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Organizing for change

 

Disciplines > Change Management > Organizing for change

A separate organization | An integrated organization | The Program Office | Responsibilities | See also

 

A key challenge of change is like decoupling a carriage from train as it hurtles through a station and recoupling a few more, without excessively disturbing the passengers. Doing this requires an organization to change the carriages as well as drive the train.

A separate organization

One of the maxims of change is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to change from within, certainly beyond a given point.

An objective viewpoint

First, it is very difficult to see yourself and the local culture objectively. Like asking a fish about water ('Water, what water?'), when you are immersed in an environment, some things that are obvious to an outsider are invisible to those inside the bowl.

Sufficient authority and power

Secondly, personal fear, greed and those other things we try not to notice become significant. How many managers (including senior managers) would admit to failure? How many would willingly give up power and status?

The bottom line is that to drive significant change requires an organization that is objective enough to see what needs doing and powerful enough to make that change happen. This is one reason why organizational change is often done through a separate organization that is run either by someone of high integrity who has no axes to grind.

Change expertize

Expertize in change is not that common in organizations that have not had to change that often (and it is often limited even in those that have). A separate organization allows recruiting and concentration of the right skills for the job, with deliberate gatekeeping to ensure that people who work in this environment know what they are doing.

This is why serious change is often done by an external consultancy who can bring in the necessary expertise around change, as well as having an objective viewpoint.

An integrated organization

The organization that drives the change needs a delicate balance of independence and connection. They need separation for independent viewpoint and authority, but they also need sufficient integration so they can work with the people who are affected.

This is typically set up through a series of regular and formal meetings at all levels of management through the organization (this allows the change organization to nurse decisions through the hierarchy and into action without them being corrupted or subverted along the way).

The Program Office

A classic design of a change organization is a 'Program Office', where particular responsibilities may be concentrated, including:

  • Facilitation of strategic planning to set the direction for the change.
  • Management of the overall plan, to ensure it moves at an appropriate pace and in the desired direction.
  • Coaching of senior managers in new ways of thinking and acting.
  • Facilitation of improvement and change projects.
  • Provision of interim management whilst the organization reshapes itself.
  • Education in new ways of thinking and new skills required.
  • Communication about the changes made.
  • General consulting to support active changes.
  • Re-establishing a standardized base for a stable future.

See also

 

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