Three Kinds of Change

Systems experience different types of change, and each requires its own approaches for support and leadership. The Three Kinds of Change model and method offers a description of the three ways systems experience change. It helps you understand the type of change you experience so that you can plot the best fit system-wide response.


Three types of change help inform your decision making about responding to system change.

  • Static Change is one-dimensional change—simple movement from point A to point B. An example would be the shifting of a resource from one place to another.
  • Dynamic Change is multi-dimensional change that is predictable on a measurable scale. You see this type of change when you control the speed and path of a stream of water by increasing the pressure on the hose or by increasing the arc of spray.
  • Dynamical Change is an unpredictable, surprising change that happens in complex systems. Examples include learning, grief, and friendship.

So What?

When you know the type of change you face, you can better plan your response.

  • Static Change requires that you take directed action, follow step-by-step instructions, and stay with a carefully crafted plan.
  • Dynamic Change requires that you know enough at the beginning to plan the predictable course, use algorithms and standards to understand what is happening, and to monitor and implement a plan of action.
  • Dynamical Change requires that you engage in Adaptive ActionÙ so that you can detect changes in environmental tension and make appropriate response to reduce tensions as they develop in the system.

Now What?

Use the Three Types of Change model when you need to assess, understand, and take action in times of significant change.

  • Gather information from your environment to understand the situation and the type of change that is occurring.
  • Consider the implications of that change and plan for action that will respond appropriately to reduce system tension.
  • Take action and determine its impact as you step into the next iteration of Adaptive Action

Related Resources

August 6, 2015 In this recorded Virtual Workshop, Glenda Eoyang, founder of HSD, uses art, literature, and scientific commentary to explore the principles and perspectives of complexity in organizational life.
Uncertainty does not have to paralyze you. Use Adaptive Action to build a path as you walk it.
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