The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Form and Force

When seeking to change an organization, one needs to start observing where it is now.

But focusing solely on the structure or on the form it displays isn’t enough. The dynamics governing that organization are just as important. They are forces becoming active towards, within, and from the organization. At all levels, these forces impact the way the organization can act and will adapt to the situation.

Henry Mintzberg describes it in “Understanding Organizations…Finally!” as follows: “The force encourages the form and the form gives license to the force. Together they reinforce each other.”

Often, what people do is to describe what they believe to be the right structure or form to have. What they rarely do is describe how to get from where the organization is to the idea, they believe to be the right fit. It’s an approach that is based on hoping that the way things should be, will occur once described and that then things will be fine. On other occasions, people will look at problems this organization experienced in the past and work on ideas they expect to serve the organization by preventing such problems from reappearing. It’s a learning approach based on the crisis experienced in the past.

What is missing in these approaches is the current situation with the dynamics as they are playing out and transforming the organization. And it is difficult to integrate them into a planned transformation as one doesn’t know exactly how these forces act and how they will react to an intervention seeking to shape the transformation.

One has to act without knowing.

And that doesn’t go well with a desire for certainty or a fear of failing.

But, it may be worth noting, that one never knows.



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