Tag Archives: The Paradox

Paradox 4x1,5

Harnessing the Power of Paradox

The very nature of business transformation is a paradox.

A fundamental principle of transformation and part of what makes transformation different than ‘change’ is that the polarization of mindset from current state to transformed state is so dramatic that the two ways of thinking are nearly impossible to consider together.

The Transformational Organization Paradigm uses the naturally occurring paradoxes in thinking, activity, and outcome as a source of forward propulsion for transformative work. At each level of the organization affected by transformative work paradoxes of intention, demand, skillset, goal and purpose exist. Identifying these as transformative work is approached and as they emerge over the course of the initiative is typically untapped success leverage. Leaders, operational staff and program and project team members will often be shocked into immobilization when confronted by paradoxical demands inherent in transformative work, or otherwise may have difficulty navigating the paradoxes and working through them. In doing so they ignore a powerful tool that may be used to move more deftly through ambiguity and uncertainty toward the transformed state.

Transformative paradoxes must be taken in as a whole rather than expressed in piecemeal by individual risk items or issue items or resistance items. And, the greatest forward motion a transformative effort can gain is through constantly encountering and resolving the highest friction point within the paradox.

The Transformational Organization maps the transformation paradoxes across the organizations formal and informal functions, groups, and teams as part of the transformation strategy work. And as each program, project, task force, work package and activity is approached the paradoxes inherent in moving from current state to transformed state are remapped at lower and lower levels.

The identification, mapping and navigation of paradoxes also forms a large part of specific change intelligence capabilities related to turning unacceptable unknowns/uncertainty into acceptable unknowns/uncertainty in the minds of executive, management and staff.

Navigating paradoxes is a skill that requires each leader and team member to confront the opposing directives, thinking, activity, outcome, assumptions, intention, demand, skillset, goal or purpose within the current context and ask questions like : What new truth are realizing at this point? What is real and harness-able at this moment that will move us forward? What can I think and do now that matters?

The image above represents the paradox that is the very nature of business transformation.

Organization Metaphors – Morgan 2006

Here are a set of slides that describe the metaphors posed by Gareth Morgan in 2006 in his book Images of Organisation to describe in more visual terms the types of organizations (culture, value system, and structure).

The central thesis of this book is that all theories of organisation and management are based on implicit metaphor, and that metaphors play a paradoxical role: they are vital to understanding and highlighting certain aspects of organisations, while at the same time they restrict understanding by backgrounding or ignoring others.

Open Slide DeckSlide Deck on Organization Metaphors - Morgan 2006

Paradox : A Gestalt Theory of Change

by Herb Stevenson

Underlying the application of Gestalt theory to organization development, consulting, and/or coaching is an approach that Arnold Biesser, M.D., characterized in 1970 as the paradoxical theory of change. This theory, which has become the foundation of practice at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, flows from the primary premise that meaning manifests through the differentiation, dissolution and integration—a form of absorption—of polarities. This article provides an understanding of the theoretical concepts that underpin Gestalt theory as it relates to polarity, paradox and dilemma.



Transformational and Coercive Strategies for Planned Organizational Change: Beyond the OD Model

This paper challenges the universality of O.D. theory, arguing that it presents an incomplete model of organizational change. Two contrasting ‘theories’ of organization al change are compared and evaluated (the incremental and transformational theses)  and also two contrasting methods of change: participation and coercion. All four approaches are seen as legitimate components  of a differentiated contingency model of change. The model has implications for the choice of strategies for managing organizational change in differing circumstances and for the training of change agents.

-Dexter C. Dunphy, Doug A. Statce, Australian Graduate School of Managment, Uof New South Wales