Eric Abrahamson

Change Without Pain

Abstract:
Change or perish is a corporate truism, but so is its unhappy corollary: many companies change and perish. The process of change can tear an organization apart. Drawing on his research over ten years, the author suggests that companies alternate major change initiatives with carefully paced periods of smaller, organic change, using processes he calls tinkering and kludging (kludging is tinkering on a large scale). The result is dynamic stability, which allows change without fatal pain. Citing examples from General Electric to Barnesandnoble.com, the author describes dynamic stability as a process of continual but relatively small reconfigurations of existing practices and business models rather than the creation of new ones. As they tinker and kludge, successful companies would be wise to follow these four guidelines: reward shameless borrowing; appoint a chief memory officer who can help the company avoid making the same old mistakes; tinker and kludge internally before searching for solutions externally; and hire generalists, because generalists tend to be more adept at tinkering and kludging. As a paradigm of successful pacing, the author cites the efforts of Lou Gerstner at IBM, American Express Travel Related Services, and RJR Nabisco.

Source: Harvard Business Review
Exact Citation:
Abrahamson, Eric. "Change Without Pain." Harvard Business Review 78 (July 1, 2000): 75-79.
Volume: 78
Pages: 75-79
Date: 1 7 2000