This following blog post is an excerpt from Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes’ Founders Session speech, delivered at the 2011 Adizes International Convention in Vilnius, Lithuania. (This is part 3 of a 6 part series)

Organizational Healing

The first part of this presentation has discussed why we, in Adizes, exist. But what we do is not easy. Machiavelli already said it: If you want to be hated, try changing people. When we work with companies there is always someone who doesn’t like us because we are trying to cause change.

The lifespan of a consultant is about seven years, unless he becomes a partner—then he manages other guys to suffer. With our methodology we have consultants who have been with us for over thirty years, because we are not consultants. We are organizational healers. We make organizations healthy, strong, and capable of changing.

Now, how do we do it?


We Are Structuralists

I like companies where they fight a lot, because there is energy. When I go to a company where they all agree and everything is fine, it’s like a cemetery. There’s no energy.

Energy is like waterfall. If you do not channel it, it will make a flood and destroy everything in the way. If you channel it, you can make electricity. What we do is to channel energy by structuring it.

We are different from what are called phenomenologists. There are millions of phenomenologists doing organizational development, who also believe they are healers because they try to fix interpersonal relations: “Why don’t we understand each other; let’s communicate better; let’s change our attitude,” etc.

We are structuralists. We structure energy so it flows in the right channels, and it’s not like the Nile, spreading itself all over the place, creating a flood.

Let me give you an analogy. One summer, when my son Shoham was about five years old, I bought him a globe. He came to me with the globe in his hands and asked, “Daddy, why is the globe tilted?”

“Well, son,” I explained, “if the globe was not tilted—if the globe was horizontal or vertical—what would we lose?”

We’d lose the seasons! What would happen to life if we had a 12-month, non-stop winter? Who would be the only ones to survive? Polar bears. If a camel, by mistake, ended up in the North Pole, it would have several choices. Choice one: die. Choice two: get the hell out of here while he’s still alive. But if you’re an intelligent camel, and there’s no place to go, what would you do? Choice three: adapt. Develop a polar bear’s skin.

When we take on a company that is very bureaucratic, it is like the North Pole. Nothing grows there. In these cases, I remind myself of the story with my son. In a North Pole organization the people all look like polar bears, but many of them are camels in polar bear skin. They are very entrepreneurial after working hours, but during working hours they act like polar bears, bureaucrats.

How would phenomenologists, or people from OD organizations, or from psychological, sociological backgrounds, try to change the culture? Take them to a seminar, in a beautiful resort, and make these polar bears exercise and experience the beauty of being a camel. They get very excited, doing all kinds of exercises to increase mutual trust: fall into my arms, jump over this, or climb over a wall—all kinds of exercises to develop mutual trust and respect.

What happens when the people go back to the company? It’s snowing here, and all the training to be a camel is very short-lived. They become, very quickly, polar bears again.

It is not just regression; there was damage done. People lose hope. When the next consultant comes and tells them to trust each other, the company reacts with, “Get out of here. I’ve heard this before.”

In Adizes, only in this kind of a lecture do we talk about mutual trust and respect. After that, we don’t use these words anymore. We do it. We don’t talk about it. Talk is cheap. We do it following the adage: don’t tell me you love me, start bringing flowers.

What do we do? We tilt the globe so there is space for polar bears, and space for camels. There is even space for snakes. There is space for all. Tilting the globe creates diversity based on mutual trust and respect.

Our main focus is organizational structure, but we go about it differently from typical consultants. They map out organizational structures from a penthouse office somewhere. They design a chart and give it to the company as a recommendation. I don’t believe in that. That method is like a prescription, a drug.


Organizational Homeopathy

I believe more in homeopathy. You can treat yourself. We provide tools for the company to structure itself. We give the company tools to learn how to resolve conflicts constructively, by themselves. We give them tools to define their mission correctly, themselves.

Treat yourself. That is why we have such a high rate of implementation. I will not be so arrogant to say 100%, but to tell you the truth, I think it is 100%. We have no problems with implementation. I just finished helping a company in Russia, with 65,000 employees, with their structure. I asked them when they were going to implement it. They looked at me and said, “We already have.”

We have zero problems with implementation because we did not decide on the changes, the organization did. Some clients, by the way, say, “What did we pay you for? We did all the work.” I don’t consider it an offense. I think it is success. I feel like a good music teacher, whose student is giving a beautiful concerto while I am in the audience. We get paid for organizations to take care of themselves.

By the way, you don’t have to use Adizes Associates to take care of yourself. Read my books, and if you can develop your own ways of building a culture of mutual trust and respect, getting the right organizational structure, etc., do it!

Most companies, however, need somebody to come in and tell them what they have to do. They need someone to remind them to do their homework. We have forty years of experience, and 1,200 pages of manuals. It takes three years to train a good Associate to start producing results. We have a graduate school to train people in the Adizes Methodology for organizational transformation. So, this is serious stuff.

Just thinking.

Ichak Kalderon Adizes

Stay tuned for part 4 next week.