Doing the Impossible: Changing the Organization

“Only when certain political and organizational preconditions are met” can substantial improvements be made in big organizations. At least that is the conclusion suggested by a recent article in Public Administration Review. The authors suggest six preconditions (pg. 238):

  1. Support from a powerful political source,
  2. Recognition by the public & media that current conditions are unacceptable,
  3. A leader with unusual control over personnel policy,
  4. Substantial talent within or available to the organization,
  5. Useable & timely data systems, and
  6. A leader with an understandable vision for improvement.

These six factors are rare in big complex organizations. The authors offer four hypotheses explaining the obstacles building those preconditions.

  1. Members of an organization need time to become familiar with data-driven management. After a time, data-driven management can make large-scale, long-term reform possible (pg. 237).
  2. “Aggressive reformers will tend to appear in times and places where (current) outcomes are completely unacceptable and be dismissed or moderated once outcomes reach a merely acceptable level.” Or leaders will be “victims of their own success” if their political masters think they are “too big for their britches” (pg. 237).
  3. Organizational innovations…will diffuse more when leaders transfer to new places than through adoption by other leaders in the organization (pp. 237-38).
  4. Organizational reform occurs more readily when leaders control personnel policy (pg. 238).

Although not impossible, the authors conclude that reforming big organizations will be rare.

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This entry was posted in Conflict Management, Innovation, Negotiation Stakeholders, Resolving Conflicts, Workplace Conflicts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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