Introduction to CDSM Values-Based Organizational Change Dynamics

An organization, like the people within it, can change during the course of its lifetime. At times the expectations and behaviours of the two can be in alignment and the organization can be termed 'healthy'. At some times the healthy organization can lose the alignment between human and organizational values and be termed 'dysfunctional' - i.e. losing the ability to be agile, losing resilience, creating 'toxic' working environments, etc.

After a multi-decade body of research across 26 major nations covering 60% of the world population - including a wide variety of historical backgrounds, economic systems, political systems, religious beliefs and human values systems across representative adult populations spanning several generations - it can be clearly seen that there are a few powerful characteristics that drive the cultural forces in all human societies and the organizations and institutions that support and frame individual and group interactions.

Among the varied factors we have measured there emerge four clear insights that drive almost every problem and solution in corporate change programs:

  • Organizational cultures reflect human values systems.
  • Human values systems, within individuals, can increase in complexity over time.
  • Organizational systems may or may not reflect the changing complexity of human values systems of the people who work within the confines of the organizational culture.
  • The degree to which they do reflect the values systems of the people involved determines, to a significant degree, the viability and robustness of organizational agility and sustainability.

Organizations are created and sustained for many purposes - to produce products, to produce services, to produce policies and laws, to produce profits for shareholders, and on and on. Each one's purpose is defined by human values.

Organizational values systems, like human values systems, form the bedrock of all perceptions, beliefs and motivations about 'the way I/we do things' in the workplace. Creating a meaningful alignment between the two interdependent systems (individual and organizational) is today's biggest challenge to leaders and managers within organizations.

Organizational cultures/values systems were initially developed to produce systems of behaviour to facilitate the delivery of repetitive and simple tasks - often not much more than the individual values systems equivalent of following simple rules like saying 'please' and 'thank you'.

The rules have traditionally been defined by the person/leader or specific specialists at the top of the organizational, or cultural, hierarchy - or, collectively, the Board. But these people, often furthest away from the everyday workings of an organization, are frequently the last to understand emerging dysfunctionalities in their organization as human needs are 'satisficed' (thoughts and actions being 'good enough') and begin to change.

CDSM's research shows that new, additional human needs become active once simple human needs are satisfied within the workplace - simple needs like:

  • providing a safe place to work.
  • security in the expectancy of income.
  • a sense of being recognized by peers and authorities, etc

At that time formerly engaged and committed people, performing simple tasks well, can and do lose focus and motivation as their values system increases in complexity.

This simple understanding has been the basis for CDSM to help many types of organizations understand and rectify organizational values systems misalignments that were leading to suboptimal performance and breakdowns in the corporate culture.

Our understanding of the historical developmental dynamics of human and organizational values systems leads us to believe that the hierarchical form of organization, that has proved robust through most of recorded history, is not easily replaceable, because it has many systemic strengths in terms of human development.

But, as the world changes, so do the dynamics within hierarchical organizations, caused by interactions between individual and organizational values systems, which continually result in 'unbalanced' development at various times.

Unbalancing is the unanticipated consequence of simple objectives and behaviours that have been healthily functional in providing simple solutions.

Without a clear understanding of personal and organizational values systems, and the dynamics of development at multiple levels, many pundits and experts and managers often misdiagnose these basic factors. As a result, they recommend or implement processes and solutions that rectify the initial situation, only to generate more unanticipated consequences.

These simple insights should drive solutions to the vast majority of problems experienced within organizational change programs - changing 'the way we do business around here' - but practitioners need to build a body of method to ensure the changes 'stick'.

In a series of short articles, we will lay out the basic principles of human values system-based organizational development that will rectify much of the misunderstandings about organizational development, and many of the reasons so many culture change programs are initially unrealistic and ultimately unsuccessful.

We will use tools and concepts we have developed over decades of original thinking, unique research and multiple applications.

You will be able to use experience to reveal, explain and provide guidance for implementation in specific and general circumstances.

In addition to our original research, we will highlight current research from academic research and other consultants as well as a range of articles and links to current and past commentaries relating to the specific areas covered in the short articles.

Commenting on current issues will hopefully help you appreciate the value of identifying and understanding deep, structural, values-driven trends that are inherent in all organizations and cultures; and present you with a clear view of how to work with these forces for a successful future.

Cultural Dynamics Strategy & Marketing Ltd.          email:          tel: +44 (0)208 744 2546