Organizational Change

Organizational change is a difficult process.  Complex systems composed of people don’t behave in a mechanical fashion.  The people in the organization are arranged into formally defined groups and given formal roles, but they also are members of informal groups within the organization.  Informal goals and the formal goals of the organization are often in conflict.

Communication is often a problem within the organization.  The language and culture of different groups in the organization are very different.  Technical people don’t speak the same language as say a middle manager.  The technical person works every day in a group of people who value highly detailed technical information.  When they speak about their job it is in technical terms.  Middle managers on the other may not even know what some of the terms mean, and they have little use for all those acronyms.

To add the essential difficulties of organizational change, the organization is not at rest.  The entire organization is in motion, working to meet the demands of their jobs.  The pressure to perform makes change much more difficult.  The organization has developed patterns of behavior to “get the job done”.  These patterns are familiar and provide predictable outcomes, both personally and professionally.   Change is inherently risky.

Besides the risk the organization has already made its choices.  The complex compromise between the interests of many groups, the political bargains and the plans for the future have already been made.  Why would the organization change?  This is the key question, because unless the question can be answered there is no means for inducing change in the organization.

The naive may say, “we will just order them to do it differently”.  Top down authority can always make the organization behave differently for a time.  The question is will the new behavior be desirable and how long will it last.  One example of this is an antidote from Microsoft.  In an effort to increase productivity the order was given to pay each person for the number of lines of code shipped in their product.  The size of the product ballooned out of control.   Was this the desired outcome?