How Do You Spell Change?

Guest blogger. With over 1,500 speaking engagements throughout the US and Canada to his credit, Brendan J. Cunningham, President of Excelleron Business Consulting, has been called the ”Patron Saint of Entrepreneurs.” Here, Brendan offers a new way to think about change. How do you spell “Change?” This question sounds like the old Rolaids commercial from the 1970’s. Remember? “How do you spell relief? R-O-L-A-I-D-S.”

Well, I have an interesting way to spell “Change.” It looks like this: D x V x F > R.

Huh? What the..? Who the…? Huh…?

Actually, it is fairly straightforward, and simple to understand, once I tell you what the characters mean…but it’s not all that simple to do. Ok, for those of you that skipped algebra, let’s look at the formula again: D x V x F > R, where…

D = Dissatisfaction with how things are now.

V = Vision of what is possible (tangible and concrete).

F = First steps that can be taken towards achieving the vision

R = Resistance to the change (monetary, psychological, etc.).

Commonly referred to as Gleicher’s Formula, it was created by Richard Beckhard and David Gleicher, and later refined by Kathie Dannemiller. The formula helps assess whether change programs within an organization are likely to be successful.

So, if Mr. Spock was correct when he stated, “Change is the ultimate process of all living things,” businesses of any size should follow the precepts of this formula. So let’s apply D x V x F > R to a company and see how we do.

Let’s look at the sales of the Susquehanna Hat Company. Sales are off by over 30% for two consecutive years. The business owner easily exhibits D—dissatisfaction with how things are. Multiply this by V, the vision of what’s possible (they could at least be doing what they did last year) and F, the first steps that need to be taken. These three factors have to give us a total that is greater than R, resistance to the changes necessary.

So what are the First steps necessary? This is no place for a snap decision like adding ten more salespeople, or cutting cost by 20%. The owner of the Susquehanna Hat Company must determine why his company is in this situation. He doesn’t know what’s wrong until he digs deep into his organization. How does he fix something that he doesn’t know is broke? A SWOT analyses is useful here—that where a company examines its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Much is revealed.

Enter John F. Kennedy. What you might not have known about our 35th President of the United States is that he singlehandedly crippled the hat business in America when he simply started walking around without any headwear. Most men figured if the sexiest man that ever lived in the White House could walk around without the ubiquitous fedora so could they. Oddly enough, he made this the accepted fashion and this still lingers today. If we were looking at the sales chart back in Kennedy’s day, we would see an incredible resistance to change at the Susquehanna Hat Factory, and in fact, the R would probably be greater than the three multiplied variables. As it turns out that was exactly the case, and guess what, the Susquehanna Hat Company is no more.

Some of our readers might be commenting that the Susquehanna Hat Company is no more because it never existed (it was merely the creation of Abbott and Costello in one of their most famous skits) and they would be correct. But following the logic of the formula, the premise remains intact.

So if you are looking to make some changes in your organization, consider using Gleicher’s formula before you start hiring and firing, or spending all sorts of money. It will force you to consider options that you had not considered before as being viable. Perhaps, you might determine that you are not ready to make the changes you thought you should. On the other hand, it might force you to confront the ugliest reality that exists and drive you to make the changes you must make if you are to survive.

About the Author: Guest blogger Brendan J. Cunningham, President of Excelleron Business Consulting, is a Licensed Professional Business Coach. You can reach him by calling 716-818-2526, emailing or visiting


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