Leavitt's Alignment Model

What is Leavitt's Alignment Model?

Leavitt's Alignment Model or Leavitt’s System Model also known as Leavitt’s diamond is an integrated model for organizational change management. Leavitt’s diamond and organizational theory was developed by Dr. Harold Leavitt professor at Claremont and Stanford Universities in 1965. According to this approach, before you bring about change in any one of the four components, you should evaluate the impact on the other three components. To implement change successfully, you need to find the right balance between all of them.

Leavitt's Diamond is based on the principle that an organization has four major components that are all interdependent:

  • 1. Tasks
  • 2. People
  • 3. Structure
  • 4. Technology

Any type of change or redesign in one component will affect the other three. According to this approach, before you bring about change in any one of the four components, you should evaluate the impact on the other three components. To implement change successfully, you need to find the right balance between all of them. A classic example is introducing new technology. A change in technology means that people need to change too – they'll need the training to use the new technology. This may affect the organizational structure, because people might demand higher pay and better positions. The new technology may also change old tasks. For instance, if the change automates old processes, the work that people do will be different.[1]

Leavitt's Diamond
source: Harold Leavitt’s diamond shaped organisational systems model (1965) (DeLone,W.:2009)

The structure variable refers to the authority systems, communication systems, and workflow within the organization. The technological variable includes all the equipment and machinery required for the task variable; the task variable refers to all the tasks and subtasks involved in providing products and services. Finally, the human variable (i.e., people/actors) refers to those who carry out the tasks associated with organizational goals (i.e., products and services). The diamond-shaped arrows in the model emphasize the interdependence among the four variables. Leavitt has postulated that a change in one variable will affect the other variables. For example, with a planned change in one variable (e.g., the introduction of advanced technology), one or more variables will be impacted. Such interventions are typically designed to affect the task variable (e.g., to affect positive changes in products or services). In this example, the other variables would also likely change, as morale (i.e., people) might increase and communication (i.e., structure) might be improved due to the new technology. Although Leavitt describes the variables within his model as dynamic and interdependent, the model is too simple to make any direct causal statements regarding the four variables. Similar to the Force Field Analysis model, Leavitt suggests that a change in one variable may result in a compensatory or retaliatory change in the other variables; this notion is similar to the opposing forces in Lewin’s model. However, unlike Force Field Analysis, Leavitt does not address the role of the external environment in bringing about change in any of the variables.[2]

The Components of Leavitt's Diamond [3]

  • Structure: The structural component of Leavitt’s Diamond is about how individuals and teams are grouped in the organization. This is not only the hierarchical structure but also the relationships, communication patterns, and coordination between different management levels, departments, and employees. This would also include how authority and responsibility flow within the organization. The structure needs to be altered when changes are made to any other component of the diamond.
    • Key analysis questions:
      • What is the hierarchy in your work unit? Is the unit centralized or decentralized?
      • Where is the control at each level?
      • How are the work units divided?
      • What is the geographical breakdown (if everything isn’t at one location)?
      • How are duties divided?
      • What is the workflow?
      • What is the communication flow?
  • Tasks: To deliver the value we must do something. And “something” in this model is “tasks”. The department team and individuals all perform tasks. In an organizational change context, it’s important to understand what these tasks are in the current state and then compare these to what the tasks will be in the future state. By understanding this you can then develop communications and training programs to bridge the gap. In organizational restructures, perhaps where roles are made redundant or shifted to other departments it becomes critical to identify all the tasks and who and how they will be performed in the new environment.
    • Key analysis questions:
      • What is the staff expected to do?
      • How do staff get work done?
      • Why does the work unit exist?
  • People: People in this model are the actual people and their skills, attitudes, and behaviors in the workforce. People bring all this as a context to perform their work (or tasks). It’s important to understand the skills, behaviors, and attitudes people must have to succeed in the new environment.
    • Key analysis questions:
      • What are their beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors?
      • What is their response to the proposed change?
      • What are their skill levels?
      • What are they trained to do?
      • What are the rewards that motivate them?
      • What is their work culture?
  • Technology: Technology is about the tools that people use to perform the tasks.
    • Key analysis questions:
      • Key equipment and processes that enable and support your business functions, including computer systems, essential software, devices – anything that enables communication and workflow.
      • Tools you can use to implement the proposed change, including things such as seminars and training materials.

Leavitt‟s diamond presents a balanced and rational view toward complexities affecting Knowledge Management framework. It also views technology in direct and strong relation with required tasks, employees, and task organization i.e. structure. This model has been widely used as the basis for understanding and realizing organizational changes. Leavitt‟s diamond (1965) demonstrates four groups of organizational variables: task, people, technology, and structure. As the arrows in the Figure above indicate, Leavitt states that these variables have many transactions with each other. Thus, changing one of them would result in regulatory and compensating changes in other components. Technologies are tools that help organizations perform their tasks and help mechanisms turn inputs into products. Knowledge management is not just about the management of knowledge work processes or people performing them, since it influences technology and organizational structure as well. The position researched by this framework suggests that only with the consideration of balance among all the four variables it is possible to demonstrate the activities of knowledge management in an organization. Therefore, instead of disregarding the importance of these variables or ignoring one of them (e.g. technology) altogether, this framework views all the groups and elements equally and puts all the variables in priority; in this manner, the activities of knowledge management could reach maximum success.[4]

See Also


  1. Definition - What is the Leavitt's Diamond? Mindtools
  2. Explaining Leavitt's Model OI Institute
  3. The Four The Components of Leavitt's Diamond Daniel Lock
  4. How Leavitt's Diamond presents complexities affecting Knowledge Management Morteza Jamali, Ehsan Shafiezadeh, Mohsen M Jozani

Further Reading

  • Building on Leavitt's Diamond Model of Organizations: The Organizational Interaction Diamond Model and the Impact of Information Technology on Structure, People, and Tasks Dianne Lux Wigand, Ph.D
  • Eight Imperatives for the New IT Organization MIT Sloan Management Review
  • The temporal nature of forces acting on innovative IT in major construction projects Steve Rowlinson