Archive for April, 2012

Organizational Design and Change

21 Apr

Design within an organization must be ever changing to meet the challenges of our rapidly changing world environments; flexibility is paramount. Leaders who wish to benefit from more of the opportunities available to their organizations now and in the future understand change is occurring and change is necessary. “You have a choice” is a statement most have heard many times. This is also true for organizations that struggle with the notion of change. W. Edwards Deming stated it best, however, when he said, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”

Deming’s statement is even more poignant today; consider again the report given the Southern Baptist Convention. Change is not an option if organizations want to survive. Leaders of organizations must be design change agents; they are responsible for translating theory into practice.

Change is not an option for the Church either, and taking design theory and incorporating it into an organization is a delicate dance. Change is disruptive, causes stress, evokes skepticism, can result in chronic instability, and distracts management. Most people do not like change. And typically, the larger and more complex the organization, the more potential there is for obstreperous behavior and chaos. Remember the last time someone changed the color of the church carpet or the choir robes? How did people respond when the hymnals were replaced with choruses projected onto an overhead screen? And, how did people respond when the preacher traded his suit for jeans and a polo shirt? However painful it may seem, change does not need to cause chaos and does not have to be forced on people by crisis or calamity.

Charles Handy asserts that change can be a learning opportunity, an opportunity for discovery, and if approached from this perspective, will encourage people to become architects of new ways, new forms, and new ideas. He suggests the following three ‘lubricants’ for helping people through change:

  1. Those who learn best and most, and change most comfortably, are those who take responsibility for themselves and their future, have a clear view of what they want the future to be, want to make sure that they get it, and believe they can achieve their goals.
  2. Those who have the ability to see things, problems, situations, or people in other ways are able to perceive them as opportunities, not problems. They address these issues directly but have the capacity to reframe them for their benefit and the benefit of the organization.


Those who have the capacity to live with mistakes and failures without being defeated are those who understand that ‘getting it wrong is part of getting it right.’


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