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Leadership and Designing Organizations to Change Published: Sunday, August 26, 2007 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

Within the field of organizational design and management sciences, scholars, researchers and practitioners are currently working with two core questions: what might organizations do differently to respond quickly and effectively to the increasing chaotic environment?, what might leaders do differently to build their organizations for lasting, but achieving this by changing?

Leaders must understand their organizations values, and work to shape them.  Leaders must design or redesign their organizations to embrace rather than resist change.  The culture as the sum of all values that influence daily behaviors becomes an imperative and a critical factor of strategic and operational management.

Core values play a critical role in change to the extent that they define what is in play and what is not.  Values relate to identity and identity is necessary for stability even within turbulent realities.  The challenge is at building a change approach for the organization around the idea of dynamic stability.  So, leaders discover those value truly core for their organizations.  As it has been fairly researched and studied, for a value to be core it must pass three tests: 1) have existed in the organizations since their earliest days; 2) still be around in the way to the future; 3) have evidence of events in which the organization lived the value and paid some cost for doing so (values must always be labeled as aspirational…)   As sensitive warning: People won’t follow leaders who expose core values but don’t live through them.  They will follow leaders who aspire to live a new set of values and want to be held accountable if they don’t. 

Core values must guide main organizational policies and practices, such as hiring, firing decisions and performance evaluations and promotions.

Leaders help people see and accept the differences between core and strategic values.  Competitive organizations have a strong drive for change, and the core values guiding them support their ability to do that core values are foundational in nature.  Strategic values incorporate current business emphasis. But core values and strategic values can never be in contradiction.  Here we face a beautiful paradox.  Enduringly great organizations are very skilled at changing themselves.

Leaders must see themselves as organizational designers.  They must understand key principles of organizational change, so they can begin to transform a work setting, that is the culture, and promote competitive responses.  New capabilities must be developed; new skills must evolve, if the organization and its people are going to be effective at embracing change.

Leaders, as organizational design experts, must support norms that promote behaviors that facilitate change.  Some quick examples are the following: 1) Structure evaluations and reward systems that measure and reward needed changes in the behaviors elicited in the work setting. 2) Update, manage and share the information system for structuring a change friendly work environment. 3) Acknowledge that job design plays a key role in the work setting dimensions, and they can either facilitate or block change. 4) Transform the physical setting or the infrastructure because this is not done, it can impede change rather than assist it.  

Let us close with the beautiful organizational paradox: great organizations that endure or last need to be guided by meaningful, unchanging core values, while at the same time driving to change.

Copyright 2007 QBS, Inc.


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