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Framework #13


David Rock (2008)

What does it mean?

SCARF is a framework designed to improve the adoption of change. It allows organizations to understand how individuals may perceive threats and maximize rewards during change events. It builds on how the brain reacts to social needs in the same way as our primary needs for food and water. If a stimulus is associated with positive emotions or rewards, an individual will not feel threatened, making change more palatable and likely. But if it is associated with negative emotions or punishments, an individual may perceive it as a threat and will take means to avoid and resist the change

SCARF is an acronym for:

  • Status - about relative importance to others
  • Certainty - concerns being able to predict the future
  • Autonomy -  provides people with a sense of control over events
  • Relatedness - a sense of safety with others
  • Fairness - the perception of fair exchanges between people

Why do we believe it's important?

SCARF is one of the critical components of the Digital Problem Solving Adoption Engineering methodology. It helps us map engagement and communications strategy with key stakeholders in such a way that we can minimize threats and maximize rewards and in doing so encourage them to engage rather than put up barriers and retreat. SCARF helps us:

  • To preemptively anticipate a stakeholder response to a tense situation or conflict
  • To ask the right questions to uncover the cause of a negative emotional response(s)
  • To create a more positive working environment

How do we put it into practice?

During a large transformation programme where both systems and ways of working were going to radically change, we made sure that affected groups and individuals understood how the change would both reflect in their personal day-to-day roles as well as how their roles, with new ways of working, would benefit the overall organisation.  

Using SCARF it allowed us to structure specific messaging that focused on the positive impacts for both individuals as well as departments - focusing on organisational collaboration, career progression, and better recognition amongst their peers and management teams.  Whilst there was a negative impact that disrupted the known ways of working, focusing on the new norms helped contextualise and normalise the change in a more positive light - creating a smoother path for adoption.


Source: David Rock (CEO of Results Coaching International), 2008

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