Organisational Change Management Volume 2

26. Combining the Tangibles and Intangibles

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. Generally, most organisations concentrate their efforts in an organisational transition on handling the tangible or visible issues, such as structure, systems, processes, job descriptions, incentives (rewards and recognitions), organisational charts, statements (vision and mission), strategies, operational policies, job descriptions, ceremonies, symbols, etc while ignoring the intangible or hidden issues around cultural aspects, such as behaviours, group dynamics, beliefs, values, attitudes, relationships (especially interpersonal), information, identity, motivation, mental mindsets, assumptions, persuasion, morale, communications, identity, emotions, creativity, intuition, folklore (legends, icons, stories, heroes, anti-heroes, legacies, etc), character, etc. Yet the latter category is very important and cannot be ignored.

. In fact, the intangibles underpin the tangibles and require more leadership than management; tangibles, on the other hand, are more about management than leadership

. When considering merging, acquiring, partnering, diversification, etc with an organisation

"...usually makes careful checks of the financial strength, market position, management strengths and various other concrete aspects pertaining to the health of the other company. Rarely checked, however, are those aspects that might be considered cultural: the philosophy or style of the company, its technological origins, its structure, and its ways of operating - all of which may provide clues to the basic assumptions about its mission and its future. Yet if culture determines and limits strategy, a cultural mismatch in an acquisition or merger is as great a risk as a financial, product, or market mismatch..."

Edgar Schein, 2004

. Most organisations are like an iceberg, ie the tangible parts of the organisation are visible, easily observed, measured and planned (above the waterline), while the intangibles are less visible, less easy to identify, measure and to plan for (below the waterline). Furthermore, most of the iceberg is under the water. In other words, the most important, or largest, yet most neglected, part of the organisation is comprised of the intangibles

. Organisations are not stable, they are always changing. Yet management tries to create stability by using the tangibles, such as structures, processes, systems, etc.. Invariably, the intangibles are more resilient in the context of instability

. The diagram below shows the areas above the line as tangibles and below as intangibles

organisational development change management

sources: Karen Morley, 2002; Patrick Dawson, 2005; Manfred Kets de Vries, 2006)


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