Brill & Worth – Four Levers Of Corporate Change


The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

four levers

Complex management problems need to be tackled from more than one angle. Managers need many different tools or points of leverage to get things to happen in organizations. In The Four Levers of Corporate Change (Brill & Worth, 1997[1]), Brill and Worth identify four different ways in which managers can actually effect real change in organizations.

P – Skillful use of Power
A – Well-designed Social Processes
E – Persuasive Leadership
I – Understanding of Human Nature

P – Skillful use of Power
Managers faced with trenchant opposition to change can simply act. They can use their position to make pre-emptive organizational changes that alter the composition of their opposition. Managers can use their authority to restructure a team in ways that will destabilize deadlocked groups. They can also monopolize communication channels to promulgate a vision. They can use diplomacy and bargaining to sway individuals towards their cause, and they can control how change efforts are announced, launched and scheduled, etc. The power wielder can make these moves, hoping that at some point the opposition will fade and their changes will become self-perpetuating. The direct-action aspect of this mode puts it in the P domain of concern.

A – Well-designed Social Processes
Rather than immediately engaging conflict head-on, change can sometimes be aided by designing a social process to achieve the end in mind. This requires an understanding of human nature and a strategic mind. Suppose a group of subordinates feel that their supervisors are poor at delegating. Rather than just telling the supervisors, you can ask them to participate in a process of self-assessment, rating how they think their subordinates feel about their own delegation skills. These scores can then be compared with subordinates ratings of their managers, and the discrepancy pointed out. The issue then becomes one of the inaccuracy of managers’ self-images, instead of an accusation from the floor. The well-designed process applies all of the pressure for change without anybody having to take an offensive or defensive stand. The structure communicates the message, putting this in the A mode.

E – Persuasive Leadership
Leaders must inspire by example, and assemble a cadre of other inspired leaders within the organization, all of whom can be persuaded to back the same mission. This kind of leadership requires vision and self-knowledge. Good leaders recognize other informal leaders in the group and put them in strategic organizational positions. Leaders must maintain an overall sense of mission and yet be able to pay full unbiased attention to the particulars of any problem brought to their attention. They must resolve problems according to their particulars, but always in a direction that supports the mission. They must also manage alliances, including upwards, downwards and horizontal relationships between their organization and others. Persuasive leadership requires vertical flexibility and the capacity to deploy long-term and short-term thinking as needed. The strategic overview required for this strategy is situated in the E domain.

I – Understanding of Human Nature
The human factor can make or break any change effort. Leaders have to gather info about peoples’ feelings and beliefs, not accepting all statements at face value. Strong empathy skills are required, as well as an appreciation for the quirks and paradoxes of the human mind and heart. Leaders have to be wise in their use of reward and sanction, which means they have to know what motivates different people. This lever underlies the other three, and is… pivotal for their success. The focus on the human element puts this in the I domain.

1. Brill, P. L., & Worth, R. (1997). The Four Levers of Corporate Change. New York: American Management Association.
This entry was posted in Management and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s