Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Organizational Change vis a vis Things Fall Apart

I recently finished reading Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. It’s a story about Okonkwo, an African tribal man who spends his entire life trying to prove his strength. Toward the end of the book his tribe is changing, it’s embracing peace instead of its usual stance of war. Okonkwo believes so strongly in the old ways of his tribe that it becomes impossible for him to embrace the tribe’s new way of thinking.

While reading this book I was struck by how companies and their employees go through this conflict on a daily basis. Companies are built and destroyed by the culture they create. And that culture can change at any time for a number of reasons, such as the appointment of a new CEO or the implementation of a new growth strategy. Employees are expected to be resilient and adapt to the changes around them. However, without a strong leader, someone who is willing to take the time to explain the changes, the meaning of the changes and the vision the changes are meant to deliver it becomes seemingly difficult to accept them. This failing leaves a company with a string of Okonkwos, feeling petulant to the changes around them until they’re left with no other choice but to leave. It’s a good reminder that humans are innately resistant to change, but with a strong, charismatic leader, change becomes easier and cultures can be built around it.

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