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Leavitt’s Diamond

In 1965, the American management psychologist Harold Leavitt developed Leavitt’s Diamond (also known as Leavitt’s System Model) as a methodology to analyse the organisation-wide effects that a change program will have on the organisation.

Without a doubt, I believe this tool and philosophy is the absolute first step in a change management program. Why? If you’ve ever been involved with a change program, you know there’s a lot of variables, assumptions and missing information at the start.

To develop a successful program, the Change Team needs to understand all of these aspects which are, when you think about it, a list of basically what you don’t know. Leavitt’s Diamond tool is a systematic way of generating questions to use during Stakeholder Engagement to understand and define the missing detail, and whose the subsequent answers will help shape how to create, implement and measure the program.

First, let’s discuss the tool, comprising four quadrants.

What the Tool Articulates

Leavitt outlined the four independent components of every organisation where change will have an effect:

  • People – those employees who do the actual work, also the primary audience who needs to change
  • Process – how people do the things which need to get done, if not how to do their best work everyday
  • Structure – how the people and enterprise is organised to work most efficiently
  • Technology – what helps people do better, more effective work

He argued that to have successful integrated change, it is crucial to:

  • Understand the connection between each component
  • Recognise how a change in one area will affect another, and perhaps most of all
  • Find the right balance among the four quadrants

Before I talk about how to use the tool (jump to Instructions here if you’re too excited to wait), let’s review the four quadrants.

People: The Ones Who Do the Work
Leavitt's Diamond is one of the most useful tools in Change Management

People are the organisation’s employees, more so, the ones who not only do the work but also the ones who will be asked to change. The focus is on leaders, managers, and employees generally who take initiative and influence others, as well as their overall roles and responsibilities, their culture, and the silos they create to insulate/isolate themselves from the rest of the organisation.

In terms of your potential change program, the Goal of this quadrant is to …

  • Understand how the potential change will affect or impact roles and responsibilites, such as shifting or merging tasks or activities of the individual or team members
  • Identify how the potential change will affect culture, such as moving from a reactive to an entrepreneurial mind-set
  • See how the potential change will impact how people or teams get their work done most effectively, such as understanding how long will it take for any relevant training to become standard behaviour
Process: How Things Are Done, How To Do The Best Work

Process – also known as Task by the way – are the methodology or steps to get things done and, when applied properly, to help people do their best work every day.  In particular, the focus is on procedures, protocols, systems, the communications that support these efforts, and the risks if the processes aren’t followed.

In terms of your potential change program, the Goal of this quadrant is to …

  • Understand how the future state differs to the current state and why it’s different, such as understand why this process was chosen over an alternative
  • Identify and quantify those specific areas of difference; for example, a reduction in the number of steps, how much time might be saved with a more effective process, whether or not the roles are suitable for the future state
  • Gather data to organise and prioritise the necessary processes changes, particularly to measure the rate and success of the change
Structure: How We Are Organised

In contrast to the People quadrant, Structure shows how the people are organised within the enterprise, either by departments, teams (within or between departments), locations, or by hierarchy and influence.

In terms of your potential change program, the Goal of this quadrant is to …

  • Understand how people are organised or grouped and why, such as what is the current state and how should it be based to support the future change
  • Rate who has control or influence – again, possibly based on hierarchy or politics – to see how the work is performed and managed
  • Understand how boundaries that are real (such as geographical) or perceived (such as work silos) will influence and affect how the change will be accepted or implemented
  • Understand how work flows throughout the organisation by communications, either formal (internal communications) or informal (plain gold gossip)
Technology: Helps People Do Better, More Effective Work

Technology covers any element or aspect that enables employees to do their best work. The technololgy can be tangible (such as equipment, hardware and software) or intangible (such as training or communications).

In terms of your potential change program, the Goal of this quadrant is to:

  • Understand how much will ‘future automation’ (what/how much work will be done by computers) versus what will need to managed or completed by employees
  • Determine the perceived future skills and knowledge requirements of current staff and prospect employees
  • Decide what/how much training is required for relevant staff to adjust and excel with the change
According to Leavitt, successful change means finding the right balance between People, Process, Structure and Technology.

First, Leavitt’s Diamond works for any size change program, whether it’s transformational change that’ll take years to implement,  or a ‘fairly simple’ internal policy change, such as implementing a new expense report system.

Second, Leavitt’s Diamond works for formal live/online situation or informal conversations

  • Formally, you can invite key people to join a workshop to discuss and debate the potential change, where it starts, how it will affect the other parts of the organisation and, most of all, to understand what we do not know. The tool works both as a live session with whiteboards or flipcharts or via online collaboration tools on Zoom, Teams, Webex or similar. 
  • Informally, you can use the tool on your own, as a reflective way to structure your own thoughts and considerations.

In other words – like all good business tools – Leavitt’s Diamond is completely flexible to your needs.

Here are the basic Instructions.

1. Identify what is specifically the future change, and most of all, in which quadrant does it start?

In complex change, it’s common to get overwhelmed of what needs to happen first, second, third. Therefore, it’s important to get agreement which single aspect starts the change, and work chronologically from there.

For example, the company wants to implement an all-new technology process, but in reality, the new technology was instigated by a new CEO. Start with the change of a CEO (as that could be its own change program), and work from there.

Once you’ve agreement on where the start starts, take a step back to the current situation. Again, the idea is to come up with as many questions as possible in each of the four quadrants. There are basic questions included below, and if helpful, I’ve included a much longer list of potential questions at the bottom. Please remember: these questions are samples only. Adapt and refine them to fit your organisation, the change, and its context.

And yes, you start with Process/Tasks even though People are the ones who must align to the potential change.

2. Identify the current situation today of each component
  • Identify the Process/Task used today, including key tasks, methodology or steps, routine, existing maintenance, for example:
    • What processes/tasks are staff expected to use now?
    • How effective is the process or task?  Has staff ever suggested improvement or ways to make the process more effective?
    • Who chose this process over other alternatives?
    • Are there any benefits to this current process, particularly in comparison with the potential new process?
    • Where do staff learn how to do the process? Was the training effective, and why?
    • How do staff get work done?
    • Why does the work unit exist?
  • Define how People do their job within their work unit, for example:
    • What are the values, beliefs and behaviours they work within now?
    • What is the overall work culture for employees?
    • What are their current roles and responsibilities?
    • What are their current skills?
    • What are they trained to do?
    • How are they organised by teams, and why?
    • How effective is their leader?
    • What is their response to the proposed chage?
    • How are they motivated now?
  • Determine how the Structure affects people working together, both inside and outside their regular teams, for example:
    • Who’s in charge of the team? Are they an effective leader? Is there another ‘leader’ who is more influential?
    • Is the team centralised? Decentralised? Does this work? How has working from home affected the team?
    • How are duties divided among the team? How do these activities impact other teams, or how do other team’s work affect this group?
    • Who manages quality control?
    • What is the work flow?
    • What is the communication flow?
  • Identify the Technology employees use to produce their work, which tend to fall into two parallel groups:
    • What tangible equipment enables and supports the business; for example, computers, software, devices, monitors, routers (anything that enables communication and work flow). Of this list ….
      • Will the new technology change work efficiently with the old/existing technology?
      • How was the new technology chosen? Was any part of the technology trialled with actual employees? What was the response??
    • What tangible and intangible tools will be used implement the proposed change, including things such as seminars and training materials, the culture and values of the organisation, mentors and coaching, post-workshop materials and follow-up training
3. Analyse the impact of the proposed change

Now that a clear picture has been created of the current situation …

  • Start with the quadrant where the change will start, and explain the change in the simplest (but not simplistic) way
  • Based on this change, what will be the impact on the other quadrants?

To put Leavitt’s Diamond into practical use as a workshop exercise, I invite 4-6 people who are familiar with the organisation, positive about the potential change, and articulate enough to help determine the questions the core Change team may want to consider in advance of writing and implementing the plan.

Either on flipcharts or via online collaboration tools, I divide the group into 1-3 person teams assigned to one of the four quadrants. In the first step, I ask the participants to list all of the questions they have about the impact of the proposed change to their quadrant. After 5-15 minutes, I’ll rotate the teams among the quadrants to continue to build out the questions.

  • If the change program or change team is small, I’l have the group work together through the meeting to create the list of questions. Obviously, dividing into small groups is unnecessary.
  • If the change program or team is large or complex, I may run multiple workshops to get as many questions as possible. I’ll also set up whiteboards or online collaboration rools to create Leavitt’s Diamond on separate pages.

One aspect that always comes up: it’s entirely possible during the exercise that a question will get assigned to the ‘wrong’ quadrant. That’s fine. It’s more important to think of as many questions as possible, and then, if necessary, the questions can be re-categorised after the workshop.

Scroll down to the end of this article to see a representative sample of possible questions. Use these general questions to help define the questions which align better to your own organisation’s change.

Steps After the Workshop

Once I feel like I have more than enough questions – admittedly, a subjective decision – I’ll work with the group to assign the questions fropm Leavitt’s Diamond to different people in the Change Team to find the answers. Some questions may take require talking to senior leaders to get input, others questions may need me (if I’m the Change Leader) to introduce people to each other. But the end result remains the same if you want a successful program:

  • Understand what you don’t know as much as what you do: one of the best ways of doing that is to create questions to help you find the answers
  • Divide the questions into manageable groups, and send out members of your Change Team to talk to all levels of staff and all types of staff (both employees who are for or against the change)

Weaknesses of Leavitt’s Diamond

While it’s a great tool, it’s also not perfect. Leavitt’s Diamond does not:

  • Consider external influences, such as customers or joint venture partners
  • Provide a road map on what to do

Like every tool, you’ll need to analyse what the tool helps you understand to be able to apply the insights in the most relevant way possible.

Adapt this suggested list of question to fit your organisation’s change program. You might also use these questions as examples for senior leadership so it understands why you’re using Leavitt’s Diamond.

Sample Questions about People
  • How many people will be affected? How exactly?
  • If phased, which team (or group, department, location etc) will need to change first? How was it decided this group was he priority? What happens if this group of people doesn’t change?
  • What’s in it for them? What’s their incentive?
  • How many jobs may be affected and in what way? Will there be redundancies or changes to employee contracts (of any type)?
  • How flexible can we be with how employees might work in the future, in light of COVID or working remotely?
  • What changes will there be to the various levels of the organisation?
  • How can we involve frontline staff in the change?
  • How will we handle recruitment for new people? How will we handle people who refuse to change?
  • Will we need to downsize?
  • What are the known risks vs unknown risks?
  • What will be the business impact on how people to their jobs?
  • How will we retain people?
  • How will we support people throughout the change?
  • How will this affect our culture? Work-life balance?
  • What will be the impact on our culture? How will we build and maintain that change to our culture?
  • What is the impact on our organisational values?
  • What’s the impact on the organisation’s structure?
  • What current and future skills will our employees need?
  • How will be develop a training plan to match the proposed change? Of the staff who will need training, how will we determine the best way to train?
  • Who might play a role in the planning and/or implementation? (Champions, agents or sponsors?)
  • How will we support people through the change and afterward?
  • What (and where) is the resistance to change in the organisation?
  • Could there be impacts to staff wellbeing?
  • How should we communicate the change to people?
  • What opportunities for promotion or development might this change bring about?
  • Will the titles remain the same?
  • Will the job descriptions need updating?
Sample Questions about Process/Task
  • How do people implement the task or process now? What’s successful about the current state? What specifically is not good, and does the new process address that shortcoming?
  • Which tasks will be obsolete in the future? Which new tasks will be created?
  • Which teams will need to adopt the new tasks/processes first?
  • Who decided on the change? How will it not only impact our employees, but will it also affect our customers?
  • Why this process and not another one? What are the pros and cons of this process?
  • Is there a risk to operations (or other departments?)
  • Why now?
  • What’s the cost of the change to our processes?
  • What new or different skills will we need to develop training to ensure the new process is followed? Are any of our staff skilled already?
  • How long will it take to train new tasks?
  • How will people’s jobs, team, roles or responsibilities be affected?
  • Will it still comply with requirements, benefits of the new ways?
  • How will individual benefit from this change?
  • Who will map the change? How will we know if the new process is successful?
  • What history (good or bad) have we had with changing processes?
  • Where will the implementations start? How long will it take?
  • What are the risks of the process roll-out?
  • What is the best way to communicate the change or process? Should there be a priority or order to who changes first?
  • In the priority areas of change, how long have staff been with the organisation?
  • Is there a history of previous change projects in this area, and were they successful? What didn’t work in previous change projects and how could we improve in the future?
  • How large or small is the actual change? Is it an adaptation of a current process, or a wholly new system?
  • Have we got the right organisational structure in place to implement?
  • How will it affect the businesses outcomes KPI, profit, functionality – some staff need more training etc.
  • How can explain and help people get on board with the change, what disruption will it bring to the business?

Sample Questions about Structure

  • How will the proposed change affect the structure (not just the individual people)?
  • Why does the current system need to be changed? Who says?
  • What about the structure works currently? What doesn’t work (for example, siles)? What needs to be adjusted?
  • What is the organisational structure now, and will it change? What’s the impact on the current structure, including both advantages and drawbacks? (Will it affect our different locations?)
  • What is the financial impact of changing the structure?
  • Who determined the structure needed to be changed, and why? Why now?
  • What does our competition do in terms of structure?
  • Have all options been explored? What’s our Plan B?
  • Can we implement in this current office space? Will the new structure change how we work day to day?  How will those who work from home be affected?
  • Will it be a full roll out or a phased roll out?
  • Will the location roll out amongst the structure take place? Will specific structures (like a department or location) change first?  Or will the roll-out be identical?
  • Is there a separate project team that handles the work flows?
  • How will stakeholders – both internal and external – be consulted?
  • What are the timelines for the change on the structure (department, location)?
  • Will this new structure change require new technology, different skills, new procedures?
  • What is impact of this structure change on the staffing needs?
  • Does IT have capacity to provide new technology?
  • Does HR have capacity to support new staffing changes?
  • Will it require a business plan?
  • Can security breaches be contained in our current structure?
  • Is this structural change temporary or permanent? 
Sample Questions about Technology
  • What technology do we use now vs. what technology will we use in the future?
  • Why do we need the technology change? Who says, and what proof?
  • What technology is changing? What this technology and not another technology?
  • What is the risk of not changing?
  • What is the cost of the change?
  • What is the impact of the change?
  • How extensive is the change?
  • Will this new technology work remotely? Do we have enough licenses for all employees? How do people get help from home?
  • How ‘future-proof’ Is this new technology? How soon will we need to change or upgrade this technology?
  • How will the new technology change business as usual?
  • How does this technology compare with our competition’s choice?
  • What are the privacy and security measures?
  • How will we change and integrate the before and after tech?
  • What exactly will the new tech do? Create efficiencies?
  • How immediate will the tech change be felt? Who will it affect first?
  • How will we roll out the tech? By stages?  Which stage?
  • How many people or departments (structure) will be affected by the change?
  • Who trains the new tech? Are they internal/external trainers?  How expensive will external trainers be?
  • What training materials will we need to create? (For ex: training guides, policy documents, cheat sheets)
  • What resistance will there be to the change? It is real or perceived?
  • When is the change coming to effect?
  • What resources do we need for the change?
  • What is the anticipated resistance or challenges for the change to take effect?
  • What are the flow and effects of the change?
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