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The Jay Galbraith star model is as much a corporate operating model as it is a change approach.  After identifying the strategy, the remainder of the model is about implementing the strategy.  Like the McKinsey 7S and Burke-Litwin models the five items of the star model are interconnected.

The Five

The five components of Galbraith’s model are:

  • Strategy
    • Vision
    • Direction
    • Competitive Advantage
  • Structure
    • Power and Authority
    • Reporting Relationships
    • Organizational Roles
  • Processes and Lateral Capability
    • Networks
    • Processes
    • Teams
    • Integrative Roles
    • Matrix Structures
  • Reward Systems
    • Goals
    • Scorecards and Metrics
    • Values and Behaviors
    • Compensation and Rewards
  • People Practices
    • Staffing and Selection
    • Performance Feedback
    • Learning and Development

These five components are the basic components of designing an organization – as would be expected, as many of Galbraith’s books include both the words “designing” and “organizations.”

Overcoming Negatives

Galbraith’s approach is one of big design with the intent of preventing negative consequences.  In short, the goal is to build a system with as few negative components as possible.  It fundamentally believes that it’s possible to predict problems before they occur as was typical in the planned development when Galbraith was practicing.  Our understanding of complexity has evolved, and many believe that frameworks that prescribe details are overly specified and prevent the organization from being adaptable to new conditions.

Behaviors, Cultures, and Performance

When implemented well, Galbraith believed that the star model would guide individuals’ behavior, shape the culture, and ultimately result in organizational performance.  Of course, this is a simplification, since performance relies on external factors and the initial analysis.  The corporate culture will have a past that will shape its present and the rate at which it will be possible to change the organization.  Finally, we’re aware that it’s very difficult to predict or prescribe individual behavior, particularly in a world which is increasingly built on creative individuals.  (See Rise of the Creative Class.)


Galbraith’s star model is powerful because it dives into greater details about how to implement an organization designed to accomplish change.  In this way, it provides more details than Kotter’s 8 Step model.  Having only 5 factors, it’s less complicated than the Burke-Litwin model while retaining the interrelated, non-linear aspects.


As stated previously, the primary criticism is that the model is more of an organizational design model than a change model.  While it’s certainly possible that the approach is utilized by a new change initiative, it isn’t, strictly speaking, a model of how the change process impacts the organization.

Because the model is primarily a design model, it works better in larger organizations, which have a tolerance and expectation for large, structural designs.  Smaller organizations will likely find aspects of the process overbearing.