Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Burke-Litwin Model: A Winning System

People familiar with the field of Organizational Development are most likely familiar with the Burke-Litwin Model of Organizational Performance and Change.  Although people not familiar with OD are most likely not familiar with the Burke-Litwin Model, the model contains underlying principles for success that are discussed in business and society.

A key component to the Burke-Litwin Model is that it distinguishes between transformational and transactional dimensions.  In layman's terms, organizations focus on both longer-term, bigger picture concepts and shorter-term, day-to-day tasks and details.  In business, sports, and military language, much is said about strategy and tactics.  Strategy deals more with mission, values, and overall goals, while tactics involve actions to achieve the goals and carry out the mission and values.  Other parallels include 'revolutionary vs. evolutionary' (radical change vs. gradual change) and 'leadership vs. management' (again, looking at the long-term picture vs. daily operations).  What is important in all of this distinguishing is that both transformational and transactional thoughts and actions are needed for organizational success.

As an 'open systems' model, the Burke-Litwin Model also acknowledges the presence of feedback throughout an organization.  Feedback is natural, as people experience various events, circumstances, and conditions and, in turn, make observations about these experiences.  While lighthearted at times, these observations are insightful and candid; they should not be overlooked.  For trust to be established among co-workers and improvements to be made within organizations, open and continuous feedback is needed.  More simply stated, good communication helps organizations to succeed.

An organization's use of feedback and communication throughout its transformational and transactional dimensions establishes two major principles for success: goal congruence and consistency.  Goal congruence is great because it means that workers at all levels of an organization are working towards the same mission under the same values.  'Being on the same page' greatly increases the odds of organizations to succeed.  Likewise, consistency is great because practicing good habits breeds success.  Consistency eliminates unnecessary variances from daily operations and systems.  Ultimately, consistency is needed to achieve goals.  This results in a circular effect--goal congruence breeds consistency as consistency fosters goal congruence.    

As legendary football coaches Chuck Noll and Tony Dungy have said: "If you want to win, do the ordinary things better than anyone else does--day in and day out."  Their words ring true both transformationally and transactionally, and they supplemented their words with frequent open feedback.  With that said, the Burke-Litwin Model provides a winning formula for OD practitioners and outsiders alike.  

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