Sunday, December 12, 2010


I was at a workshop on managing change in organizations. Every organization goes through change of some sort or the other. In today's recessionary world or post recessionary world (I will let your optimism decide), there are many changing business models and large scale impact to folks. So, is change good or bad? Well, the cliche is that the only constant is change, that change is neutral. That is true for organizations and that is true for our lives as well.

In fact, this workshop talked about four stages that repeat in every organization's life-cycle. The initial stages or the start-up mode, the ongoing operation and growth mode, the white water mode or the troubled "in between" phase followed by the new resurgent phase. In a way, when you look at various companies, it is true that over a long period of time, it goes through this cycle. The big example for everything these days is Apple. So, let's look at the Apple example and you will see these phases including the resurgent phase with the launch of the iPod. Apple was reborn and resurrected itself in a new avatar....not a computer company any more. They removed the word "Computer" from Apple Computer in 2007.

I thought about this example and discussed with other participants in the workshop. I began to see parallels between this organizational theory and what I had read a few years earlier in a book, "The Tibetan book of living and dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche. This book talks about impermanence. It talks about preparing for the biggest change in our lives. The biggest change called Death. It talks about four stages or bardos. It talks about life and living, about death and dying, about the in-between times after death and finally, the becoming or the new life. One finds immense similarity in modern day organizational theories and age old spiritual theories. It reinforces both theories in my mind. Yes, both organizations and individuals go through the four bardos. In fact, mountains change shape, rivers dry up, icy continents start melting, stars burn out, everything undergoes change. Everything goes through the four bardos.

Preparing for each change is what life is about, be it in an organization or otherwise. Don't cling on to the old models, because you built them. Don't hang on to that old system because it served you well in the past. Don't hold on...change. I met a senior person who had, in the sixties or seventies, been part of a team that implemented the huge bank cheque sorter and reader machines. Now, he ran that whole department and this at a time when imaging and image based cheques were taking over from the sorter and reader machines. He mentioned to me that it was difficult to see what he had implemented as cutting edge solution back then was now being replaced. He found it difficult to digest and he loved the old system, yet, he had to move on to newer ways of doing things. Don't underestimate the pain of change, don't underestimate the feeling of loss, prepare for it. Understand the opportunities for transformation, for liberation that each bardo shows us and be ready for it.

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