Journal Article | Harvard Business Review | June 2010

Change for Change's Sake

by Freek Vermeulen, Phanish Puranam and Ranjay Gulati

Abstract

No one disputes that firms have to make organizational changes when the business environment demands them. But the idea that a firm might want change for its own sake often provokes skepticism. Why inflict all that pain if you don't have to? That is a dangerous attitude. A company periodically needs to shake itself up, regardless of the competitive landscape. Even if the external environment is not changing in ways that demand a response, the internal environment probably is. The human dynamics within an organization are constantly shifting--and require the organization to change along with them. Over time, informal networks mirror the formal structure, which is how silos develop; restructuring gets people to start forming new networks, making the organization as a whole more creative. It also disrupts all the routines in an organization that collectively stifle innovation and adaptability. Finally, restructuring breaks up the outdated power structures that may be quietly misdirecting a company's resource allocation. All these processes--silo formation, the accretion of deadening routines, and the emergence of corporate baronies--take place all the time. But when everything is going well, you tend not to notice them, just as many seemingly fit people don't realize that their arteries may be dangerously clogged. A simple questionnaire can serve as a kind of cholesterol test for your company, enabling you to see if your regimen needs minor or major adjustments.

Keywords: Interpersonal Communication; Innovation and Invention; Leading Change; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Organizational Structure; Creativity; Power and Influence; Adaptation;

Citation:

Vermeulen, Freek, Phanish Puranam, and Ranjay Gulati. "Change for Change's Sake." Harvard Business Review 88, no. 6 (June 2010).