to improve an objective measure of performance and positively impact attitudes within the organization.
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In this article, the authors develop a definition of positive deviance, a foundational construct in positive organizational scholarship. They offer a normative definition of positive deviance: intentional behaviors that depart from the norms of a referent group in honorable ways. The authors contrast this normative perspective on deviance with statistical, supra conformity, and reactive perspectives on deviance. They also develop research propositions that differentiate positive deviance from related prosocial types of behaviors, including organizational citizenship, whistle-blowing, corporate social responsibility, and creativity/innovation. Finally, the authors offer some initial ideas on how to operationalize positive deviance.
This article describes the history, practical applications, and possible future of a unique and powerful technology for changing the way that organizations change: whole systems changing themselves in real time. This technology addresses several key challenges to bringing about change in large and complex organizations: (a) increased ownership of and commitment to change efforts by all interested and affected parties, (b) faster implementation of plans rather than merely leaving more "binders on shelves" at the end of the day, and (c) ongoing decisions made by organization members aligned behind the organization's overall strategic direction, thereby creating significant leverage for change. This article illustrates how groups of up to 600 people working interactively can collaborate in creating their own and their organization `s future. Two case studies demonstrate the successful application of this technology to implementing strategy and total quality management.
Sumario: Managing complex change -- The demand system: forces in the environment -- Dynamics of organizations: where change occurs -- The change process: why change? -- Defining the future state -- Assessing the present: benchmarks for change -- Getting from here to there: transition management -- Commitment planning and strategies -- Managing complexity
Strategies for large system change
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What really happened at Texas City
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Record of Progress: The Annual Report of the College of Business Administration at Bowling Green University
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