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The 5 Pillars of the Burke-Litwin Model

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The Burke-Litwin Model is a widely recognized and influential framework for understanding organizational change. Developed by George H. Litwin and W. Warner Burke in the 1990s, this model provides a comprehensive approach to analyzing and managing change within organizations. The model consists of several interconnected components, known as the “pillars,” which collectively contribute to the success of organizational change efforts. In this article, we will explore the five pillars of the Burke-Litwin Model in detail, examining their significance and impact on organizational change.

The External Environment

The first pillar of the Burke-Litwin Model is the external environment. This refers to the broader context in which an organization operates, including factors such as the economy, industry trends, and regulatory environment. The external environment has a significant influence on an organization’s ability to change and adapt. For example, a company operating in a highly regulated industry may face more challenges when implementing change initiatives compared to a company in a less regulated industry.

Understanding the external environment is crucial for effective change management. Organizations must conduct thorough research and analysis to identify external factors that may impact their change efforts. By doing so, they can anticipate potential obstacles and develop strategies to mitigate their impact. For instance, if an organization is planning to introduce a new product in a highly competitive market, it may need to invest in extensive market research and develop a robust marketing strategy to ensure success.

Organizational Culture

The second pillar of the Burke-Litwin Model is organizational culture. Organizational culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, and norms that shape the behavior and attitudes of individuals within an organization. It plays a crucial role in shaping how change is perceived and embraced within an organization. A strong and positive organizational culture can facilitate change by fostering a sense of trust, collaboration, and innovation among employees.

On the other hand, a negative or resistant culture can hinder change efforts. For example, if an organization has a culture that values tradition and resists change, employees may be reluctant to adopt new processes or technologies. In such cases, change management strategies should focus on addressing cultural barriers and promoting a more open and adaptive culture.

Leadership is a key driver of organizational culture. Leaders play a critical role in shaping the values and behaviors that define an organization’s culture. They must lead by example and actively promote a culture that supports change and innovation. By aligning leadership practices with the desired culture, organizations can create an environment that is conducive to successful change initiatives.

Organizational Structure

The third pillar of the Burke-Litwin Model is organizational structure. Organizational structure refers to the formal arrangement of roles, responsibilities, and reporting relationships within an organization. It provides the framework for how work is organized and coordinated. The structure of an organization can either facilitate or impede change efforts.

A rigid and hierarchical structure can hinder change by creating bureaucratic bottlenecks and slowing down decision-making processes. On the other hand, a flexible and decentralized structure can promote agility and enable faster adaptation to change. For example, organizations that adopt a matrix structure, where employees report to both functional managers and project managers, are often better equipped to handle complex change initiatives.

When implementing change, organizations should assess their existing structure and identify any structural barriers that may impede progress. They may need to redesign their structure to align with the desired change objectives. This could involve flattening hierarchies, creating cross-functional teams, or implementing new reporting relationships.

Systems and Processes

The fourth pillar of the Burke-Litwin Model is systems and processes. Systems and processes refer to the formal and informal procedures, workflows, and routines that govern how work is performed within an organization. They provide the mechanisms through which change is implemented and sustained.

Efficient and effective systems and processes are essential for successful change management. They ensure that change initiatives are executed smoothly and consistently. For example, if an organization is implementing a new performance management system, it needs to have clear processes in place for setting goals, providing feedback, and evaluating performance.

Organizations should regularly review and update their systems and processes to align with changing business needs and objectives. This includes identifying and eliminating any redundant or outdated processes that may hinder change efforts. By continuously improving their systems and processes, organizations can enhance their ability to adapt to change and drive sustainable performance improvement.

Individual and Group Behavior

The fifth and final pillar of the Burke-Litwin Model is individual and group behavior. This refers to the attitudes, motivations, and behaviors of individuals and groups within an organization. Individual and group behavior can have a significant impact on the success of change initiatives.

Resistance to change is a common challenge faced by organizations. Individuals may resist change due to fear of the unknown, concerns about job security, or a lack of understanding about the need for change. To overcome resistance, organizations must address the underlying causes and provide support and resources to help individuals navigate the change process.

Group dynamics also play a crucial role in change management. Effective teamwork and collaboration are essential for implementing and sustaining change. Organizations should foster a culture of teamwork and provide opportunities for employees to collaborate and share ideas. This can be achieved through team-building activities, cross-functional projects, and open communication channels.


The Burke-Litwin Model provides a comprehensive framework for understanding and managing organizational change. By considering the five pillars of the model – the external environment, organizational culture, organizational structure, systems and processes, and individual and group behavior – organizations can develop a holistic approach to change management.

Successful change management requires a deep understanding of these pillars and their interdependencies. Organizations must analyze their current state across these dimensions, identify areas for improvement, and develop strategies to address any barriers or challenges. By doing so, they can enhance their ability to adapt to change, drive performance improvement, and achieve long-term success.

While the Burke-Litwin Model offers valuable insights into change management, it is important to note that every organization is unique. The model should be adapted and customized to fit the specific context and needs of each organization. By combining the principles of the model with a deep understanding of their own organizational dynamics, leaders can navigate the complexities of change and drive meaningful transformation.

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