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Burke-Litwin model for organizational change

What are the factors of change in an organization?

There are many models describing change in the organization, but one of the most used is Burke-Litwin's model of organizational change. See the advantages and disadvantages of the model for helping you with organizational change management.

Approximate reading time: 4m 25s

Everywhere in the world, wherever you look, nothing is eternal, everything changes. Change is ubiquitous and inevitable. In ancient times, Heraclitus said, "Everything flows, everything changes", "We do not enter the same river twice", "Nothing is permanent except change".

In every company and organization, regardless of its traditional foundations and structures, one day comes the moment when organizational change must occur. Whether it is due to increased profits or just to make the company competitive in the market, there must inevitably be a change in the organization. 

Organizational change is often a difficult and complex process. In many cases, managing organizational change does not always go well. The head and managers of the company must first of all have a clear idea of ​​what things in the organization need to change in order for the process of organizational change to happen more smoothly and effectively and for it to be successful for the company.

Here we will present a model for organizational change of the company. This model is named Burke-Litwin, after Warner Burke and George Litwin, organizational change consultants who published on the subject in 1992. The model is based on their experience as consultants at British Airways during a change of ownership.

The organizational change model aims to increase the productivity of a company by changing the ability and to achieve larger goals in a shorter time, which leads to an increase in profits. It also serves to diagnose the current organization and to plan organizational change. In principle, any organizational change brings with it some chaos in the company. To better control this chaos, the Burke-Litwin model describes key factors of organizational productivity and efficiency, pointing out a number of two-way relationships between them and their strength of impact.

What is the practical application of the model? The model presents the causal relationships between transforming and transactional factors and their combination in the management of organizational change.

The model includes 12 factors relevant to each organization, with their overall action and causal relationships that affect each change and can determine its outcome. These factors can be divided into 4 groups, and each group has its own specific influence on change.

The four groups of factors are:

1) External environment - any impact arising as change outside the organization - a new competitor, the entry of new technologies into business, changes in legislation or change of government, financial crisis, etc.

2) Transforming factors:

  • Strategy and mission - the main goal of the company and how this goal can be achieved. Having a mission written and accepted by employees is an important component of organizational effectiveness. The strategy is the way the company intends to achieve the main long-term goal.
  • Leadership - the values, philosophy and actions of the top management of the organization. Leadership effectiveness is measured through the perceptions of followers regarding the values ​​and practices of leaders.
  • Organizational, company culture - the values ​​and norms of behavior adopted in the company. Company culture is also the set of stable over time written and unwritten rules and principles that guide the actions of the organization.

3) Transaction factors:

  • Structure - the respective hierarchy of the company, functions, roles of employees and, range and levels of management, communications, relationships, decision-making rights in order to realize the mission and strategy of the company.
  • Systems - rules, mechanisms and procedures to facilitate the work, as well as the daily actions that employees in the company adhere to in order to do their job. The systems also include rewarding, evaluating the performance of the employee, as well as the implementation of goals and budget and the allocation of human resources.
  • Management practices  - sets of actions to ensure the normal working environment for the company, as well as the way in which human and material resources are managed and used, in order to effectively implement the company's strategy and the realization of its mission.
  • Work climate or microclimate - the prevailing attitude and morale of employees in the company - the set of current impressions, expectations and feelings that members of the department have, interpersonal relationships, relationships with managers and colleagues from other departments.
  • Tasks, skills and competencies of the individual - the degree of competence of employees in the company - knowledge, skills and experience to be able to meet the requirements of their positions in order to achieve better results.
  • Individual needs and values - psychological factors that provide desire and meaning for physical or intellectual effort, the degree of desires and expectations of employees in the company, i.e. remuneration, work-life balance, their role and responsibilities in the organization and more. 
  • Motivation - internal and external factors that inspire and stimulate people to work with high quality in the long run.

4) Individual organizational performance and productivity of the company - this is the final and real change in the organization and represents the individual or organizational performance after the changes in other factors, which in case of favorable development should lead to higher results and achievements.

Transformation factors are key to meeting the company's goals. If the company wants to make a significant change, it must take them seriously - to change something simultaneously in the three transformation factors to the extent necessary for its purposes. Transactional factors are also important, but in order to be able to change transactional factors, transformational ones must first be changed. If there is no change in the three key transformation factors, the change in the organization is often temporary and unsustainable.

Like all models, the Burke-Litwin model has its advantages and disadvantages in regards to organizational change management. Let's look at them:
1) Advantages - the model presents causal relationships, in contrast to the predominant number of purely descriptive models. The key factors that are mentioned and the dependencies between them have a high practical value in practice. The model has been developed and refined over the years, with the participation of professionals, consultants and researchers. In addition, the model has been tested in practice for 5 years at British Airways, one of the most renowned airlines on the planet.

2) Disadvantages - the model indicates as the root cause of organizational change only the external environment. It does not consider as possible root causes the factors of the internal environment, such as change of the top management, change of the company strategy or mission, etc. The authors did not pay enough attention to the mission and strategy, structure and relationship between the task and skills of the individual, focused more on leadership, corporate culture, systems (especially for remuneration), management practices, microclimate, motivation, individual needs and values, performance.

Burke-Litwin's Model of Organizational Change clarifies the key factors behind any change. It provides a useful framework for organizational change management in which to orient managers' ideas and plans.

We at NIT- New Internet Technologies Ltd. can be of help with our skills to introduce elearning to your organization as part of its organizational change process. We can provide online trainings in organizational change or help you with creating your own eLearning courses and materials. Contact us by writing to us from the form below or by phone: +3502 850 53 64

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