Blog – The Sustainability Zone

Shaun McCarthy, Managing Director and Chairman Human Synergistics Australia

The idea of change is a hot topic amongst organisations today. But what role does stability play? Research by Noel Burchell and Darl Kolb* sheds light on this, suggesting that stability is an equally important factor in executing the long term success of a business.

Stability should not only be seen for its association with conformity, control, formalisation, hierarchy, status quo and standardisation. Leaders need to recognise the role stability plays in gaining efficiencies, organising and managing business, knowledge accumulation, giving meaning and security to employees, reducing uncertainty and building trust.

It is thus worth giving consideration to why it is that there is always a level of resistance to change initiatives. This is indeed quite normal behaviour, and a necessary part of the change process. Could it be in fact that those resisting the change are providing insight into the need to maintain certain key business practices that underpin past and perhaps future success?

The culture of our organisations shapes the mindsets of our people. Are behaviours associated with maintaining quality and consistency rewarded thus developing mindsets associated with stability, or are we rewarding learning, risk taking and innovation and by doing so encouraging a change mindset? Surely both are necessary. Balancing the two is a fine art. Too much focus on change can lead to a state of chaos, and conversely too much focus on stability will result in inertia or stagnation. Burchell and Kolb depict this diagrammatically as shown in Figure 1 below. Organisations that are able to pull the strings of change and stability in order to remain within the sustainability zone will be successful in a competitive environment. Culture is the vehicle for achieving this balance.

Stability & change for sustainability, Burchell N. & D. Kolb, The University of Auckland Business Review. Vol 8 No. 2, 2006

*Noel Burchell is the Associate Head of the School for Management and Entrepreneurship, and a Senior Lecturer at Unitec Institute of technology. Darl Kolb is a Senior Lecturer and Group Leader of Organisational Change and Innovation at The University of Auckland Business School, and a Research Associate of the New Zealand Leadership Institute.


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