I strongly encourage you to read this column of all those who now (sometimes very intensively) participate in the TRANSFORMATION so fashionable today. Perhaps it will help to understand why the transformation of the organization requires so much effort or even fails. And most of all, it will help to find a way to find yourself in such chaos (sorry! Transformation).
Perspectives of looking at change and transformation
Edgar H. Schein, MIT professor, creator of a well-known model of organizational culture, and author of books on leadership and interpersonal relations (e.g. "Humble Leadership: The power of relationships, openness, and trust" which I heartily recommend, especially to HR leaders!), based on his fifty years of research experience in various organizations, argues that you cannot understand how an individual, organization, or system works without being able to look at things from three different perspectives:
the first is an individual perspective based on psychology,
the second is a systems perspective based on anthropology, sociology, political science, and systems theory,
and the third is an interactive process perspective, based on social psychology, sociology, and other theories of dynamic processes.
These different perspectives are necessary to understand the various components of the system and the relationships between them.
From the individual perspective
The motivation to change is crucial. It does not arise until the purpose of the change appears safe enough to accept inconvenient data. The goal of change appears to be "psychologically safe" when the person can accept the new attitude or value without completely denying their own personality.
When someone feels safe, they can accept new information either by identifying with others or by checking for new solutions in the environment. The more complicated the situation, the more the individual will rely on the judgments of others. New concepts or standards will not survive unless they receive the support of the general public and individuals.
A systems perspective
is needed to define "health" or efficient operation at the system level - how organizational culture is formed and evolved.
An interactive perspective
is necessary to understand the relationships between the components and levels of the system. There will always be a dilemma: do leaders create an organization and culture, or do culture and social forces create leaders; how the organization influences its members, and how do the members change the organization?
Schein, during his 13 years at MIT's Sloan School of Management, studied how corporations indoctrinate their employees. Surprisingly, there is little evidence for indoctrination (!?)
On the other hand, a group of researchers has formulated a new theory: "career anchors". As people mature professionally, they create their own ideas of motivation, competence, and values to help them make professional decisions.
In years of research in companies, scientists also found that you can't really understand an organization until you try to change it.
Does it ring a bell to all of you participating now in the corporate Transformation initiative?
Is it possible to conclude from this that the top management also encounters surprises and sometimes simply does not understand what is happening in the dark? Because only an attempt to change the "status quo" verifies their assumptions (and often even beliefs) as it is and therefore how it should be.
The metaphor of the Iceberg of ignorance
It also reminds me of the so-called "Iceberg of Ignorance", a model that shows how many things the leaders DO NOT KNOW.
Following the results of Edgar H. Schein's research, the balance between the autonomy of the individual and the institution is a constant struggle modulated by dynamic "psychological contracts" between the employer and the employee.
Leadership in an organization that is just starting to act is something completely different than leadership in a mature organization that is trying to change some elements of its culture.
Leaders create culture by imposing their personal value systems on colleagues and employees, but once the organization develops a common point of view, individual participants in the system adopt it as their own and can later create other organizations according to the same model.
So much for today from Edgar H. Schein. If you are interested in this topic, see Edgar's books or the following interesting source, which neatly summarizes the key conclusions:
and among them is this brutal statement:
"The purpose of a company is not to create a nice workplace culture but to function in the economy, to provide goods and services."
I will end today with these conclusions:
Since "knowledge makes everything simple" it is worth investing some effort to understand the system. This will help you find yourself in chaos (especially the Transformation chaos).
It is good to know which battles are worth fighting and which you should let go of. Our reserve of personal energy IS NOT UNLIMITED.