Managing Organizational Change:
The elusive sustenance of significant change from a biologist’s perspective
Look ahead twenty of thirty years. Does anyone expect the next twenty years to be less tumultuous than the last twenty years? Given the changes expected in technology, biology, medicine, social values, demography, the environment, and internal relations, what kind of world might humanity face? No one can say for sure, but one thing is reasonably certain: Continuing challenges will tax our collective abilities to deal with them. Failure to rethink our enterprises will leave us little relief from our current predicaments: rising turbulence causing rising stress; increasing disconnection and internal competitiveness; people working harder, rather than learning how to work smarter; and increasingly intractable problems beyond the reach of any individual or organization. If you are an organizational leader, someone at any level concerned deeply about these challenges, then you face a daunting task. In effect, you are engaged in a great venture of exploration, risk, discovery, and change, without any comprehensive maps for guidance.
Actually, for most of human history, intrepid explorers have set out on their journeys of discovery without comprehensive maps. The “portolans” and “rutters” of the European Renaissance, for example, were hand-drawn charts describing specific routes along byways and coastlines, often derived from the hasty notes of previous travelers. No one expected them to provide more than rough guidance. Yet however imperfect, maps and guides have been among humankind’s most treasured artifacts.
At first glance, it appears that people seeking change in organizations have very different goals in mind. Some seek the “accelerating,” “visionary,” or “intelligent” organization; others the “innovative,” “living,” “adaptive,” or “transformational” company. They try total quality, re-engineering business processes, strategic alliances,...