Time to Introduce Change

The time to introduce change is at point B when the system is growing. The dilemma is that in the short run, the costs are likely to be greater than the benefits. It is only when the new changes are adopted and the system is working well that the outcomes’ curve turns upward again. One dilemma is that the costs of change are real and include adding people and shifting production lines, while the benefits of change are uncertain. Managers believe the changes will improve productivity and profits, but that may not occur. By holding off investing in change, an organization may improve its profits in the short run. However, if environmental conditions continue to change and the organization fails to adjust in a timely fashion, executives can quickly find themselves lagging behind their competitors, scrambling to adapt, and running to catch up. If management waited too long to adapt, then an organization may find it impossible to do so. The escalating rate of change, combined with the frequency and magnitude of disruptions being experienced by firms point to the dangers of being laggards!

By the time the system reaches point A, the need for change is obvious, but it may also be too late for the organization to survive without experiencing significant trauma. Positive planned change needs to be commenced sooner in the process—before things deteriorate to a crisis or disaster stage. Unfortunately, change typically comes with costs that appear to lessen the positive outcomes in the short run. As many know, convincing anyone that they should incur costs, make investments, and initiate changes now for long-run benefits is a difficult selling task, particularly if things are going well. This is depicted as the shaded space between the solid and dotted lines beginning at point B in Figure 2.1. The costs of change appear certain and are tangible. But the benefits are uncertain and often vaguely defined. The time after point B is a time of two competing views of the future, and people will have difficulty abandoning the first curve (the one they are on) until they are convinced of the benefits of the new curve. In concrete terms, creating change at point B means convincing others about the wisdom of spending time and money now for an uncertain future return.

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In the following pages we present six models for thinking about and changing organizations. These models are both discrete and complementary. Below is an overview of what you will find in these models.

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