Four Conflicts of Organizational Transformation

This is Part 3 of The Logic of Organizational Transformation: A 5-Part Series. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Nurturing transformation in an organization is inherently difficult, due to four major conflicts:

  • The conflict of vision: A vision can be long-term or short-term. Whereas transformation has a long-term vision of survival, operation and reformation/deformation have short-term visions of immediate thriving and foreseeable gains. In fact, if operation and reformation/deformation didn’t aim at the short-term, the organization would be more likely to fail. This is the conflict between long-term thinking and short-term thinking.
Figure 3: The conflict of vision.
  • The conflict of approach: Whereas transformation aims at changing the status quo, operation and reformation/deformation aim at keeping it. Consequently, the former embraces uncertainty, while the latter sticks to certainty. The difference of approach ripples all the way through strategic planning, risk management, and cultural norms. This is the conflict between certainty and uncertainty.
Figure 4: The conflict of approach.
  • The conflict of culture: Different visions and approaches often require very different types and combinations of people to achieve. Whereas transformation promotes an open, dynamic and inherently progressive mindset in an organization’s people, operation and reformation/deformation dictates in them a closed, predictable and inherently conservative mindset.
Figure 5: The conflict of culture.
  • The conflict of power: Whereas transformation often requires power to be redistributive and makes changes in existing power structure that people in power never intend to make, operation and reformation/deformation requires power to be stable, predictable, and resistent to redistribution. In other words, transformation requires people in power to be resilient, instead of resistant, to the redistribution of power. This is the conflict between immutable power and redistributive power.
Figure 6: The conflict of power.

Read Part 4.


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