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Some (further) Reflections on Organizational Change

The ability to change, to adapt, to develop has always been an indispensable requirement for the life of the company conceived in its increasingly dynamic aspects.

As is well known, we can speak of organizational change whenever we are faced with a change in the organization’s architecture, procedures and systems, roles and behaviors.

In summary, we could say that the theme is organizational change understood as the transition from a certain condition to another according to a path that has been planned in terms of objectives, methods of action, responsibilities and timing. This does not exclude, of course, that in reality there are many unplanned changes, which occur without full awareness of the transformation that is taking place and which, in any case, can be of great scope and importance.

It is a question of considering organizational processes as a set of changing activities that tend to seek interdependence structures compatible with the interests of the many people who insist on the organization and participate in various capacities in its processes. So not stable and defined organizations but dynamic and change-oriented.

The themes of change and organizational development are not, therefore, a discovery of recent decades, however, never as in this historical period are they in the attention of the academic world as well as the productive and professional world. Change has always existed, it is true, but unlike in the past, it is more evident that it is a necessity and not an option for companies.

However, an awareness of the organizations and managers who direct them on the imperative of change does not always correspond to an equal awareness of the methodologies and tools to encourage and then manage the development of the organization in the best possible way. What escapes, under the veneer of easy rationalizations, are the complexity of the organizational reality and the number of variables that must be taken into consideration in order to make a significant, effective and stable change. The first of these variables is the individual.

It is no coincidence that issues related to the management of human resources are enjoying growing interest but, at the same time, the well-being of human resources continues to be rather neglected in organizational development.

We have learned that change is a complex and delicate phenomenon at the same time, that resistance to change has a very human meaning, and that this phenomenon cannot be attacked by force. Change resists quantitative increases, it asks us to generate a “different quality”.

The real process of change is determined by the ability to observe the same problem from a new perspective, from a different point of view.

At this point, however, a question must be asked: do we have to resign ourselves to brilliant and impromptu solutions, or is it possible to build a practical model of intervention?

The nature of the change is such that it is very difficult to conceive a “method” capable of dealing with any situation. However, it is possible to accurately identify some important steps, capable of creating the right conditions for the construction of an effective intervention strategy.

I would therefore like to emphasize some fundamental concepts:

Awareness: although apparently obvious, but not at all taken for granted, a good level of awareness is a fundamental element to be able to effectively manage the change process. The first difficulty lies in a correct and lucid vision of the problem, aimed at identifying with precision and concreteness the current position and the necessary steps to be taken to implement the change.

This first analysis, which we could define as quite rational, is followed by a path of awareness aimed at understanding the resistances that have occurred, or that we are able to foresee, together with any attempted (and failed) solutions. At this point, it is easy to understand (and experience further confirms it) that some of these steps often make it appropriate (or perhaps even indispensable) to external help: coach, therapist, consultant, etc., in relation to the different contexts that we can to imagine.

Motivation: a full and sincere motivation, represents the indispensable “fuel” for tackling a journey that in some cases can prove to be long and tiring. The most frequent mistake, in these cases, is thinking of being able to impose change. Sense, freedom, and responsibility are the words that should guide the search for real motivation. No one can take the place of those who live this reality in building the necessary motivation, for this reason, it is important that the meaning of our commitment is not imposed on us. Everyone must seek the value and meaning of their actions in full freedom, through a conscious assumption of responsibility.

Nature of Resistance: Understanding the nature of resistance is a very important step in building an effective strategy. Sometimes resistance is a purely cognitive problem: a lack of flexibility on the part of the interpretative models of reality that we have to face. The best resource in these situations is creativity, and there are also creative techniques that can be of great help for this purpose.

The situation is certainly more complex when the resistance is of an emotional-identity nature. In these cases, the defense often takes on a conflictual value, because the subject (individual or group) feels threatened on the level of values, to the point of experiencing change as the complete abandonment of the purposes and motivations underlying his identity.

It takes intelligence and a lot of sensitivity to deal with these situations in a strategic key, as well as a great respect for the behaviors and words of the subjects involved, because they represent the attempt to preserve an identity that has been laboriously achieved unchanged.

The challenges of the future will require more and more often to “change skin”, to modify the organizational culture, to welcome new experiences, to acquire new knowledge.

The awareness of the complex and often paradoxical nature of phenomena linked to change, which do not like to be attacked by force, can guide us on this journey. If we want to have people motivated to undertake these changes by our side, we must be able to indicate precisely where we are, where we want to go and the necessary path to get there.


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Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Brother Aldo
    Great piece,
    The model I tend to use for change Insight -action- and results overlaps in some places with yours, but your has some things mine does not.

    Insight and Awareness -align – getting to the point of sharing insight/awareness is in my experience the tricky bit requiring leadership skill – “the leaders frst job is to define reality” don’t remember who said that but it fits here

    By chosing Motivation as your econd phase/element – you dig deep into the emotional context for action -which will emphasize leadership.

    Where I move to Action and Results (specification measurement, and reaction) -you talk about Resistence. I agree with Brother Ali Ananit that “people don’t fear change; they fear loss, and especially loss imposed by others,” THis is where leading with motivation will help.

    Such pahase/element models are enhanced with the building blocks models like -John Kotter’s eight building blocks – and the one I really like is the :guiding coalition” – distributed change leaders across levels and functions.

    I’m glad you published this great thinking. -merging ideas why-what-how- and so what?

  2. The timeliness of the decision to face the change or not is fundamental.
    Execution can take place immediately (this usually happens when a merger occurs with another company, when it is acquired by a larger one or on other occasions that require major changes), or gradually, but steadily, over time, with small changes that affect company operations, improving management and correcting those situations that were previously weak.
    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment; I really appreciate it!

  3. Great article, Aldo.

    Among the many great ideas in your article the one that attracted my attention the most is
    “We have learned that change is a complex and delicate phenomenon at the same time, that resistance to change has a very human meaning, and that this phenomenon cannot be attacked by force.”
    You are so right. People do not hate change as much as they hate to be forced to change. I agree completely with you.

    My small idea to add is the timing of change. To change prematurely or too late can have adverse effects. Timing should be considered when to change.

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