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The Chicken-Egg Problem with Organizational Change

HBRLike so many things in this world, organization change is a matter of timing. The process followed during organizational change can spell success or disaster, so making sure that those who are implementing the change, those who are affected by it, and even the executive level overseeing the change all understand what their roles are and what they can expect to happen. One consideration brought up in the article is whether to delayer of expand management. Essentially, do you expand the control of existing managers so that organizational change becomes easier to handle (managers touching on multiple organizational areas are more able to implement change) or do you train up new managers with the skills needed to implement the change you want to enact? Either solution has merit, according to Ron Ashkenas, but there are a few ways of determining which path to go on – such as the relationship between structural change and behavioral change:

 The next principle to consider is that structural change usually drives behavioral change, and not vice versa. In other words, training people in new ways of working – without modifying job responsibilities, reporting relationships, and incentives – is often a prescription for failure. Because old patterns are often entrenched, structural change can be a forcing function to break them. In the second case, for example, the senior team tried to convince, guide, and teach senior people to collaborate more effectively to create solutions for customers – but the shifts didn't take hold until they reorganized into broader teams, with larger spans of control and fewer layers.

 Another suggestion Ashkenas has is to prioritize the goals by criticality and then pursue a course of action based on those findings. By determining what is important to work on first and executing a strategy based around that, organizations can better determine where to start : with training or structural change- and be better prepared for the outcome of those efforts.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid’s Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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