On Organizational Therapy

February 19, 2021

There are companies that specialize in providing solutions to chronic problems when an organization is not successful in solving them by itself. Consulting, coaching, and organizational development firms have traditionally provided these services. Organizational therapy represents a paradigm shift in helping companies solve the chronic problems that hamper their development or threaten their existence.

Problem Causes and Why They Become Chronic
 With the Big Bang, the universe became one huge web of systems composed of subsystems, which in themselves are composed of their own subsystems. Moreover, with the Big Bang, time and space began.
 As time advances, change occurs but the subsystems do not change at the same speed. The change is not synchronous. Some subsystems change faster than others. A company, for instance, is a system composed of marketing, sales, operations, human capital, and financial subsystems. Marketing changes faster than sales which changes faster than operations. Taking even more time to change are accounting, the information systems, and their digitalization. Slowest to change is the human-capital subsystem; try changing attitudes, or an organizational culture . . . Because the subsystems do not change at the same speed, in time the system they pertain to disintegrates. The system develops gaps which are manifested in what we call “problems.” Analyze any problem—in your physical well-being, in politics, in corporate management, or in your marriage—and you’ll find it was caused by some sort of disintegration; something fell apart, and it fell apart because there was some kind of change.

 If we do not handle change correctly, the problem caused by change becomes chronic, and as change continues, disintegration continues, and the problem becomes graver and graver until it becomes a crisis.
 The solution, therefore, is to either stop change or learn how to manage it.
  No one can stop change because no one can stop time.
  Since problems are manifestations of disintegration, it follows that the solution should be integration. This solution, however, should not be a one-time effort. It requires an ongoing, never-ending process because change is ongoing, too.

 The effort of achieving integration is becoming increasingly complicated because the rate of change is accelerating. The faster the rate of change, the faster the problems appear that need to be addressed. Since the subsystems are interrelated—and have their own sub-subsystems that are also changing at different speeds—the problems facing us are not only accelerating at a higher and higher rate, but are also complex; they involve more and more subsystems; They are multidisciplinary and multifunctional. This often means the integration needs to encompass all or most of the organization, or at least several of its subsystems.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Organization
 When a system disintegrates, it needs to funnel energy to the problem area in order to keep the disintegrating parts working in unison. Since at any point in time energy is fixed, the energy spent to keep the disintegrated system working leaves less and less energy available to cope with the external environment. That is why when we are physically or mentally sick, we feel energy depleted and have   difficulty handling chronic problems. When we are worried about someone we say, “This person is falling apart. He or she is coming unglued.“ And when we are impressed with someone we say, "This person has it all together.” or, “This family has it all together.” or, “This country has it all together.”
 Falling apart—disintegration—is a sign of sickness. Keeping it together—integration—is a sign of health.
 I have worked with companies that had incredible technology, the market needed their product, and with technology and market demand it was no challenge to raise funds and finance the endeavor. They had market demand, technology, and money—the big three. But despite this, they failed. Why? The partners were fighting; instead of battling the external markets to succeed, their energy was depleted because they were unable to get a handle on their internal conflicts.

Consulting, Coaching, and OD vs. Organizational Therapy
 Different practices have emerged to help companies handle the chronic problems they cannot solve by themselves: consulting, coaching, and organizational development.
 Consulting companies try to solve corporate problems, such as losing market share, by providing strategic-planning services to help integrate the company better within its market. Most consulting efforts, however, end up on a shelf or are badly implemented because consulting firms try to manage change by focusing on external factors. They provide strategic planning while ignoring the internal organizational dynamics that could be causing the company to fall apart. As a result, the company does not have sufficient energy left to implement the strategic plan. If the consulting firm works on the inside, providing supply chain or human resources consulting, the treatment does not treat multiple subsystems that might need integration if the solution is going to be sustainable.
 Changing the organizational structure, as some consulting firms do, may be necessary but not sufficient to heal an unhealthy organization—because the way the company is managed might be riddled with internal conflicts that will continue to waste energy. In fact, a reorganization might accentuate the internal conflicts and make the situation even worse.
  To manage change it is not enough to change how people interact, which is the focus of organizational development. OD works on changing group dynamics, i.e., changing the culture that is influencing how the company is managed. OD is necessary, yes, but not sufficient for solving chronic strategic problems. Changing the process without changing the power structure of the company is like trying to change how a river flows without changing the river banks. With time and change—and the problems that emerge with change that might generate conflicts—the benefits of OD get increasingly shallow.
  Another approach to healing an organization is coaching which focuses on improving the leadership’s style and  decisions made. This may work in a growing company where the leader is typically in control of the organization. But in a company on the declining curve, that is actively falling apart, internal politics can get in the way of making or implementing the right decisions of the leader.

  When a company has disintegrated, the structure, process, and style of leadership ALL need to change—and in the right sequence—if the solution is going to be sustainable. This is where organizational therapy comes in.
   Organizational Therapy represents a paradigm shift in the way sustainable solutions are applied to chronic problems.

On Mutual Trust and Respect
 When a company disintegrates what is lost in the culture is mutual trust and respect. With less and less trust and respect, the waste of energy becomes more and more significant and there is less and less energy left to compete in the market space.
 Organizational therapy focuses on increasing mutual trust and respect, which are a function of a common vision and values, a diversified organizational structure, disciplined collaborative decision-making processes, and a mature leadership who command (and grant) respect and trust.
 The purpose of the Adizes Program for Organizational Therapy is to foster those variables,  which in turn allows the company to conserve energy and use it to cope effectively and efficiently with the changing environments it faces and the problems change generates.

 Over a series of eleven workshops, the Adizes Program works intermittently on strategy and structure, while teaching a decision-making process which is based on mutual trust and respect. In doing so, the following is intended to be achieved:

• Define and design a common vision and values that is shared by all the movers and shakers of the organization
• Create a diversified structure that makes the organization effective and efficient in the short and long run
• Imbed a process of decision making based on mutual respect and trust
• Change managerial styles to honor and practice mutual trust and respect


The Adizes Program has been tested in thousands of companies—from start-ups to Fortune 50s—in fifty-two countries, and in almost all major industries. It is delivered by Certified Adizes Associates of the Adizes Institute. (Please refer to the testimonials at www.adizes.com)

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes