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Organization Transformation (OT) is a new field. Early on, OT was a diverse field of practice, clearly comfortable with an eclectic set of theories, and a similarly diverse set of interventions. Levy and Merry, in their textbook Organization Transformation: Approaches, Strategies, Theories, identified six different OT theories. Kochan and Useem, in Transforming Organizations, described OT as being everything from strategic restructuring to an effort designed to produce "learning organizations." Nadler, Shaw, and Walton, in their book Discontinuous Change: Leading Organization Transformations, likewise described OT as a diverse set of theories, suggesting there were at least five different "leverage points" that could create an organizational transformation. In their book, Levy and Merry summed up the OT field this way; "...there has not been, as yet, any comprehensive publication covering the OT field..."

TLO'S OT DEFINITION

At TLO we've thought a lot about Levy and Merry's observation. Recently we spent six months searching the internet for anything that might qualify as a unified theory of organizational transformation. This search came up empty, but it did convince us that Levy and Merry are still right; there is no one authoritative statement presently available that defines what OT is. Nothing exists that unifies the organization transformation field into one cohesive field of practice.  

Given this, we’ve concluded that if we want to help a senior executive transform their organization, we must be able to offer them three things:

  • First, a coherent theory of our own that identifies OT’s essential purpose;

  • Second, a statement that defines OT’s essential elements and components; and

  • Third, a framework that explains OT”s essential dynamics and processes.

In short, we must know, understand, and be able to explain to a client all the components and why each of them needs to be transformed. In addition, we must have in hand a relevant set of transformation-inducing interventions. We must have a variety of specific change interventions that, over an extended period of time, reliably produces irreversible alterations in everything the organization is and does. We must be able to detail what organizational transformations involve and be able to implement the best-practice interventions that prompt both dramatic internal, system-wide infrastructure changes and, as well, all the radical external changes that must be made outside the organization, especially in the organization's competitive, regulatory, and customer networks. Organization transformation must be a system-wide revolution, or it's nothing.

Here at TLO, we’re clear that effective organizational transformation must ultimately alter the organization's bedrock elements. To be effective, a transformational effort must revolutionize both those bedrock elements that are inside the organization and those that are outside. In short, an organization transformation must accomplish four complex, comprehensive, integrated results: 

  • Recast and rebuild the organization's basic structure, and it's fundamental strategic and operational processes.

  • Reframe and reintegrate the organization's stakeholder networks, especially those that legitimize, control, and supply it.

  • Respect and support the organization's constructive and destructive change dynamics.

  • Recognize and catalyze the short, medium, and long-term mindset and Order of Consciousness shifts that the organization's key leaders, stakeholders, and employees must make.

Additional OT Resources

To get a complete picture of TLO’s definition of what an organizational transformation is, and requires, click the navigation button just below. It will take you to our Organizational Transformation Resource Center. There you’ll find a complete definition, a list or best practices and leading OT practitioners, and a number of excellent thought papers. Follow this up by scheduling a free exploratory conversation with us about your specific transformational needs and interests.