You know it: There is constant change in your organization. From high agility back to a rigid structure back to agility? But why can it be that managers in organizations change course so often and feel from one extreme to the other?

The management pendulum

I believe it acts like a pendulum. Companies often react less proactively but rather reactively due to certain key figures such as layoffs or a drop in sales.

At this point, companies are on one side of the extreme, e.g. many processes and hierarchies. Now the company is moving to the next extreme due to the decision of the management and realizing that there is now too much chaos in the organization. So we’re reintroducing a couple of processes.

In the second step, the pendulum does not swing that far, but it swings in the other direction again. It loses momentum. This process lasts until the pendulum has caught itself in the middle.

Management pendulum – own illustration

I find this metaphor quite appropriate to see how managers try exploratory changes in the organization and try to find the right balance. I believe that this pendulum helps to better understand change and to support management in this direction.

Examples

You can also transfer this pendulum to many other developments. For example, Generation X was more shaped by hierarchy and wage labor. With Generation Y came the other extreme: flat hierarchy and work with meaning and trust. Now a generation Z could switch back to the other side of the pendulum.

It is similar with agility: Managers have broken down processes and hierarchy and notice that it is sometimes a bit chaotic. So one began to introduce processes and hierarchy again. A typical pendulum process.

You can use the pendulum as you like for all trends in your company to remind yourself: Why is this happening and what’s next?

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Dr. Dominic Lindner
Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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