Organisational Change Management Volume 1

Most Frameworks Over-Simplify the Situation

{product-noshow 16|name|cart|picture|link|border|menuid:206|pricedis3|pricetax1}

No framework will cover all situations. They are at best a tool for approximate thinking and/or for certain purposes; they are never the final word as they rely upon assumptions that never hold perfectly and sometimes fail (need to work out when, why and how they fail). Like any tool, the approximate use of models requires a good dose of common sense and an awareness of their limitations, ie thier context. For example, a sledgehammer may be great for laying train rails but of limited use for hammering a finishing nail on a picture frame!!!!

Remember making quick decisions

"...we are wired to detect patterns and to respond to opportunities & threats without hesitation..."

Nate Silver, 2012

This means that we are good at simplifications, generalisations, approximations, etc but poor at looking at probabilities, handling risk & uncertainty, ie unknown risk, questioning our assumptions & beliefs, etc

Using simplification, generalisation &/or approximations, etc to understand complex events, eg making assumptions about key factors, rounding off figures, etc., can be very misleading. It makes accurate predictions very difficult to achieve.

A framework is at best a simplification that helps us understand the complexities of a situation but it is never a substitute for the complete picture.

A simplification is powerful if it gives better initial understanding of the situation. Then we need to explore the impact of changing the assumptions (especially if they fail) used in the simplification.

We are unlikely to find absolutes answers but if frameworks can help us understand the situation better, then they are useful

. Methodology for looking at frameworks, iesee what happens when you apply the framework(s) to your situation

i) Use simplifying assumptions

ii) Once you see how your solution works, you can double back and begin asking what happens when you change your assumptions. This can result in you realising that

- your original solution is no good, because it depends too heavily on assumptions that never really apply

- you discover that the solution needs improving in simple ways;

- your solution works under certain circumstances and you need to understand what happens when the circumstances change

iii) See what happens when you change assumptions.

NB We should never mistake a good framework for the truth, especially as situations are constantly evolving in response to changing socio-economic realities, ie it is a moving target.

- Most frameworks are weak on psychological, sociological & human behavioural concepts, ie the foibles of human nature

- For any framework, need to understand when the assumptions cease to hold. The importance of continually questioning assumptions as we live in an uncontrolled, continually changing environment.

- The controlled environmentof a framework has many limitations, as it is too simple & involves too many approximations to be correct in all situations

- We should never mistake a good framework for the truth especially as situations are constantly evolving in response to changing socio-economic r- ealities, ie it is a moving target.

Most frameworks are weak on psychological, sociological and human behavioural concepts, ie the foibles of human nature including the "herding instinct" and the possibility of predicting unprecedented events by using normal distribution methods.

"...t cannot predict the madness of men..."

Isaac Newton as quoted by James Wetherall, 2012

With any framework we need to understand when the assumptions cease to hold. It is of vital importance to continually question assumptions as we live in an uncontrolled, continually changing environment. The controlled environmentof a framework has many limitations: it is too simple and involves too many approximations to be correct in all situations.

In summary, when looking at a framework, answer the following questions

- What are the good points of the framework(s)?

- What the weaknesses of the framework(s)?

- Would it be useful for your organisation?

NB Give reasons for your answers and need to understand in what circumstances the framework would, or would not, work in your organisation/situation, ie when the assumptions behind the framework are no longer applicable

Frameworks' negatives can be

- too conceptual and become too impractical, ie do not apply to the real world!

- too inspirational and become too vague

- too organisation-specific (thus not applicable to other organisations)

- disregarding of the initial conditions and/or the stage the organisation is at, ie

Organisational stage

Description

Change Mechanism*i

Founding & early growth

The main culture thrust comes from founders and their assumptions, ie business functions reflecting their occupational biases. Cultural paradigm, competencies and organisational glue are fulfilling their primary task and surviving, plus organisation is differentiating itself from other organisations and the environment. Any proposal for deliberately changing the culture will be ignored or strongly resisted

1. External or internal threat(s), (such as changed market environment and/or internal power struggle, etc) to create a sense of urgency

2. Incremental change through general and specific evolution by diversification, growing complexity, differentiation, integration, etc

3. Insight by assessing and redefining its strengths and weaknesses to survive

4. Promotion of hybrids within the culture that challenge the basic assumptions, such as promoting an insider who will challenge the accepted organisational assumptions

Midlife

The most important elements of the culture have become embedded in the structure and processes; they can be difficult to decipher and/or change as they are embedded in routines; powerful sub-cultures might have developed

There is a shift from founder to second generation senior management with battles between new (who want to change status quo) and old (who want to preserve status quo). Cultural changes can be linked with a change in ownership

1. External or internal threat(s), (such as market changed environment and/or internal power struggle, etc) to create a sense of urgency

2. Systematic promotion from selected subcultures into power positions in the total culture so that not embedded in the original culture and better able to assess future needs

3. Technological seduction involves the use of new technology that requires new behaviours as a way to get staff to challenge current assumptions and adopt new values, beliefs, common language, decision-making processes, etc

4. Infusion of outsiders*ii - usually associated with a change of ownership; need to manage a high level of discomfort, conflict and anxiety. Staff who resist are either forced out or leave voluntarily.

Maturity and decline

As an organisation matures, it develops a positive ideology and set of myths about how it operates, ie espoused theories/values; at the same time the organisation continues to operate by the shared tacit assumptions that have worked in practice, ie theories-in-use. The latter more accurately reflects what actually goes on.

A stage arrives when the organisation no longer grows but staff are still "holding onto" the past

1. External or internal threat(s), (such as changed market environment and/or internal power struggle, etc) to create a sense of urgency

2. Scandal & explosion of myths can occur if espoused values and shared tacit assumptions are not aligned; the scandal and "explosion" event can be the basis for change. Examples include the Three Mile Island nuclear explosion, the loss of the Challenger and Colombia space shuttles, the questionable financial practices of Enron, leaks by whistleblowers, etc

3. Turnabouts require a strong leader to unfreeze the organisation and launch change programs unless there is a crisis; usually all the above mechanisms are utilised, ie bringing in outsiders, etc; it is essential to have participation and hardship experienced by all stakeholders in the change program. Two different frameworks can be used, ie visionary leader (a clear vision of the organisation's future, knows how to get there and rewards efforts in that direction); or fuzzy vision (the present situation is intolerable and there is a timeframe to improve but the organisation needs to develop the vision and how to get there, ie "we need your help"). Needs to be linked with long-term organisational development programs that strengthen the new learnings and assumptions

4. Mergers and acquisitions need to find ways to handle the cultural clash of the 2 different identities, ie one can dominate, or selecting and blending most suitable elements of both cultures, or it is left alone to evolve.

5. Destruction and rebirth involves "physically and culturally" destroying the "old" organisation, ie 'slash and burn"

Notes

ii) There are some common themes when an outsider is employed

"...1. The organisation develops a sense of crisis, because of declining performance or some kind of failure in the marketplace, and concludes that it needs new leadership

2. Simultaneously, there is a weakening of "pattern maintenance" in the sense that procedures, beliefs, and symbols that support the old culture break down

3. A new leader with new assumptions is brought in from the outside to deal with the crisis

4. Conflict develops between the supporters of the old assumptions and the new leadership

5. If the crisis is eased and a new leader is given credit, he or she wins out in the conflict and the new assumptions begin to be embedded and reinforced by a new set of pattern maintenance activities..."

W G Dyer as quoted by Edgar Schein, 2004

In summary

"...different functions are served by culture at different organisational stages, and the change issues are therefore different in those stages. In the formative stages of an organisation, the culture tends to be a positive growth force, which needs to be elaborated, developed, and articulated. In organisational midlife the culture becomes diverse, in that many subcultures will be formed. Deciding which elements need to be changed or preserved becomes one of the tougher strategic issues that leaders face, but at this time leaders also have more options and could change assumptions by differentially rewarding different subcultures. In the maturity and decline stage, the culture often becomes partly dysfunctional and can only be changed through more drastic processes such as scandals and turnarounds. Cultural change also can occur from the entry into the organisation of the people with new assumptions and from the different experiences of different parts of the organisation......the important point to focus on is that it is within the power of leaders to enhance diversity and encourage subculture formation, or they can, through selection and promotion, reduce diversity and thus manipulate the direction in which a given organisation evolves culturally. Cultural change in organisational midlife is primarily a matter of deliberately taking advantage of the diversity and the growth of sub-cultures makes possible. Unless the organisation is in real difficulty, there will be enough time to use systematic promotion, organisation development, and technological change as the main mechanisms in addition to normal evolution and organisational therapy..."

Edgar Schein, 2004

 

Free
5 5 1 Product

1 Month

Start your Change Management Plan today

With our FREE Basic membership


FREE fast start guides to review your organizations

FREE access to change management knowledge base

FREE change management case review

 

JOIN NOW


Become a Member - the benefits:

  • Ability to download a hardcopy(s) of the entire 5 x volume knowledgebase
  • Copy, paste and print content of interest
  • Be personally notified about regular content updates
  • Receive advance copies of the newsletters (including interesting articles)
  • Receive notification of upcoming events like Change Management Masterclasses

designed by: bluetinweb

Free 1:1 Consultation

get a free 1:1 consultation to apply
the relevant concepts to your specific
change management project