Sustainability: Why Do Organizations Get Stuck… An EODC® Emergent Perspective

Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® is a registered trademark, 2017. All writings are considered under copyright as per The Institute For Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change®, Patrick Trottier and Associates. Written permission is required.

By Patrick Trottier, 2021

Do we need to rethink ‘resistance’ in facilitating organizational change, cultural change as well as sustainability for the long run in our rapidly changing and complex worlds? 

Maybe we need to reconsider and refocus on the process of change and development instead, and even consider the design of the organization itself?

Some say that ‘resistance’ is a natural state in any significant change process. Such a notion has given much focus to the prescribed issues and biases to the notion of ‘resistance’. What are the consequences to this perspective?

Is this the way to go?
Read: Rethinking Resistance:

Tom Peters, “Liberation Management” (1994) argues that change is actually normal and that people do it all the time –it is the process of change that we need to pay attention to.

In my experience, I tend to agree with Tom’s perspective. Think about this – people change their clothes, change their hair styles, their cars, their TV programs, their vacation spots, what they eat, what they read… etc., etc. all the time. It natural when given a choice and it makes sense, and they have the right degree of input, influence and control of the situation.

“Change is natural under the right conditions.”

On an organizational level,  why do organizations get stuck and not sustain within rapid and complex change in their worlds?

My experience and learning:

Organizations ‘get stuck’ not because they ‘resist change’, it is because they cannot ‘change’ with such rapid changes and complexities – even if they wanted to.

As a simple analogy, take a person who has lost both their legs. She / he do not resist walking. He /she wants to walk, but they cannot walk.

Why? It is because the ‘current form’ of their body does not constitute the ability to walk.

Organizations that ‘cannot walk’ (transform) are simply ‘closed systems’.

“Closed systems create and adapt to conditions only within their prescribed conditions to sustain their form, equilibrium and homeostasis for self-preservation.” (Patrick Trottier, sometime in the 1990s)

Most current organizational designs are still based on the traditional 19th – 20th Century industrial age hierarchy. Such are ‘closed systems’. Such ‘organizational forms’ are unable to emerge and evolve with their rapidly changing external and internal environments.

The industrial age hierarchical organizational ‘form’ does not constitute, nor facilitate the ability to transform – even if people wanted to.

Organizations that become sustainable are designed to be ‘open systems’ and their design allows the organization to emerge and evolve with their internal and external environments.

new-picture-1Collaborative, emergent networks:

NETWORKS PT 7                                              INTACT FUNCTIONAL NETWORK  stergm.sim_.1

One simple example of an emergent process to facilitate emerging, novel organizational forms:

On Organization Sustainability (a short note)

BEing an ‘open organizational system’ design, or a ‘closed organizational system’ design goes directly to the concepts and ability of  ‘sustainability’.

Which organizational design do you think facilitates ‘sustainability’?

  • A closed organization?
  • An open organization?

Concluding Thoughts

Maybe those that focus and use the term ‘resistance’ are to some degree and in some way;

a. Creating a ‘label’ or a ‘group’ seen as ‘resistors’ and another group that is seen as ‘strengths’, thus creating somewhat of a ‘we-they’ notion. This ‘segments’ an organization.

b. The organizational design may create a ‘self-fulling prophecy’  just as a grade school teacher, who believes his/her students won’t amount to anything in a poor inner-city school, may reinforce just that notion within the students themselves…

On an ‘organizational level, pay attention to the ‘design’ of the organization.

Is it an ‘open system’ design, or a ‘closed system’ design?

Can the design of the organization actually facilitate change /transformation, or inhibit transformation to the point where the organization actually cannot change within the ‘form’, and prescribed boundaries of the organization even if the people want to.

Or, can the design of an organization actually help an organization sustain in the rapidly changing and complex worlds they live in? 

I hope you have gotten something out of this short write-up.


About Patrick A. Trottier

I am a 30 plus year applied Organizational Development practitioner having honed my craft in the U.S., Canada and internationally. Presently living in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., I am currently developing the next evolution of O.D. termed; 'Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC)®, and focusing on Emergent OD®, Emergent Change® and the development of Emergent Organizations® within my professional practice.
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