Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change (Burke and Litwin)

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Transformational Change and Transactional Change. Explanation of the Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change of W. Warner Burke and George H. Litwin. (1992)

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Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change (Burke and Litwin)What is the Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change? Description

Organizational change is a kind of chaos. Like the 7-S Framework by Pascale and Athos, the Burke-Litwin Model integrates a range of factors that provide some guidance to understand how organizations work amidst this chaos. Burke and Litwin go one step further by arguing that there are certain consistent causal linkages among these classes of events. See the figure.


Origin of the Burke-Litwin Model. History

During the 1960s George Litwin and others were thinking on organizational climate. In 1992, Burke and Litwin publish an article in the Journal of Management (Vol. 18, No. 3) in which they add a few factors to the 7-S Framework and combine this with a high-level change process theory, in which certain elements cause changes of other elements.


Usage of the Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change. Applications

  • Analyzing Organizational Change
  • Understanding Organizational Change
  • Managing Organizational Change
  • Predicting Organizational Change

Steps in the Model by Burke and Litwin. Process

Burke and Litwin distinguish between transformational factors (yellow boxes) and transactional factors (green boxes).

  1. Transformational change happens in response to the external environment, which directly affects the mission, strategy, leadership and culture of the organization.
  2. In turn,  the transactional factors are affected: structure, systems, management practices, and work climate.
  3. These transformational and transactional factors together affect motivation, which in turn affects performance.
  4. There is a feedback loop: the organizational performance can directly effect the external environment.

Strengths of the Burke-Litwin Model. Benefits

  • Overview: the framework integrates many major change factors.
  • External environment is the main factor (although not necessarily the starting point).
  • The hierarchy and causality between the elements.
  • The model distinguishes between the set of variables that influence and are influenced by organizational climate (everyday, transactional level) and those influenced by organizational culture (fundamental, transformational level).

Limitations of the Model by Burke and Litwin. Disadvantages

  • The model is a bit complex (although still an oversimplification of the reality).
  • Some organizational changes may be initiated by leadership or by internal factors rather than by the external environment.
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Compare with the Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change: 7-S Framework  |  Dimensions of Change  |  Ashridge Mission Model  |  Catalytic Mechanisms  |  Chaos Theory  |  Change Phases  |  Six Change Approaches


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