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Business Change - a simple model

Business Models can help or hinder. Some are so impenetrable that they defy all efforts to understand them. Some are so trivial that they don’t increase understanding at all. I picked up a simple yet helpful one a number of years ago, which is great for covering the important factors when getting started with a change initiative. At that time it was called the four box model, but a colleague subsequently added a fifth box (thanks Jim!) Now, there’s a bargain: 25% extra, at no extra cost!

The first four boxes are essential if you are to drive change forward. They are:

If any one of these is missing, the change will not happen as you intend.

So, where does the fifth box sit? The fifth box is resistance to change, and it sits on the opposite side of the scales from the other four. There is always resistance, and the fifth box can be a very large box indeed. For the change to take place, the total size of the first four boxes must be bigger than the fifth box. The strange thing is that as you make the first four boxes bigger and stronger, the fifth box will automatically and inevitably shrink. If you can make a sufficiently compelling case for a change, then resistance will fade away.

This model does not tell you how to make change happen, but I find that it helps me to focus on the things that really matter when trying to instigate business (or any other) changes. If I’m struggling to get sufficient buy-in, I inevitably find that one of the first four boxes is inadequate, and it is usually easy to identify which one needs work. This also avoids wasted eflort on areas that are already strong: for example, there’s no point in improving a plan that is already excellent, if what’s holding you back is poor communication of the vision!

Here is a practical example that has nothing to do with work. Imagine you want to go to France on holiday, rather than to your usual villa in Spain, but your partner isn’t convinced.

But don’t forget:

Is Box 5 so big that you won’t make the change, or are the other boxes big enough to make the change happen? Are the other four boxes sufficient to persuade your partner to try a new destination? If the answer is “no”, you need to create a stronger case to go to La Belle France. If the answer is “yes”, then Bon Voyage!

Iain Millar, 1 June 2011