In times of dramatic change and crisis, executives (perhaps in line with human nature) revert to known formulas .. tapping structured, controlled and seemingly “safe “solutions. In Stephen Billing’s blog “Organizational Change is Not a Relay Race” he warns against relying on formal & rigid decision processes in times of crisis. Most dangerous: hand-offs between executives, consultants and HR .. passing the baton of responsibility from runner to runner.
We’ve all seen this happen. If you’re leading an organization in crisis, it is no time for hand-offs. It introduces delay, dilutes both message content and ‘signal strength’ .. and in the end, serves to diminish trust. But to really get at the core of the disconnect, we need to understand how change works.
I frame the issue as two contrasting views: the organization as machine vs. the organization as living organism.
In the latter view, change brings in an organic element. Transformations take place in every cell. Granted, there are communication and control processes present in the organism too; each cell plays a vital role, as in a machine. But in a living organism, just as within an organization, success (survival and adaptation) depend on symbiotic adjustments from every minute part of the system.
No doubt the industrial age has influenced the thinking of executive management. But we must now choose our relational paradigms more carefully, especially at times of crisis when time is short and emotions are running high.
Machines excel at repetition. Living organisms excel at change.
Take a good look, there’s plenty of change and crisis to go around. What kind of organization do you need to be?