Beckhard and Harris’s change formula help to increase individual motivation to change. Change is very personal and each individual will have a diverse reaction to your change.

In order for the change to be successful, each affected individual will have to decide to transition from old ways of working to the new.

Whats in it-

  1. The Change Formulae
  2. Readiness and Resistance
  3. Motivation of Employees
  4. Conclusion
  5. FAQs

The Change Formulae

The change formula can explain the forces acting for and against the change for individuals. And therefore, pinpoint areas to focus on to increase motivation. Beckhard and Harris give the change equation.

It takes the form of a mathematical formula, but the explanation is very straightforward:

C = [A x B x D]>X or C = [D x V x F] > R

C = Change

A = Level of Dissatisfaction with The Status Quo

B = Desirability of The Proposed Change or End State or vision

D = Practicality of The Change (Knowledge of The Next Practical Steps, Minimal Risk and Disruption) or the first step

X = Perceived ‘Cost’ Of the Change or resistance to change

Beckhard and Harris' Change Equation - Formula for Change

Basically, individuals will decide to make the transition if they perceive that the effort or ‘cost’ of changing is worth it. 

For this to happen. They have to be unhappy with the way things currently are, happy with the proposed solution. And does not face too many unknowns or too much risk and disruption during the change.

Implied in the formula is the assumption that if either A, B, or D, are zero, then the change initiative will never overcome the ‘cost’ of the change. People will resist, and the change will fail. 

In this case, the formula can be a beneficial way of beginning difficult discussions with the change sponsor and senior management about the wisdom of continuing with the change initiative.

Focusing on raising levels of A, B, and D will lower resistance, increase motivation. And, therefore, increase the chances of the individual engaging in the change. Some ideas of how to do this are listed below:

A: Level of Dissatisfaction with the Status Quo

Communicating the ‘burning platform’ can help to increase dissatisfaction with the status quo.

For example, if the change is being made for regulatory purposes, dissatisfaction with the status quo. 

This can be easily generated by making staff aware that they or the organization could face the consequences of acting outside of regulations.

For changes that aim to increase efficiency, talking to people about how much time they are currently spending on a task. And exploring what they could do with that time instead, will again soon raise levels of dissatisfaction.

Be careful to keep the dissatisfaction within the scope of your change. Otherwise, people may start to focus on other workplace issues in need of improvement – and which are out of your control.

B: The Desirability of the Proposed Change or End State

We can increase this by focusing on the benefits of the change – both corporate and, more importantly, individual.

For example, an office move may mean that people are closer to better shops and cafés; a move to electronic filing may result in an environmental benefit of less printing. However small these benefits may be, if well communicated, they can significantly increase the change’s desirability.

C: Practicality of the Change

Being clear on what steps you need users to undertake will reduce the fear of the unknown and allow them to plan their time during the change.

Users are often concerned that the disruption of the change will affect their performance. And reduce their ability to undertake their day-to-day work. This is often the case in the short term, while a change is being implemented and embedded.

It is essential to put mitigations in place to reduce risk and disruption as much as possible, and then communicate these mitigations to users.

For example, amending performance targets while users get used to new software, or planning office moves for a weekend. It will show users that the practicalities of the change are being thought about, and effort is being put into minimizing risk and disruption.

Readiness and Resistance

We often use The Beckhard and Harris change formula to diagnose change readiness rather than a route map.

For example, one manager used the change formula to gauge the most receptive (least resistant) business units as the best candidates for the next tranche of the rollout of a change they were introducing.

It is useful when engaging with senior managers at the outset of a change and intervals throughout the change. Such notional measures using the change formula can become part of a change ‘dashboard’ presented to such managers.

Change Readiness

Change readiness is concerned with preparing the organization for the changes it is facing. An organization that is ready for change will find it easier to implement and sustain the new ways of working, and therefore reap the benefits of the change.

It is much easier to identify the tangible and practical things essential (such as new IT systems or organizational structures) than ensuring the cultural conditions are in place to support the change. This means equipping people with the motivations and attitudes to engage with the change and make it work. However,

 if we neglect this aspect, there is a vast risk that people will resist the change, fail to adopt new ways of working, and the change will, therefore, be unsuccessful.

Difference between Change and Transition

Change: the actual events, activities, and steps that can be put into a diary or project plan.

Transition: the human, psychological process of letting go of one pattern and engaging with a new one.

Beckhard and Harris' Change Equation - Formula for Change

Motivation of Employees

There are three ways to enhance employee motivation, which we can use to keep motivation high during a change initiative. These are:

  1. Increasing the belief that employees can perform their jobs successfully. People may be concerned that they will struggle to undertake the new tasks that a change will bring. Improving training and support will help them to gain confidence in new ways of working.
  2. The growing belief that excellent performance will result in valued rewards. It is essential to be clear what excellentexcellent performance looks like after a change, and how this will be rewarded. Make sure you carry through on any promises you make about rewards and remember that reward does not have to be monetary.
  3. Increasing the expected value of rewards resulting from the desired performance. This can be done by ensuring that employees and, where possible, really value the rewards offered, individualizing rewards to make sure they give the maximum value to those concerned. For example, some employees may value time off in lieu after an intense period of work on a change, whereas others may prefer a cash adjustment to their salary.


This blog briefly describes the Beckhard and Harris’ Change Equation and how to motivate individual in an organization for increasing the effectiveness of change management.

By using all the information given in this article you can easily motivate people for the change and run a proper change management cycle with ease.


1. What is the change formula?

The change formula (Beckhard and Harris, 1987) can help to explain the forces that are acting for and against the change for individuals. And, therefore, pinpoint areas to focus on to increase motivation.
It takes the form of a mathematical formula but the explanation is very straightforward:
C = [A x B x D]>X or C = [D x V x F] > R

2. Why work with individuals during change?

Change is a very personal thing. If an organization introduces a change to a team, no two individuals will share precisely the same thoughts and feelings about the change, and no two individuals will react in the same way to the change. 
However, one certainty is that every individual will have some reaction to the change, ranging on a spectrum between embracing it wholeheartedly to resisting it with every bone in their body. The choice to make this transition is up to each individual, and building individual motivation to change can influence whether this choice is made.

3. Who gives the change equation?

Beckhard and Harris gave the change formulae in 1987.

4. What is the benefit of the change equation?

The formula can be a very useful way of beginning difficult discussions with the change sponsor and senior management about the wisdom of continuing with the change initiative.
Focusing on raising A, B, and D levels will lower resistance, increase motivation, and increase the chances of the individual engaging in the change.