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Organizational Evolution: The Need for Change

Posted March 22, 2017 by Jonathon Jackson

 

 

It has often been said that the only constant is change.

If that’s true, why are we as people so averse to change? It’s happening whether we like it or not, so why should we not embrace it?

The first step in embracing change is to recognize that it is necessary, and that staying the same is in fact a slow death. This is true at a personal level, and it’s also the case from an organizational standpoint.

Here’s the thing about organizations – as advisor, facilitator and author Frederic Laloux says in his book Reinventing Organizations, we wouldn’t have our current quality of life if these institutions had not evolved and developed into the structures that we know today, with a recognizable hierarchy designed to direct the conception, production and distribution of goods and services.

Two centuries ago, humanity lived precariously, always on the brink of famines and plagues, but has since progressed to a state of unprecedented wealth, knowledge and life expectancy. This leap was made possible not because people acted alone to generate these advances, but because they collaborated in organizations – whether these were large or small businesses in a free-market economy, or medical institutions like hospitals and medical schools and pharmaceutical companies, or educational networks that have made free schooling possible for untold millions of children.

But despite all of this, Laloux says, there is a growing sense that organizational life as we know it no longer works for us. It has been stretched to the limit. For instance, people working at the bottom of a hierarchy commonly regard their work as unrewarding drudgery, and are aware that their ability to move up the levels is limited or non-existent. The lack of career paths is a common concern. Their experience, therefore, becomes miserable and pointless. If you’ve ever read the Dilbert cartoons, you might be able to relate.

Not that things are much better for those who sit atop the pyramids. Laloux’s research has led him to discover that although powerful corporate leaders have successfully played the power games and managed the politics to get where they are, they continually face intense pressure from boards of directors and shareholders, not to mention ongoing financial challenges and staffing issues. Theirs is often an empty existence fronted by a façade of bravado, and constantly under threat from machinations and infighting and other kinds of internal and external competition.

Whether you’re at the top or the bottom or somewhere in between, you are likely to find that an organization is little more than a place where we struggle and mostly fail to feed our egos, and where we are taught to ignore the things that really fuel our passions and our souls. The result is misalignment between the work and the goals to which we aspire.

This is true even in environments where we thought we were following our passions – in professions like teaching or medicine. Schools now teach conformity as much as anything else, and both students and teachers end up merely going through the motions. Likewise, bureaucracy overwhelms health care facilities like hospitals, and gets in the way of doctors and nurses who are trying to heal people. Much time, for example, is spent looking at liability and mitigating risk rather than at the true passion of healing.

If organizations are no longer functioning as they once did, when we were achieving unprecedented societal progress, can we presume that the way we operate must change if we are going to continue to evolve and grow?

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence,” said management consultant, educator and author Peter Drucker. “It is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

Let’s talk about developing a new logic. At ODScore Inc., we are leaders in change management, and we have a leading transformation framework to help organizations and people navigate this new world.

 


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