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Continuity and Change

Just as there are books and institutes on Change Management there are others on Business Continuity Management. Corporate longevity is a successful condition to realize the revenues of huge investments, but for some at the stock market it is an uninteresting condition because it does not contribute to profit in the short term.

Some reflections on continuity and change.


Wendell P. Weeks writes:

‘The argument for corporate longevity is quite simple: achieving something strategic, significant, and sustainable almost always takes time. Longevity is particularly important for innovation because time and sustained investment are needed to solve really tough problems’. He pleads for investors with long term goals instead of quarterly maximal revenues.

An example that happens everyday: yesterday in the company my daughter is working for, a manager wanted to offer a short term contract to replace someone on maturity leave. In the budget he projected 6 months. They checked with the financial director, just to keep everybody involved. The financial director changed it without informing anyone to 4 months saying: ‘I needed the money for a good quarterly result’. ‘But it harms our production’. ‘I am responsible for the result’ he said.

What pushes change, what glues continuity?

Peter Rietbergen analyses the cultural history of Europe starting 10.00 years ago using both concepts of continuity and change.

What promotes continuity?

  • Values. In Europe all values are topics in constant dialogues that started with the Greek philosophers, and later these dialogues include influences of Christianity and Humanism, which develop and change in time.

  • Technology. Once developed practices in technology became widespread, over some time of course, they raised the standard of living, although there were regional setbacks depending on wars and biological, climatological influences.

  • Stability in rulers and  bureaucrats that control the system of taxes, the paper money, the numeric ciphers.

  • Climatological stability.

  • Stability in other areas around Europe. Stability in the environment.

  • The system of fundamental laws for an area, declaration of rights and power.

  • The involvement of more people in the decisions about the direction of an area, in connection with other areas.

  • Connecting in greater interdependent areas to create stability in combination with democratic influence.

What pushes change?

  • Climatological changes: temperature drop or rise, wet seasons for many years and declining harvests.

  • Importing new ideas and technologies from outside. Important for Europe, the compass, numeric numbers and the number 0, sailing technology, gunpowder, glass, windmills. All applications of innovations developed in other areas.

  • Incoming people from other areas for reasons of shortage of supplies in their homelands

  • The development in scientific thinking and methods to get evidence-based ideas and practices.

  • The development of values, especially the development of the individual as a most importantly valued subject in society.

  • Internal turmoil between rival groups depending on shortages and power instability.

  • The development of the system of justice, the deviation of the powers in society, the rights of individuals turn away from dictatorship and frozen societies of a thousand years of happiness.

Have you ever made an analysis of your organization or company, using the concepts of continuity and change?

Continuity and change in one

Prof. Hubert Hermans developed the concept of the Dialogical Self. He focusses on the unique personal construction of our personality rather than creating a general dimensional theory on personality, in which each of us has our pigeon hole. An individual construction can develop over time into a stalemate or, at the other extreme, can be without any structure, just random moving positions.

Both constructions can happen, and psychotherapists confronted with these have to find ways to create some change or some continuity. Hermans suggests creating a new postion that makes it possible for all other positions to change and keep continuity too. He named these positions Promotor positions. What is your promotor position?

Moving between positions: a condition for happiness

Sui-Chun Cannis Tse asked older Chinese immigrants who lived for more then 40 years in New Zealand, how they managed to survive in that often hostile environment. Those who survived happily created a concept of themselves in which they were able to move between being dependent and being independent, between realizing one’s own needs and supporting others to realize their needs, in relation to the needs and possibilities in a given situation.

Managing expectations of change

In a training session, teachers expressed their expectations of the learning curve of the new employees who they train. They designed a graph. These five graphs represent their answers.

The teachers are all convinced that their pupils will learn. At the end some perform at a maximum level, others at lower levels. The learning curves differ widely. Science may be interested in which curve best represents reality, but for us it was to reflect on the influence of the trainers on the learners by having specific expectations about the learning progress. The learning question was: what do you do when your expectations do not match reality?

Ton Voogt

February 2016


  • Wendell P. Weeks, Creating value from long-term bets, McKinsey Quarterly, February 2016.

  • Hubert Hermans and Agnieszka Hermans-Konopka. Dialogical Self theory, 2010.

  • Siu-Chun Cannis Tse, Harmonization of the self: Narratives of older Chinese about ageing, health and well-being, 2014.

  • Peter Rietbergen; Europe, A cultural history, 1998.

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