Organizational Change
An Ethical, Means Based, Approach to Organizational Change

Change Dynamics
The first thing you need for any change effort is buy in ....

How often have you heard this? You would think that it is as simple as getting some eggs to make a cake. In reality it is more like saying, to improve the environment the first thing you need is a cold fusion reactor.

Getting “buy in” represents 90% of the effort needed to accomplish any change effort. Few, if any, sources deal directly with how to go about achieving buy in. This site is designed to help you understand the organizational dynamics which influence efforts to achieve organizational change.

An Organizational Model Relevant to Organizational Change

In a traditional understanding of organizational structure, a leader or leaders are surrounded by a number of followers. If this represented a complete model of an organization, organizational change would be completely controlled by an organization's leadership. As demonstrated in the literature review, this is often not the case. As a result of this observation, this leader - follower model of an organization offers limited information about the process of change.

Spheres of Control

As noted in the social versus corporate change chapter of this site, a reexamination of current assumptions concerning the subject of organizational change is necessary. During this reexamination process, elements of an organization's structure relevant to the process of change were identified. Utilizing these elements, a more complex organizational model emerges. The result of this process is a new model consisting of a series of concentric spheres with a core in the middle.
The spheres of control are duel purpose mechanisms used by an organization to maintain individual member conformity and to advance the organization's goals. These control mechanisms operate on its members to maintain stability and ensure the survival of the group. The spheres also are a tool which allows the organization to operate externally with other groups to achieve its goals. These spheres of control are relevant to understanding organizational change because they are often used by one organization to change, dominate or control other organizations.
Limitation of Aspirations
The limitation of aspirations limits the possibilities of an individual without regard to their talents. The organization controls the aspirations of people internal and external to the organization. Manifestation of this type of control might include limiting access to education or being placed in a dead end job.

Specific Examples of Limitation of Aspirations would include:

Work slow downs
"Work to rule"
Control of promotions
Control of job status
Access to education
Distribution of social benefits
Control of Economic Status
Control over economic status might include promotions, raises, or job opportunities.

Specific Examples of Control of Economic Status would include:

Labor strikes
Peaceful disruption of economic activities
Control of job requirements
Employment compensation
Fringe benefits
Vendor selection
Tax structure
Physical Intimidation
Physical Intimidation is just that; real or threatened violence.

Specific Examples of Physical Intimidation would include:

Death or Threat of Death
Bodily Harm or Threat of Bodily Harm
Bombing of Specific Targets
Creating a Code of behavior enforced by personal violence

Organizations within Organizations

Rare is the organization that is of one mind. Any understanding of organizational change needs to accommodate differences among groups within the organization. In analyzing the work of Karl Lewin, it becomes apparent that an organizational model focused on understanding the dynamics of change needs to be more complex than two subgroups, one that desires change and one that opposes change. In fact, we can reasonably expect to see a variety of subgroups within an organization. To accommodate this need, each subgroup within the organization can be understood as separate organizations within a larger organization. Furthermore, organizations do not exist in a vacuum; they are part of governmental and cultural - social structures.

In this view a particular subgroup can be simultaneously part of a number of larger organizations. Likewise an individual can be simultaneously a member of several subgroups or organizations. While this is a significant increase in complexity, I feel it is more reflective of the complex interaction between individuals, subgroups and organizations.

At an Organization's Core are its Principles

At the core of every organization there exists a perception of what is true. A great deal of human philosophy and theology is devoted to determining what is true. What arises out of the search for what is true is a system of beliefs which govern how someone or group can come to know what is true.

Organizational principles are based on what the organization believes to be true. If X and Y are true, then the organization should function like Z. Principals, therefore are the natural extension of a methodology determining what is true. Principals based on truth form the basis which determines the direction and the range of acceptable actions for the organization. The survival of the organization depends heavily on each member behaving according to these principles. The organization's principles defines the moral code for the organization or group.

In this view, the relationship between, Truth, Methodology and Results which make up an organization's Principals, holds the key to understanding the dynamics of organizational change. The Methodology used to determine what is true is the primary element in determining an organization's principles. Principles are what drive the organization's actions. The dynamics of organizational change involve the modification of an organization's methodology to determine the truth. Change is difficult because an organization's methodology is rooted in a "leap of faith" that the present methodology results in an accurate reflection of the truth.

The Role of the Visionary

We often imagine a visionary as a knight on a white horse whose "outside the box" thinking leads a multitude of happy followers to a new paradigm. This image of a visionary is only partially true. When it does happen, it is at the point where organizational change has already occurred and the visionary has ceased to be a visionary and is now a leader. In the beginning of the change process, the life of a visionary is far from that of a knight on a white horse.

The role of the visionary is to stand up and tell the organization in effect what you believe to be true is not true. Within the context of this model, the visionary is saying your faith in the organization's methodology is incorrect. At the start of an effective change process a visionary questions the faith of the organization. As might be expected this is not a recipe for creating a multitude of happy followers. This is especially so if members of the organization have a vested interest in the belief that a particular methodology yields an accurate refection of the Truth. A person who questions the faith of the organization should expect the full wrath of the organization's control mechanisms as described in the spheres of control.

One example of such a visionary is Nikola Tesla. Tesla invented the AC motor. The AC motor was a significant development because it facilitated much of what we take for granted in our present society. When Tesla first proposed the AC motor he was roundly denounced by the academics of his day. Even after he proved himself correct, there was considerable resistance to his ideas. I find Tesla a representative example of a visionary; he died broke and unrecognized for his contribution.

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Rev D 8/5/2002