When it comes to organizational change, sometimes it’s hard to know how to begin. How do you assess if people are ready? How do you identify potential resistance? How can you motivate people to commit to a new direction? How might you engage them in shaping the future?

People resist change for many reasons, including:

  • They disagree with the need and/or purpose.
  • They’re afraid they might lose something as a result (e.g., status, security, etc.).
  • They don’t have all the information they require to fully commit.
  • They mistrust the person or people leading the initiative/s.

Back in the ‘80s Richard Beckhard and Reuben Harris developed a useful way to think about change. Stated as a mathematical formula the model looks like this:

Dissatisfaction + Vision + Actions > Resistance

According to Beckhard and Harris, inspiring commitment to change requires that the extent to which people feel dissatisfied with the current situation, are inspired by a clear vision for a better future, and are confident in a path forward must be greater than their resistance and fears.

This “DVAR” equation can guide you in doing a rigorous assessment of the tenor, possibilities, and pathways – versus the barriers – associated with the change you believe is needed. Each element of the formula challenges you to address and understand core questions:

Dissatisfaction: Why is our current situation problematic or unsustainable? What factors in our environment have pushed us to this critical juncture? If everything remains status quo, what is at stake for the organization, our team members, and other stakeholders?

Vision: What are our objectives and why are they important to the future of the organization? What does our desired future “look” like? What new roles and standards of operation will emerge?

Actions: What does the roadmap to achieve our vision look like? What initial small and executable steps can put us on the path to success? What resources and commitments do we need to be successful?

Resistance: What are people concerned about? What risks and barriers do they see that we may not be anticipating? How do we address fear and cynicism within the system?

After you’ve explored these questions and you’re ready to talk with your team about change, strive to incorporate the essential message behind each element of DVAR:

  • Allow open conversations about readiness, discomfort, and hopes.
  • Communicate a clear vision so they can picture themselves as part of the desired future.
  • Facilitate collaboration (and subsequent buy-in) when creating a roadmap.
  • Ensure early steps are high-impact in order to fuel motivation for subsequent action.

Too often we simply don’t know how to begin when it comes to fostering organizational change. The DVAR model is a great place to start. This tool can help you prepare, initiate conversation, and ultimately weave the story of change you’ve been wanting to tell.

Image Credit: GeoJango Maps on Unsplash

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