Management Articles


No Change Without Control

By: Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

President of The Mansis Development Corporation, Dr. Kent is a specialist in the structure and management of small and medium-sized organizations, and frequently serves as a personal coach and management consultant to executives for solving their management and employee performance problems. Before founding his consulting company, Bob held senior management and executive positions in federal and provincial government and private corporations. He has been a director of several health care and service organizations and a consulting member of private and government task forces in the areas of government finance, organization structure, personnel management and executive development. Since 1972 he has lectured in management at several Canadian and American universities in the faculties of Management, Administrative Studies, Medicine and Continuing Education where he has been an award winner for excellence in teaching and professional expertise; and he has published over 125 books and articles on management.

Change is the constant in today's economy. It's almost a cliché. But being able to install change and maintain it, to get an organization to change direction on demand, are now mandatory skills for all leaders and executives.

New technologies and legislation, changing aspirations of the population, economic and ecological crises, and for many, free trade with the Americans and other countries, make the need to change quickly and effectively, absolutely crucial for the survival of contemporary organizations.

But a fundamental point needs to be emphasized about change. To some it may seem trivial. Yet many organizational leaders seems to ignore this axiom: "You can't purposefully change the direction of what you don't control." Consider driving a car, riding a horse, or racing down a steep hill on a toboggan. It's pretty much impossible to change direction if you're not in control.

The corollary to this is: "Organizational change is determined by whomever controls the organization." Why does it seem that nobody can ever change the Post Office, government public service, huge corporations, or the churches? Is it because we're not sure who or what really controls these organizations?

Being in control of an organization means being able to directly influence the behavior, actions and performance of all members of the organization. It means not letting people do as they please for fear of upsetting someone. It also means being aware of what members of the organization are doing, and ensuring that people in your organization are all performing their assignments the way you feel they have to be done.

Typically, in organizations where making a major change has been impossible, the executive were not in control. They would rant and rave but the organization would do what it wanted to do, and its momentum would win the day.

I think it would be an interesting study to compare the Japanese deference to authority, acceptance of control and ability to change, with the North American organizational rigidity and its antipathy towards any perceived threat to individual freedom.

In Canada, there are corporate leaders and business writers who espouse an aversion to the word control, and seem to confuse authoritative with authoritarian. Pierre Berton recently wrote, "...we venerate institutional authority in Canada; we don't venerate the individuals who wield it." For some reason our culture abhors the idea that our business or government leaders should ever be able to exert control over what we do.

But if the executives of the 1990s want to be able to install change and turn their organizations "on a dime", they first must be in control of their organizations - and do it in ways which do not suppress individual freedoms or reduce the dignity of the workforce.

© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation

Other Articles by Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

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