Change from within

A rose will give many flowers when rightly pruned, given water, sunshine etc. If the external conditions fail, the flowers will be smaller/ less/ or even non-existent. From within a rose remains always a rose, and will not change in a grape. A grape needs another type of pruning. In my garden I use different pruning scissors for roses and for grapes, and I treat a rose different than a grape. They flower different, are different in size, in amounts, in colour. Both are beautiful but different.

Respect of the uniqueness implies searching for the own unique potential of the person and organisation, and trying to eliminate barriers that hinder further growth and flowering. But a rose should not aim to be a grape, but just a more complete version of itself. In this process self-knowledge and self-reflection are key. Sometimes you need a gardener though to get you through...

Change has a limit
Everybody knows that organizations can change and do change. They change as response to a changing external environment, or just by themselves. However, the power that managers have to change things is in reality only very limited. This is not so much because of the approach taken in a change process (although a handy process can make a big difference). But the key issue is the organization's capacity for change of the element that is subject to change.

Like a person, an organization can be compared with an iceberg: the visual part is behavior, and the deeper the layers underneath are hidden, the more difficult they are to change. Deep down at the bottom is the identity, the manifestation of an organization's vitality, strength and value.

It is my conviction that the facilitation of a change process in a person or an organization can only be done accurate when recognizing that some parts cannot change, and other parts should not change. Finding out this unchangeable side is step number one for a process ending in success. Step number two is agreement on the part that should change and can change. Number three is doing the change.

See for more insight the following book (in process of being translated from Dutch into English): 'Onveranderbaarheid van organisaties' door Leike van Oss en Jaap van 't Hek (2008, EAN: 9789075458473). The authors arrive at the conclusion that the unchangeable side is necessary for the survival of organizations and that respecting this unchangeable side will serve change agents better than holding on to the illusion of unbounded malleability.