The Process of Quantum Leaps Forward

Image: A Eurostar high-speed rail engine in historic St. Pancras station, London.

Image: A Eurostar high-speed rail engine in historic St. Pancras station, London.

Several years ago, I was introduced to a beautiful little framework that addresses the idea that organizations have to be edged towards transformational leaps by stepping through smaller, gradual changes.  Bob Fee, founder of the Graduate Program in Design Management at SCAD, introduced me to it.  Bob makes this idea memorable by calling it the "A, B, C, Q" process.

"A" is status quo.  This is your starting point, this is where you are now and where you'll be if you change nothing.

"B" is a small shift.  This shift is accessible to just about everybody in your organization, it's not a huge conceptual leap.

"C" is a larger shift, and it's a shift from "B" (which pushes you further from "A").  You've changed once, now you make a bigger change.

"Q" is the quantum leap forward.  Maybe it's where you were headed all along, but you could not get there before you'd been through B and C because your organization wasn't ready yet.


Organizations want to be at Q.  But people - particularly large groups of people - can't just jump from A to Q.  There's a process. There are intermediate steps.  And if you understand this, you can design transformational change initiatives that actually work, and transformational products that actually get bought.

My own experience backs up the idea that you can't just shove somebody into a radically different paradigm, even if that paradigm is radically, demonstrably better for them.  So ABCQ has infected every level of my thinking about change.  It's beautifully simple.

Based on my own work, it occurred to me that if you apply the ABCQ framework from an organizational change perspective, you might get the following -


"A" is status quo. This is your starting point, this is where you are now and where you'll be if you change nothing.


"B" is an operational shift. It's not a huge conceptual leap to take a closer look at what you're already doing.  "B" might be better monitoring, less waste, streamlined processes.  People might balk at having to change, but conceptually, they get what's happening without a lot of explanation.  "B" is the growing awareness phase.


"C" is a strategic shift, and it's driven by observations made during phase "B."  You've gotten so lean, so efficient during "B" that you start wondering what strategic edge it can give you, how it can impact your organization in a much bigger, more strategic way than simply saving money by reducing waste.  "C" is the let's do something with this new awareness phase.


"Q" is the quantum leap forward.  It comes from the compound effects of the shifts from A to B, and B to C.  It may take your organization in a different direction, it may accelerate you past the competition, it may be a cultural shift or a complete re-envisioning.   But it can't occur without moving from A to B and then from B to C.  "Q" is the result of awareness, desire to act, and the planning and execution of the desired action.


Recently, a client said to me "We've done everything we need to do along these lines.  We've made great progress, and saved a lot of money.  So tell me - what's next?  What do we need to be looking at, what do we need to be doing?"

The client has been moving from A to B for the last several years.  They're now comfortable at B.  They know they want to be at Q, but they don't know what's next for them or how to get there.  They could take two paths, right now: they could choose a new "B,"  a new operational efficiency target. Or they could choose to elevate their "B" efforts to the strategic "C" step. One will help them move towards transformational change, one will help them save a little more money in the short term. Neither choice is a bad choice, but having a wonderfully simple way of understanding that choice is pretty exciting.

Change ManagementJenn Taylor