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A Causal Model of Organizational Performance & Change (Burke & Litwin Model)


A Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change, or the Burke & Litwin Model, suggests linkages that hypothesize how performance is affected by internal and external factors. It provides a framework to assess organizational and environmental dimensions that are keys to successful change and it demonstrates how these dimensions should be linked causally to achieve a change in performance.

The causal model links what could be understood from practice to what is known from research and theory. The model not only discusses how different dimensions link with each other but also discusses how external environment affects the different dimensions in an organization. The model focuses on providing a guide for both organizational diagnosis and planned, managed organizational change, one that clearly shows cause-and-effect relationships.

Outline of the Approach

The model revolves around 12 organizational dimensions:

  1. External environment
  2. Mission and strategy
  3. Leadership
  4. Organizational culture
  5. Structure
  6. Management practices
  7. Systems
  8. Work unit climate
  9. Task and individual skills
  10. Individual needs and values
  11. Motivation
  12. Individual and organizational performance

The model also distinguishes between transformational and transactional organizational dynamics in organizations.

Find out More

The best source is the article "A Causal Model of Organizational Performance and Change," authored by W. Warner Burke (Teachers College, Columbia University) and George H. Litwin (The Graduate Center) published in Journal of Management in 1992 (Vol.18, No. 3, 523-545).

In its sourcebook entitled "Promoting Institutional and Organisational Development: A Source Book of Tools and Techniques" (2003), the UK Department for International Development (DfID) also provides an interesting scheme to describe the model and a list of key questions to use it.  Click here to access the concerned pages.