Why the attempt to change companies often end up as a bad joke.

Article Why the attempt to change companies often end up as a bad joke.

Changes drive emotions. Unless we understand them, we will not be able to actually make the change.

It is very hard make a real change in any aspect of a company, unless we understand, what is going on on the background of a creature as complex as a company. The consequence is often disappointment resulting from the ambition to change things.

There is rational reasoning present to justify almost all of the proposed changes, however, the efficiency of those changes - after a sincere analysis - tends to be miserable.  Often, even a change based on right motivations, turns out to be an awkward joke for the employees.  The result may then turn out to be the exact opposite of the intended change and increases the distance between the worlds of the management and the rest of the company even further away from each other. Why does this happen and what to do about it is described by the psychological concept of organisational dynamics by Günther Mohr. Substantial parts of his work are quoted below. If we understand what goes on on the background, we will be able to actually make the change and engage others into the change.

What is often described as "processes" are only one part of the organisational dynamics. Solutions based on adjustment of merely the process will fail in the attempt to achieve a more complex change - and will often result in disappointment. The attempts to change the culture is also basically impossible without targeting all aspects of the organisational dynamics. The initiatives seeking the change of the "spirit" of the company then often end up in that the "spirit" itself throws the initiative for change out of itself and creates mostly frustration and complications - even though the rationalle behind the original initiative may be quite brilliant and intelectually encompass exactly what needs to be changed.

Change is never driven by rational reasoning only. Reasoning may be well used for the anayzing of what needs to be changed and how, however, not as the only tool for implementing the change. It is clear to us that we are often unable to change even ourselves as individuals even though we can define exactly what kind of change we need, why we need it and what will the consequences be. It is quite apparent in this context that changing a group of people has to be more complicated than changing an individual and that there are more aspects to such change than to the change of an individual.

(If you do not have the time to read through all the details, jump right to the conclusion.)

True Organisational Dynamics

"An organisation comes into being if a single person or a group decides to accomplish a greater goal, which a single person cannot achieve. This process of the organisation in addition immediately gives rise to a system of relations. “System” means a mutual, interdependent work of the people in a relational net. This also concerns the different objectives, origins and interests of the people. All these aspects are more or less perceptible for the ones involved in the organisations...An entrepreneurial system is a complex system. ... An overview of the many facets occasionally shows the features of a chaotic organism.

Numbers and times play a large role. People spend time with each other, move in rooms, sometimes meet. There are successes and defeats. Some topics contain explosives, others are fatally boring. Some involved have several roles, “wear a lot of hats" and juggle with these (around), other act rigidly with a tunnel view. Others rather feel, sometimes even outside, as if they were on the edge and that they had nothing to do with the whole enterprise thing.

Technology can be seen everywhere. Goods go in and data streams flow out. Different languages are spoken: "business economic", "technical", "IT-ic" "colloquial", “soft psychological”, "foreign"...If one really wants to influence an organisation system, one must reach the dynamics with real impact. The “depth structure” and also the surface structure cared for in official announcements are both determining the real dynamics of an organisational system. On the surface side are all organisational diagrams, company booklets, guidelines and Sunday speeches. As in the case of an iceberg very different depths are more relevant for an enterprise. And the metaphor “depth” doesn’t mean deep. It means out of attention for relevant decision makers. Mostly the really deep structure of the organisation is not obvious. It has to be revealed...

It is particularly true for larger enterprises, that even the system itself becomes an independent relational partner for the individual persons. And "the whole is more than the sum of the individual parts" as Aristotle noted. The depth structure can be judged by different persons differently. A human system itself developed particular habits and even determines “intelligence and spirit of the system". This further is autopoetic (self-supporting) even if single persons change. Although the spirit of the depth structure is created by people, it becomes independent of them. Sometimes it appears that an enterprise has lost its inner strength.

If one comes to these companies, everyone seems hopeless regarding the enterprise. People do their daily work but it is no longer clear "for what". There is no more inner strength for the organisation. Everyone still tries somehow to hold out but life and spirit have been lost. The inner power of an enterprise can be more or less strong. It even can be taken to the final breath (expiration). Sometimes this is noticeable very fast... 

Every person who is involved in an organisational system in any way influences the impact of this system. Everyone brings in their own personality structure. Also of course some achieve more and others less influence. Power is a very effective systemic phenomenon in organisations. It can be used or abused. The spirit of a system can be determined by a leading person for a while. This determines everything then, but only if the others allow it... 

How are the aspects identified, which are relevant for the behaviour, thinking and feelings of the people in the entrepreneurial system? ... The following model helps to get an optimal grip of the complexity and the real dynamics of company systems in order to influence them....An organisational system is described by four dynamic fields:
- Organisational structure
- Organisational processes
- Organisational balances
- Organisational pulsation 

Organisational structure

The organisational structure contains the three dynamic dimensions: attention, roles and system relations, which work as structural conditions. You may wonder that we start with attention, but according to modern brain research it is the main resource people can give and it is the main factor of monitoring all energies (people, investments, solutions) of an organisation. It seems to be a soft fact, but for the survival in the market and for the conditions inside of an organisation it is the hardest one. So we start with the basic dimension of attention: Where is the attention directed to in an organisation? Every organisation has its essential topics at a particular time. The attention energy goes there. Altogether, a ruling reality construction is created in a company. This one can be right or wrong, uniform or chaotic, clear or nebulous. Also the elements of the normative, strategic and operative management depending on specific attention. Official structure and identity specifications are more or less in a tension relationship with the culture actually alive. The ruling attention is the hardest investment in organisations.

In addition, for structure one finds the design of roles and their outer expression. They show the visible surface structure of an organisation to everybody. The roles are filled out by persons and are lived through this in their quality by the persons and their specific personality structures. On the other hand a personality also gets only as effective as one gets connected to a certain role in an organisation.

Besides the roles specific relational structures characterise a system. Relations at first exist at the role level and are also relevant at the level of the personalities. How strongly the role level characterises the relations and how strongly the personality level determines the scene. It specifies the dynamics of different organisations.

Organisational Processes

Three basic dynamics, which are existent in every entrepreneurial system, describe an organisation on the process level: communication dynamics, problem solution dynamics and success dynamics. All changes and all relations are put into scene by practical communication. Without communication nothing runs in an enterprise. ...If one looks at processes of change, attention is often given too little to the dynamics of communication...

The second basic process is problem solution. Organisation systems have the central task of problem solution. This starts already at the basic entrepreneurial service to produce solutions for the challenges of the market. It is also close to problems specifically established in every organisation. An extreme example of this is the attitude "there aren't any problems in our company". Characteristic problem solution patterns are the way for an organisation to make decisions or to handle conflicts.

In the third system process the following experience is mirrored: "No organisation lives without successes in the long run." All target processes have meaning only in connection with dynamics of success. The handling of the success dynamics is a central starting-point the system balances in the entrepreneurial acting for energy and motivation.

Organisational balances

Organisational balances are the dynamics of the states of balance an organisation major subsystems tend to. They are interesting in two dimensions: (1) the balances (B) in the long run development of a company and (2) in the vertical and horizontal structure and culture of an organisation at certain time, here called recursivity (R = recurring of the same principles in different parts and on different levels of the organisation). Both are essential principles for the development of systems. They show the basic striving of systems for order, safety and survival. ...

Visions and destination points are intended future balances. One makes use of the balance trend with these instruments. Balances are frequently also backward- looking. What was once is transfigured and appears as a nostalgic balance in memory. The recursivity dynamics refer to the aspect of how far systems show the same principles at different levels and areas. Like a Russian doll which contains several smaller reflections of it in itself, systems show structures similar to different levels. One doesn't always have to include the whole, but research points out the advantage of the recursivity of essential aspects. The "fractal counselling" system aims to touch all essential aspects through addressing a part which has strong recursive impact on others.

Organisational pulsation

[Dr.Mohr] defines organisational pulsation as the dynamics and patterns that characterise the movements of an organisation at its outside and inside boundaries. The dynamic change and quality of the outside and inside boundaries of a system is outside pulsation and inside pulsation (OP and IP). Organisation systems show movements in terms of pulsating at inner and outer borders. There are many ways of drawing the outside boundary. A trend is the flexibility of the drawing up of the boundary today. Charles Handy created the term "federal organisation”, structures with different employee groups (Handy, 1993). Openness marks the basic ability of a system to let information, staff and other resources in and out.
The inside boundaries have consequences on the dynamics between subsystems. Areas, departments and groups represent subsystems in the company. But also women and men, senior and junior menbers, the people in the head office and those "on the market" can form subsystems of their own. Huge restructuring, strategic new positions of the entire organisation produce new subgroups. In a worst case scenario, many losers stand opposite some winners. However, subsystems always arise from the categories of the observers."


Both complex and often what appears to be trivial changes hit all the aspects of the organisation's dynamics - otherwise it is not a change. Should the change be not only thought of, but also made in reality, so that all the goals of the change become a natural part of everyday life within the organisation, it has to focus on all the levels of organisational dynamics.  It is, therefore, unrealistic to change every aspect with one universal tool. More techniques and tools need to be used, which specifically focus on organisational structures, processes, balances and pulsation of the company.

The specific techniques and tools and most accurately defined by psychology, which is often percieved as a "soft" tool to be used, when there are no other "real" problems left, or when nothing else works. In fact, the opposite is true - psychology may prove its highest value added, when we are not able to pursuit a change effectively, or when we want to prepare for a complex change in such a manner that the change will actually be adopted swiftly. The tools seeking such objectives are not those popularily named as "soft", but those called "hard", which may sound surprising.

Hard-core psychology has the capacity to deal with the most complex changes with relative ease when compared to the non-psychological approaches, which are often based on trial/error or intuitive improvising methods.

Author: Vladimír Hambálek in the bulletin Coachingplus 104 from July 2018, based on the article Dynamic Organisational Analysis from Gunthera Mohra (www.mohr-coaching.de), revised by Andrej Vršanský

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