On Organizational Therapy

April 30, 2021

What causes problems, why they become chronic, and why companies need external help.

 With the Big Bang, the universe became one huge web of systems composed of subsystems, which in themselves are composed of their own subsystems. With the Big Bang time and space started and 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 starts to  disintegrate. 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, the problem becomes graver and graver until it becomes a crisis.
           The solution than 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 than  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 increasingly complex; They involve more and more subsystems. They are multidisciplinary and multifunctional. This means the integration needs to encompass often all  or most of the organization, if not at least several of its subsystems.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Organization

  When a system disintegrates it wastes energy trying 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. 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. Coming 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, 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, mentoring and organizational development. Organizational therapy represents a paradigm shift in helping companies solve the chronic problems that hamper their development or threaten their existence.
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, that 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, the 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, 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 the 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. It focuses on improving the style  the decisions leaders make. It may work in a growing company where the leader usually is in control of the organization. But in a company on the declining curve of its life cycle, where  the company is falling apart,  internal politics get in the way of making the right decisions or impede implementing the right decisions. Coaching has a limited impact on solving the grave chronic problems a company might have.

 When a company is disintegrated, 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, is a paradigm shift in providing sustainable solutions to chronic problems.

Principles for organizational therapy

 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.
 The focus of organizational therapy is on increasing mutual trust and respect but not how OD or coaching will do. It is  a wholistic, systemic  program to develop corporate common vision and values, a diversified organizational structure, a disciplined collaborative decision-making processes, and mature leadership who commands (and grants) respect and trust, the variables that produce a culture of mutual trust and respect .
 BY increasing MT&R the company conserves energy and employs  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