Organizatinal change and innovation- understanding tribes in Afghanistan and thinning out

September, 2010 .Face it – innovation and change in organizations is really difficult but most business organizational change and innovation pale in comparison to what Gen Petraeus needs to deliver in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, we have thousands of years of poor governance compared to the benchmark of the observers’ governance standard of the time.

But hey -something must have always worked in Afghanistan  and Gen Petraeus puts it brilliantly when  he says that the US needs to better understand how the tribes work both in terms of formal systems and informal ones.Once there is deeper understanding Gen Petreaus suggests that there be a thinning out of the US forces that would support structures that work rather than a wholescale sudden handover.

This deep appreciation of trying to understand what a social system  really is- is very applicable to the typical business organization. Questions like  these are useful:

  • What are the organizations’ formal and informal elements?
  • Who are the anti-change folks  and who are the more progressive movers and shakers?
  • How can you set the right direction for change and thin out your change efforts  eventually? 

Most important is to understand that organizations work at the real local level. It is precisely this local nature of roadblocks that threaten innovation and change in large organizations.

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