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The Rhythm of Change

Dispelling the notion that today's business milieu is one of unremitting change, Huy and Mintzberg urge managers to realize that we perceive our environment to be in constant flux because we tend to notice only those things that do change. While conceding that some important changes have taken place in recent decades, they point out that stability and continuity actually form the basis of our experience, providing the contextual meaning of change. And because many things remain stable, change has to be managed with a profound appreciation of stability. Accordingly, there are times when change is sensibly resisted; for example, when an organization should simply continue to pursue a perfectly good strategy.

Having acquired in-depth familiarity with many organizational-change situations (some gleaned from their experiences as consultants or when working in managerial capacities, others as part of research projects to track the strategies actually used by companies over many decades), the authors present a framework in which pragmatic, coherent approaches to thinking about change can be explored.

Although a lot of attention is focused on the type of change that is imposed dramatically from the top, Huy and Mintzberg believe that this view should be tempered by the realization that effective organizational change often emerges inadvertently (organic change) or develops in a more orderly fashion (systematic change). Because dramatic change alone can be just drama, systematic change by itself can be deadening, and organic change without the other two can be chaotic, the authors argue that they must be combined or, more often, sequenced and paced over time, creating a rhythm of change. When functioning in a kind of dynamic symbiosis, dramatic change can instead provide impetus, systematic change can instill order, and organic change can generate enthusiasm.

The authors illustrate their framework with older and newer examples, saying that this highlights another crucial point: The problem with change is the present. Today's obsession with change tends to blind managers to the fact that the basic processes of change and continuity do not change.

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