my contributions

Portret Hans Vermaak






Change efforts leave much to be desired. Know how on change dynamics can make a world of difference – if you are able to access it and assess it. It helps prevent undoable efforts and increase the focus and leverage of doable ones. It helps distinguish powerful methods from magical thinking in popular management ideas. And to know what works when and what alternatives are available out there. I like for us to take ‘change management’ seriously as the young field that it is: to know what it has to offer and to explore new ways where we fall short. Formal organizational practices compare poorly to the richness that is already available both in (lesser known) theory and informal practitioners’ stories. We can be inspired by both.


There is no shortage of complex issues in society that require our attention as change efforts do not realize what we have been hoping for. Organizations’ change efforts are often internally focused and the spent effort does not necessarily translate into value added to the outside world. Many workers feel burdened by too much restructuring, mergers or leadership change that all seems to have little positive impact on the quality of their day to day work. I am drawn to social innovation where organizational efforts contribute to concrete societal changes that seem both everybody’s and nobody’s problem. To address tough issues that many people care for but few feel able to make a difference. And to explore approaches that match such issues in their complexity allowing them to be more successful and allowing us to grow more competent.


It can be a blessing for many organizations when people take responsibility for their own work and their context regardless their formal positions or delineated tasks. It is a blessing because many complex issues can only be dealt with adequately with simultaneous contributions from many different actors: only then can their many aspects be sufficiently understood and addressed. It allows meaningful engagement of those involved. Such self-organization is anything but easy and fails when taken lightly. Often people have to shift their views about how they work, learn to collaborate across organizational tiers and walls and design ways to make it all sustainable. I like to support such ‘intrapeneurs’ that enlarge their circle of influence and deviate from dominant practices for a good cause. Fortunately, such ‘tempered radicals’ can be found in every organization, be it away from prying eyes at the margins of their organizations.


Complex issues are rewarding when they relate to your profession. (Complexity loses this trait immediately as soon as it distracts from your work.) Take orthopedic surgeons: they are more motivated by an ‘impossible’ bone fracture than by a routine case. Such complex cases challenge such professionals: they need to question their own routines, explore new repertoires, and take risks. They have to play with and within the status quo. This can enable great experiences: de thrill of discovery, the pleasure of learning. It also raises uncertainty that has to be endured in order to be examined and it requires dealing with inevitable mistakes without blame or guilt. I like to explore such new territory with those involved. To find ways to act confidently without having all the answers, to remain mindful under pressure and to enable small wonders. And to enjoy doing so with others.


I belief nobody has all the answers and nothing works everywhere. Fortunately, real life is too rich, too unknowable and too uncontrollable for that. It implies that we learn about such issues by addressing them rather than thinking about them beforehand. We find out what works as we go and involve others in the process. I like such a development orientation because it is more effective. On top of that, it professionalizes anyone who really participates and allows them to harvest knowledge from the experience. Still, the most important reasons to go down this route may be that curiosity gives energy, learning makes issues interesting and practice makes perfect. All this enriches life.