Is change the only constant?
It sometimes seems that constant change has become the norm in large organisations, with people in a constant state of flux. Reorganisations can seem like a quick way to show progress but they can have a massive cost in terms of the effort involved and the disruption they bring and, if the resulting organisation is short-lived, it seems unlikely to have the time to justify the effort. I know so many people who are either applying for their own jobs, waiting to hear about their job, or trying to work out what their new job is now that everything is reorganised.
Rather than large-scale reorganisations, wouldn’t it be better to have an organisation that recognised the need to change and evolved as and when it needed to?
I believe we need to do three things to improve the situation:
1 – Avoid reorganising.
When faced with a major challenge, you shouldn’t rely on a reorganisation to make a quick impact – if you can see a better alternative. The alternative may not be easy and might involve some bravery in tackling difficult issues but it may well be more effective than a reorganisation.
2 – If you need to reorganise, do it quickly!
Reorganisations are disruptive and it is really difficult for an organisation to change whilst, at the same time, delivering what it is there for. If you need to do it, do it quickly.
3 – Design an organisation that will last.
Recognising that reorganisations are disruptive, you don’t want to do them too often. So how do you design an organisation that will last for a long time without the need to reorganise again? I believe the answer is to design an organisation that is self-aware and responds quickly and appropriately to issues, opportunities, and a changing landscape. Paradoxically, changing constantly (when needed) should avoid the need for constant change.
What do you think? Is this your experience or do you have a different experience?
Please share this with others who may have an interest and please do comment.
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January 7, 2011 at 10:07 am
Ian – Great food for thought here; on the first point I would say that in some cases reorganisation is used as a way of avoiding the real issues, its an attempt to fix the problem with a process rather than tackling the behaviours that are the root cause. On the other hand I think that if an organisation is future focused and can see that the current way of things simply won’t enable it to reach is goals, then reorganising is absolutley the right way to go. In terms of doing it quickly, I do appreciate your point on this though I believe that in some circumstances a slow and steady transition is preferable. Once the decision to reorganise is out there then having a very detailed set of tactics and milestones that allow people to find their way and to still fulfil the needs of the business as they go can give the best of both worlds…..that said, there must be a end in sight, a point where everyone can see that the change has been achieved, mark that point then probably brace themselves for the next one!!! And I’m 100% with you on point 3!!!!
January 7, 2011 at 10:53 am
Thanks for your comments. You make a very good point about ‘give the best of both worlds’; I have seen change projects work really well where there are intense periods of activity where a lot happens in a very focused way, followed by ‘islands of stability’ where things don’t change. Where this differs fundamentally from just constant repetitive change is in being planned, as you refer to with the detailed set of tactics and milestones.