Change and Organizational Performance

The Causal Model

change 1Description

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 went one step further by arguing that there are certain consistent causal linkages among these classes of events.

Origin of the Burke-Litwin Model.change 3

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.

change 2Applications

ü  Analyzing Organizational Change

ü  Understanding Organizational Change

ü  Managing Organizational Change

ü  Predicting Organizational Change


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

Transformational change happens in response to the external environment, which directly affects the mission, strategy, leadership and culture of the organization.

In turn, the transactional factors are affected: structure, systems, management practices, and work climate.

These transformational and transactional factors together affect motivation, which in turn affects performance.

There is a feedback loop: the organizational performance can directly affect its external environment.


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).  The understanding improve the opportunities for us managers to affect change as needed.

Potential Drawbacks

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.

Source: The Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change of W. Warner Burke and George H. Litwin. (1992)




Posted in Knowledge & Beyond, Perspectives to Ponder Upon, Problematising Process, Processing Problem Soving.