We can observe three ways that organisations change: none of them are fixed, and many will touch upon all three, but very few will achieve the top state, becoming Dynamic and thriving in constant change.
Resistant organisations are ones that see change around them but deny that it will affect them. Often they believe that their mass and momentum, the bricks and mortar, the footprint and infrastructure that got them this far will somehow make them immune to change. They expect that others will be eroded or swept aside but that they themselves will continue to thrive as they have done for so long. This is a fallacy: in a changing world history, size, and excellence in the current world maybe the very things that make us unable, or possibly unwilling, to adapt to the new one.
Resistant organisations deploy antibodies: they attack and root out dissenting voices, they marginalise or deny permission, they seek to maintain the status quo that they are so heavily invested within. When change does affect them, they heal over it and form layers of scar tissue that make them ever less likely to truly adapt. You cannot change a Resistant organisation, at least not with pressure from outside, you can simply wait for it to fail and pick up the pieces. Fortunately many organisations only have pockets of resistance, but that may be enough to make them unable to truly adapt.
Constrained organisations, by contrast, understand that they are operating in a new world and are actively doing something about it. They have allocated budgets, set projects in motion, recruited and motivated key people, and believe that they are dealing with the issues at hand. In two years time we typically see that they still understand the challenges, some projects have delivered and others are still running, some people are still leading, some have moved on, and others have drifted in. The energy is not aligned, with success being judged on a project by project basis whilst the juggernaut itself continues to move forward. Constrained organisations are well-intentioned but fall into lethargy as control effects takeover and they fail to truly take both the brave formal and engaged social decisions that will transform.
Many organisations are constrained, well-meaning, but ultimately failing to adapt in holistic, comprehensive, and effective ways. We can help these organisations to change if we are able to overcome the resistance, but the starting point for that may be to realise that we ourselves are part of that resistance. To change, we need to map the landscape, create individual agency, and generate momentum by building a change community and creating opportunities for individuals to invest themselves in the future state and co-create it with us.
Dynamic organisations are rare, but I would argue that to be excellent we must become dynamic, because only a Dynamic organisation can demonstrate true agility, and ability not just to survive but to thrive in times of constant change. A Dynamic organisation is able to adapt at speed and do so again tomorrow without great expenditure of emotional or physical collateral. Being Dynamic is not about a system or process, not simply about money or time, but rather about mindset, community, and a deep understanding of stories, co-creation, and amplification.
Organisations that manage to move through this curve become not just Dynamic, but Socially Dynamic, empowered by the communities that they nurture and value.