Organizations in decline tend to create an imaginary double in which they lock themselves. This double is themselves, but in an idealized version. It is a mask that they create to hide and to insulate themselves from a reality that they refuse, letting the world go without them, even against them. The dissolution of this double, i.e. the acceptance of reality, however unpleasant it may be, is a prerequisite for any recovery. A good illustration of this is provided by the Apple turnaround in 1997.(more…)
In the quest for innovation, the encouragement of risk-taking by employees is often ineffective because of entrenched, counterproductive mental models. One example is a successful manufacturing company whose commitment to quality has morphed into a stifling perfectionism that impedes progress. While the organization advocates risk-taking for transformation, it struggles to create change. This article explores the core of this challenge-the ingrained mental models that foster resistance-and advocates a balanced approach that reconciles innovation and stability.(more…)
[version en Français ici]
Companies rarely collapse all at once. The collapse is often only the visible phase of a decline that started long before and developed insidiously. Like the famous frog that does not react when the temperature of the water in which it is placed rises, this slowness makes it more difficult to react: the signs of decline seem disparate and it is difficult to link them together to build a picture of danger. At the heart of this difficulty is the silence about the situation within the organization, and the tacit acceptance of mediocrity.(more…)
The pursuit of employee engagement and meaning often centers on the idea of a grand vision, akin to building a cathedral of ambition. However, this narrative oversimplifies the complexity of meaningful work. A fuller understanding recognizes that meaning isn’t derived solely from external goals, but can come from the intrinsic fulfillment found in daily tasks, collaborative efforts, and the intrinsic value of contributions.(more…)
One of the most important reasons why organizational transformations fail is the existence of a conflict between what the organization wants to do and who it really is. This conflict can be understood by means of the notion of mental model, which corresponds to the way the organization sees its environment and itself. With this perspective, transformation is about changing the organization’s individual and collective mental models. While this is difficult in itself, it is even more so when the current model, which must evolve, is perceived as valid, because this leads to a conflict between the existing and the desired model. Surfacing this conflict and explicitly addressing it is the key to successful organizational transformation.
How can organizations overcome deep-seated resistance to change and transform successfully? The answer lies in understanding the profound impact of mental models – the lenses through which we perceive the world and ourselves. This phenomenon is vividly illustrated by the mysterious disappearance of the Norwegian colony in Greenland.(more…)
Why is an organization so difficult to transform? The issue continues to challenge the senior management of many large organizations. In large part, the difficulty comes from the fact that what makes an organization unique, that it is a social artifact (a collectively shared artificial object), is not recognized. Viewing an organization from this angle, rather than as a machine or a node of contracts, opens up an interesting avenue and provides the missing key to transformation.
Why do organizations find it difficult to change when facing a disruption? The question is not new but it continues to puzzle researchers and managers alike. Part of the answer lies in the observation that over time, what an organization knows migrates: its capability initially lies in its resources (especially human), then it evolves to processes and finally to values. It is at this last stage that change is the most difficult.
It is decided, the theme of your next company convention will be “All entrepreneurs!” You’ll talk about Google, Tesla, Facebook, plus a Chinese champion for good measure. The manager of your Lab in San Francisco will come to talk about the latest local innovations. You will show a film that will explain “the six qualities of a good entrepreneur” with rock opera music. After a closing speech by the leader who, in essence, will say that it is only a matter of courage, the roadmap will be clear.
Following one of my interventions in a seminar on transformation, some participants regretted that I did not propose a method. This is not the first time that, faced with the difficulty of leading an organizational transformation, the need for a method has been strongly expressed. But I resist it because I am convinced that not only is transformation not a question of method, but that a method, whatever it may be, is often an obstacle to its success.