The 12 Dilemmas of Change

ESADE - Executive MBA

This year I have been invited again to participate as assistant professor at the Experimental and Reflective Learning Week within the EMBA program at ESADE Business School.

This program is under the direction of Prof. Dr. Jaap J. Boonstra. Boonstra is former Dean at Sioo, interuniversity centre for organizational change and learning and professor in organizational change and learning at University of Amsterdam.

One of the most impressive learning from last year was “The 12 Dilemmas of Change”. It is a change development tool currently used by Boonstra from his own consultancy firm in Amsterdam.

It consists on a survey able to define the “profile of change” of an organization. Conveniently clustered, the results can identify differences on how each group perceives the company. The board of directors, the middle managers, a specific department or section, a country company or an affiliate, all of them have different perspectives. Hence different approaches must be taken to pursuit the processes of change.

Once the aimed profile has been defined it is possible to identify potential focus of resistance and discriminate solutions depending on how far they are on each of the twelve concepts. All the company politics are affected, recruitment, compensation, performance appraisal, selection, training and development, succession planning. This systemic approach ensures the whole success by applying local actions within a general strategy.

The 12 Dilemmas of Change are:

  • Dilemma 1: How much openness towards approach?

Solution-oriented versus Problem-oriented

  • Dilemma 2: How much participation?

Presentation of final proposals versus Consultation and participation of personnel

  • Dilemma 3: How strongly to structure and formalise?

Formal and controlled approach versus Informal and flexible approach

  • Dilemma 4: How much room for adjustment?

Once-only linear process versus Permanent iterative process

  • Dilemma 5: How much time pressure and monitoring?

Strict control of time schedule versus Time schedule dependent on process

  • Dilemma 6: Which change organization?

Projected organization versus Emergent organization

  • Dilemma 7: Which process rationality to use?

Economic and technical rationality versus Socio-political rationality

  • Dilemma 8: How standardised should change be?

Uniform implementation versus Differentiated implementation

  • Dilemma 9: How to read resistance?

An obstacle someone must take versus an expression of involvement

  • Dilemma 10: Involvement of managers and line leaders?

Informed about goals, plans and duties versus Full involved from the beginning

  • Dilemma 11: How much openness towards units in own organization?

Arrange internally versus External coalitions

  • Dilemma 12: How much participation of customers, business partners and public?

Closeness towards environment versus Openness toward environment

Recommended reading:

Boonstra, J. J. (2007). Dynamics of Organizational Change and Learning. (J. J. Boonstra, Ed.) Chichester, West Sussex, England: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.