What Is The Burke-Litwin Model? The Burke-Litwin Model In A Nutshell

The Burke-Litwin model was developed by notable change consultants W. Warmer Burke and George H. Litwin in the 1960s as an organizational change framework with a focus on ranking the various drivers of change by importance. Each driver is grouped into five levels of change in decreasing order of impact on organizational performance. These levels are input, transformational (external), transactional (internal), individual and personal factors, and output.

Understanding the Burke-Litwin model

The Burke-Litwin model was developed by notable change consultants W. Warmer Burke and George H. Litwin in the 1960s. 

Both Burke and Litwin argued that change management models were not supposed to be prescriptive or rigid. Instead, they should diagnose, plan, and manage the effects of change contextually to improve organizational performance. 

The model itself is expressed as a diagram, showing twelve drivers of change across five different levels.

Each driver is ranked in order of importance, with the most critical at the top and the least important at the bottom. 

Crucially, the Burke-Litwin model argues that drivers of change are interrelated.

To that end, it provides a framework for understanding the current situation and the collateral impacts of a proposed changed initiative. 

The rest of this article will be devoted to explaining the various drivers and levels of the Burke-Litwin model, and how they interact.

The five levels and twelve drivers of the Burke-Litwin model

The Burke-Litwin model describes twelve drivers, or organizational variables that influence change. Seven of these have been borrowed from the McKinsey 7-S framework.

The McKinsey 7-S Model was developed in the late 1970s by Robert Waterman and Thomas Peters, who were consultants at McKinsey & Company. Waterman and Peters created seven key internal elements that inform a business of how well positioned it is to achieve its goals, based on three hard elements and four soft elements.

Each driver is grouped into five levels of change in decreasing order of impact on organizational performance.

These levels are input, transformational (external), transactional (internal), individual and personal factors, and output.


External environment

The most powerful driver of organizational change.

The external environment encompasses market, legislative, geopolitical, competitive, and economic issues.

Businesses must continually be on the lookout for external drivers of change.


Mission and strategy

Mission articulates the very reason a company exists and as such, is the foundation for strategy formation.

Mission and strategy are often sensitive to changes in the external environment and impact how the company intends to achieve its purpose over time.


How are the attitudes and behaviors of senior management perceived throughout the organization?

Change implementation and acceptance are dependent on upper levels of management committing to the process.

Organization culture

Or overt (and sometimes covert) rules, values, customs, and principles influencing employee behavior. 



How are employee functions or relationships structured? How is power in the form of responsibility or decision-making ability distributed?

Strategy changes can sometimes lead to structural changes, which in turn upsets the status quo.

Here, management must understand the impact of structural changes and ensure subordinates understand why change is occurring. 


Standardized policies and procedures tend to promote work, particularly those with incentives that encourage goal setting and buy-in.

However, systems that evolve over time can become inefficient and mired in bureaucracy.

Where possible, they must be optimized and reflect the values of the business.

Management practices

Or the actions management take to further company goals using human resources.

Do they exercise fair levels of professionalism, communication, control, or etiquette toward subordinates?

Individual and personal factors

Work unit climate

How do employees feel about their colleagues and immediate working environment?

The latter is particularly important since it often shapes an employee’s opinion of the whole organization.

Changes to a work environment need to be managed sensitively as they are likely to invoke an emotional or political response.

Individual needs and values

In an ideal world, all employee teams would have the perfect mix of abilities, skills, and personality types.

In reality, the team leader needs to identify potential conflicts and mitigate them as best as possible.


Change is made much easier when employees are motivated to further company strategy.

Motivation also helps the employee transition through the change process itself, which can take weeks or even months.

Task requirements, individual skills, and abilities

Does the organization understand the requisite skills or knowledge for each task?

More importantly, can it recruit individuals that are a good fit for each role?


Individual and organizational performance

Or the outcome of the change and the effect it has on performance at a micro and macro level.

This involves measuring productivity against key performance indicators and identifying areas for improvement.

In theory, the change then impacts the external environment which creates a new input and forms a loop.

Key takeaways:

  • The Burke-Litwin model is an organizational change framework helping businesses diagnose, plan, and manage the effects of change.
  • The Burke-Litwin model excels as a change framework because it considers the interconnectedness of change drivers and the collateral impacts of change implementation.
  • The Burke-Litwin model evaluates twelve key drivers of change in decreasing order of impact on organizational success: external environment, mission and strategy, leadership, culture, structure, systems, management, work unit climate, individual needs, motivation, task requirements, and individual and organizational performance.

Connected Business Frameworks

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Kotter’s 8-Step Change Model

Harvard Business School professor Dr. John Kotter has been a thought-leader on organizational change, and he developed Kotter’s 8-step change model, which helps business managers deal with organizational change. Kotter created the 8-step model to drive organizational transformation.

Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model

The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model was created by David Nadler and Michael Tushman at Columbia University. The Nadler-Tushman Congruence Model is a diagnostic tool that identifies problem areas within a company. In the context of business, congruence occurs when the goals of different people or interest groups coincide.

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom

McKinsey’s Seven Degrees of Freedom for Growth is a strategy tool. Developed by partners at McKinsey and Company, the tool helps businesses understand which opportunities will contribute to expansion, and therefore it helps to prioritize those initiatives.

Mintzberg’s 5Ps

Mintzberg’s 5Ps of Strategy is a strategy development model that examines five different perspectives (plan, ploy, pattern, position, perspective) to develop a successful business strategy. A sixth perspective has been developed over the years, called Practice, which was created to help businesses execute their strategies.

COSO Framework

The COSO framework is a means of designing, implementing, and evaluating control within an organization. The COSO framework’s five components are control environment, risk assessment, control activities, information and communication, and monitoring activities. As a fraud risk management tool, businesses can design, implement, and evaluate internal control procedures.

TOWS Matrix

The TOWS Matrix is an acronym for Threats, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Strengths. The matrix is a variation on the SWOT Analysis, and it seeks to address criticisms of the SWOT Analysis regarding its inability to show relationships between the various categories.

Lewin’s Change Management

Lewin’s change management model helps businesses manage the uncertainty and resistance associated with change. Kurt Lewin, one of the first academics to focus his research on group dynamics, developed a three-stage model. He proposed that the behavior of individuals happened as a function of group behavior.

Organizational Structure Case Studies

Airbnb Organizational Structure

Airbnb follows a holacracy model, or a sort of flat organizational structure, where teams are organized for projects, to move quickly and iterate fast, thus keeping a lean and flexible approach. Airbnb also moved to a hybrid model where employees can work from anywhere and meet on a quarterly basis to plan ahead, and connect to each other.

eBay Organizational Structure

eBay was until recently a multi-divisional (M-form) organization with semi-autonomous units grouped according to the services they provided. Today, eBay has a single division called Marketplace, which includes eBay and its international iterations.

IBM Organizational Structure

IBM has an organizational structure characterized by product-based divisions, enabling its strategy to develop innovative and competitive products in multiple markets. IBM is also characterized by function-based segments that support product development and innovation for each product-based division, which include Global Markets, Integrated Supply Chain, Research, Development, and Intellectual Property.

Sony Organizational Structure

Sony has a matrix organizational structure primarily based on function-based groups and product/business divisions. The structure also incorporates geographical divisions. In 2021, Sony announced the overhauling of its organizational structure, changing its name from Sony Corporation to Sony Group Corporation to better identify itself as the headquarters of the Sony group of companies skewing the company toward product divisions.

Facebook Organizational Structure

Facebook is characterized by a multi-faceted matrix organizational structure. The company utilizes a flat organizational structure in combination with corporate function-based teams and product-based or geographic divisions. The flat organization structure is organized around the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg, and the key executives around him. On the other hand, the function-based teams based on the main corporate functions (like HR, product management, investor relations, and so on).

Google Organizational Structure

Google (Alphabet) has a cross-functional (team-based) organizational structure known as a matrix structure with some degree of flatness. Over the years, as the company scaled and it became a tech giant, its organizational structure is morphing more into a centralized organization.

Tesla Organizational Structure

Tesla is characterized by a functional organizational structure with aspects of a hierarchical structure. Tesla does employ functional centers that cover all business activities, including finance, sales, marketing, technology, engineering, design, and the offices of the CEO and chairperson. Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas, decide the strategic direction of the company, with international operations given little autonomy.

McDonald’s Organizational Structure

McDonald’s has a divisional organizational structure where each division – based on geographical location – is assigned operational responsibilities and strategic objectives. The main geographical divisions are the US, internationally operated markets, and international developmental licensed markets. And on the other hand, the hierarchical leadership structure is organized around regional and functional divisions.

Walmart Organizational Structure

Walmart has a hybrid hierarchical-functional organizational structure, otherwise referred to as a matrix structure that combines multiple approaches. On the one hand, Walmart follows a hierarchical structure, where the current CEO Doug McMillon is the only employee without a direct superior, and directives are sent from top-level management. On the other hand, the function-based structure of Walmart is used to categorize employees according to their particular skills and experience.

Microsoft Organizational Structure

Microsoft has a product-type divisional organizational structure based on functions and engineering groups. As the company scaled over time it also became more hierarchical, however still keeping its hybrid approach between functions, engineering groups, and management.

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