Assessing The Meaning Of Change Theory Business Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

"When an organizational system is disturbed by some internal or external force, change frequently occurs. Change, as a process, is simply modification of the structure or process of a system. It may be good or bad, the concept is descriptive only."

From the above definitions, we can conclude that change has the following characteristics:

Change results from the pressure of both internal and external forces in the organisation. It disturbs the existing equilibrium or status quo in the organisation.

The change in any part of the organisation affects the whole of the organization.

Change will affect the various parts of the organizations in varying rates speed and degrees of significance.

Change may affect people, structure, technology and other elements of the organisation.

Change may be reactive or proactive. When change is brought about due to the pressure of external forces, it is called reactive change. Proactive change is initiated by the management on its own to increase organizational effectiveness.

Types of Change

Different kinds of change require different strategies and plans to effectively gain employee engagement and acceptance of change. In number of ways change can be described, mostly they are related to the extent of the change and whether it is seen as bottom-up or top-down. Ackerman (1997) has distinguished between three types of change that occur most frequently in organizations are developmental, transitional and transformational. Change management theories effectively support how to deal with developmental and transitional change, but are less effective at dealing with successfully implementing transformational change.


Developmental Change

Developmental change occurs when a company makes an improvement to their current business. If a company decided to improve their processes, methods or performance standards this would be considered developmental change.

Transitional Change

Transitional change is more intrusive than developmental change as it replaces existing processes or procedures with something that is completely new to the company. A corporate reorganization, merger, acquisition, creating new products or services, and implementing new technology are examples of transitional change. Transitional change may not require a significant shift in culture or behavior but it is more challenging to implement than developmental change.

Transformational Change

Transformational change occurs after the transition period. Transformational change may involve both developmental and transitional change. It is common for transitional and transformation change to occur in tandem.


A force of change is any factor in the environment (both internal and external) that interferes with the organisation's ability to attract human, financial and material resources it needs, or to produce and market its services/products. The drivers of change in business may be classified as market changes, technological changes and organisational changes.


Every organization continually interacts with other organizations and individuals - the consumers, suppliers, government and many more. Each organization has goals and responsibilities related to each other in the environment. The present day environment is dynamic and will continue to be dynamic due to change in political, legal, economic, social and technological factors. How the changes in various environmental factors require change in the organization may be seen in following context:-

Marketing conditions: Since every organization has to face competition in the market. There may be two types of forces which may affect the competitive position of an organization - (1) other organizations supplying the same products and, (2) buyers who are not buying the product. Any changes in these forces may require suitable changes in the in the organization.

Political and legal changes: Political and legal factors broadly define the activities which an organization can undertake and the methods which will be followed by it in accomplishing those activities. Any changes in these political and legal factors may affect the organization operation.

Social changes: Social changes reflect in terms of people's aspirations, the needs, and their ways of working. Social changes have taken place because of the several forces like level of education, urbanization, feeling of autonomy, and international impact due to new information sources. These social changes affect the behavior of people in the organization. There, it is required to make adjustment in its working so that it matches with people.

Technology: when there is a change in technology in the organizational environment and other organizations adopt the new technology, the organizations under focus become less cost effective and its competitive position weakens. Therefore, it has to adopt new technology, its work structure is affected and a new equilibrium has to be established.


It is not only the changes in external factors, which may necessitate organizational changes; any change in organization's internal factors may also necessitate changes. Such a change is required because of two reasons: changes in managerial personnel and deficiency in existing organizational practices.

Changes in the managerial personnel: Besides environmental changes there is a change in managerial personnel. Old managers are replaced by new mangers, which necessitated because of retirement, promotion, transfer or dismissal. Each new manager brings his own ideas and way of working in the organization. Moreover, attitude of the personnel change even though there is no changes in them.

Deficiency in Existing organization: Sometimes, changes are necessary because of deficiency in the present organizational arrangement ad process. These deficiencies may be in the form of unmanageable span of management, large number of managerial levels, lack in co-ordination between various departments, obstacles in communication, multiplicity of committees, lack of uniformity in policy decisions, lack of cooperation between the line and staff, and so on.

To avoid developing inertia: In many cases, organizational changes take place just to avoid developing inertia or inflexibility. Conscious manager take into account this view of organization that organization should be dynamic because any single method is not the best tool of management every time. Thus, changes are incorporated so that the personnel develop liking for change and there is no unnecessary resistance when major change in the organization are brought about.

In today's business environment, it is very important for any organizations to change in order to compete in this competitive environment but simultaneously also has to sustain its stability. Organizations that learn and cope with dynamic and changing business environment will thrive and flourish and others who fail to do so will be wiped out.

There has been much emphasis on organisational change and change management. The concern for change is well placed particularly as organisations struggle with a variety of internal and external change pressures. However, the concept of organisational stability has received much less prominence and is often subsumed under, or ignored by the change management literature. Organisational stability and change as being distinct concepts, with recognition of the need to consider organisational change and stability from a holistic perspective as being dynamic, balanced with respect to the environment, and likely being interdependent and complementary.

Organisational Stability

The term organisational stability is not usually defined, but tends to mean maintaining the status quo and preventing fluctuations in organisational activities and processes. Stability can provide benefits to an organisation in the form of efficiency through the use of effective routines, processes and procedures. Stable aspects of an organisation not only provide a sense of security for organisational members, but also represent effective means for achieving the organisational purpose. Maintaining the status quo can provide stability in organisational life, and represent the accumulation of effective learning to become encapsulated in organisational practices and routines.

Organisational Stability and Change

The concern for stability as well as change debate may have arisen from a principle highlighted by Morgan (1997) where "any phenomenon implies and generates its opposite" (p.283). Most organisations in this dynamic business environment go through a change in either in planned or unplanned manner through directed change initiatives concerned with organisational development or strategic implementation. The focus of an organisation can also be on stability, where the status quo is maintained in order to achieve consistency, efficiency and control. Organisations need to have change in order to respond to internal and external pressures, yet also retain accumulated organisational learning and knowledge manifest in its culture, systems, practices and structures. It is also important to note that small changes in stable aspects of an organisation could generate a wide variety of change outcomes (March, 1981). "Organizations must simultaneously maintain the stability needed for members to be able to make sense of their experiences, yet also achieve fundamental change that is necessary for effectiveness" (Gustafson & Reger, 1995, p.464). According to the concept of "adaptive instability", organisation can undergo a change but at the same time can remain same which creates a paradox. (Gioia et. al., 2000)

Models of organisational change

Kurt Lewin (1951) proposed a three stage theory of change commonly referred to as Unfreeze, Change, Freeze (or Refreeze). But this theory has been criticised as too simplistic by various academic researchers but still the Kurt Lewin model is still extremely relevant. Many other more modern change models are actually based on the Kurt Lewin model.

Stage 1: Unfreezing

The Unfreezing stage is probably one of the more important stages to understand in the world of change we live in today. This stage is about getting ready to change. Unfreezing thus involves discarding the orthodox and conventional methods and introducing dynamic behaviour, most appropriate to the situation. People are made to accept new alternatives. Unfreezing and getting motivated for the change is all about weighing up the 'pro's' and 'con's' and deciding if the 'pro's' outnumber the 'con's' before you take any action. This is the basis of what Kurt Lewin called the Force Field Analysis.

This first 'Unfreezing' stage involves moving ourselves, or a department, or an entire business towards motivation for change. The Kurt Lewin Force Field Analysis is a useful way to understand this process and there are plenty of ideas of how this can be done.

Stage 2: Change - or Transition

Kurt Lewin was aware that change is not an event, but rather a process. He called that process a transition. Transition is the inner movement or journey we make in reaction to a change. This second stage occurs as we make the changes that are needed. People are 'unfrozen' and moving towards a new way of being. In changing phase new learning occurs. The necessary requirement is that various alternatives of behaviour must be made available in order to fill the vacuum created by unfreezing phase. During the phase of changing, individuals learn to behave in new ways, the individuals are provided with alternatives out of which choose the best one.

Stage 3: Freezing (or Refreezing)

Kurt Lewin refers to this stage as freezing although a lot of people refer to it as 'refreezing'. As the name suggests this stage is about establishing stability once the changes have been made. The old ideas are totally discarded and new ideas are totally accepted. Refreezing reinforced attitudes, skills and knowledge. He practices and experiments with the new method of behaviour and sees that it effectively blends with his other behavioural attitudes. The final step of freezing referred to as the lock-in effect. Establishing stability only happens when the new changes are locked-in.

Continuous models of change

There is a growing body of literature supportive of the continuously changing organisations model. Brown and Eisenhardt (1997) found organisations; particularly in highly competitive and dynamic environments were continuously changing and also had high levels of innovation. These organisations institutionalised change capabilities as being a core capability that is embedded in the core of their cultures. "For firms such as Intel, 3M, and Gillette, the ability to change rapidly and continuously, especially by developing new products, is not only a core competence, it is also at the heart of their culture" (Brown & Eisenhardt, 1997, p.1). The key point being made is that these firms are geared for continuous innovation that in turn drives organisational change rather than the other way around. Brown and Eisenhardt (1997) note that over time, the development of core capabilities reflects stable aspects of the organisation upon which were added new approaches. They argue that models of organisational change have shifted from static to dynamic models, where continuous change, can better explain organisations operating in highly competitive and turbulent environments. Brown and Eisenhardt (1997) posit that continuously changing organisations are complex adaptive systems that incorporate elements of both stability and change. Continuous change is consistent with an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary approach to change, and provides benefits to an organisation in that it is able to retain core elements while changing more peripheral aspects to align with environmental change (Duening, 1997).

The phrase continuous change is used to group together organizational changes that tend to be ongoing, evolving, and cumulative. A common presumption is that change is emergent, meaning that it is the realization of a new pattern of organizing in the absence of explicit a priori intentions (Orlikowski 1996:65). Change is described as situated and grounded in continuing updates of work processes (Brown & Duguid 1991) and social practices (Tsoukas 1996). Researchers focus on accommodations to and experiments with the everyday contingencies, breakdowns, exceptions, opportunities, and unintended consequences. (Orlikowski 1996:65). As these accommodations are repeated, shared, amplified, and sustained, they can, over time, produce perceptible and striking organizational changes. (p. 89). The distinctive quality of continuous change is the idea that small continuous adjustments, created simultaneously across units, can cumulate and create substantial change. That scenario presumes tightly coupled interdependencies. When interdependencies loosen, these same continuous adjustments, now confined to smaller units, remain important as pockets of innovation that may prove appropriate in future environments.


The organization culture refers to the unique configuration of norms, values, beliefs, ways of behaving and so that characterize the manner in which groups and individuals combine to get things done. (Eldridge and Crombie, 1974: 89) - PG 7

"Organization Culture is not just another piece of the puzzle, it is the puzzle. For our point of view, a culture is not something an organization has; a culture is something an organization is." (Pacanowsky and O'Donnell-Trujillo, 1982:126)

Culture is viewed as an important tool for managers, consultants and practitioners in their quest for better managing organisations. The development of a strong culture with positive work values, beliefs and norms became associated with constructive behaviours and strong organisational performance such that culture could be a source of competitive advantage, ways of solving problems and managing corporate life (e.g. Peters & Waterman, 1982; Deal & Kennedy, 1982; Kilmann et al., 1985; Barney, 1986).

The term corporate rather than organisational culture was usually employed where culture became a new way of managing a business. The terms corporate culture and organisational culture are often used interchangeably. Corporate culture is usually viewed from managerial perspectives that express preferred content themes to be imposed on members in the form of tacit commitment to corporate directions, leading to corporate effectiveness (Linstead & Grafton-Small, 1992).


The characteristics of organisational culture are frequently captured through comparisons of definitions or literature analysis. There is no universal agreement on its characteristics possibly due to the complexity of the cultural phenomenon higilighted by Jelinek et al., (1983) "Culture persists and is changed or maintained by virtue of its continual (re)creation through the interaction of organizational members, their shared interpretations, and the significations they attach to what occurs. Culture is intersubjective and simultaneously cause and effect" (p.336).

The more frequently referred characteristics of culture include:


The effective management of culture requires the ability to both change and to maintain stability. Many researchers earlier believes that cultures as fundamentally static phenomenon and managers can alter the culture through various strategies but some researchers contradicted by saying cultures in highly dynamic which are prone to change because of internal and external environment.


The three theoretical perspectives to cultural research are termed the integration; differentiation and fragmentation approaches (Martin, 1992), and most cultural studies are primarily rooted in one of these approaches. According to the Studies from the integration perspective cultural can be viewed as glue that holds an organisation together by sharing of pattern of meanings. Cultures focuses on values, beliefs and expectation that member comes to share (Siehl and Martin, 1984, p. 227). According to studies from the differentiation perspective stressed on organisational subcultures which can be defined as distinct clusters of understanding, behaviour and cultural forms that identify group of people in an organisation (Trice and Marand in press, p.1). Studies from the fragmentation perspective defined culture as a loosely structured and incomplete shared system that evolves dynamically as when members experience each other, event etc. These three different perspective creates paradox about defining organisation culture.


Smircich's (1983) argues both mainstream and critical alternative to organisational culture. One perspective see 'Culture' as something that an organisation 'has' and its critical alternative see 'Culture' as something that an organisation 'is'. From 'has' perspective culture is a variable as something that can be managed or manipulated. Also it urges managers to make every effort to ensure that the employee have 'right' values, beliefs and norms and thus in order to maintain stability and harmony in organisation this culture is created from top as well as ensuring that employees behave in appropriate manner. Therefore 'has' perspective draws a strong link between the management of culture and organisational success. From critical alternative i.e. 'is' perspective culture is not a variable but it's a metaphor for the organisation. The 'is' perspective also see organisation culture as a notion of organisational common sense to examine how shared assumptions emerge and are passed on during organisational activity. But there is also controversy related to both perspective of organisational culture, in 'has' perspective there is controversy as to whether there is one best culture for all organisation or whether culture is in fact a matter of contingency and 'is' perspective argues that any one workplace is likely to house a number of potentially antagonistic subcultures, making the managing of culture difficult task. Berg (1985) along with others researchers suggested that it cannot be predicted whether culture can be managed in a planned way or not because of lack of empirical data. But researchers like Anthony (1994:4), Martin (1985), Deal and Kennedy (1982) believes that culture can be managed successfully. Some research clearly showed increase in productivity and performance while managing culture (Martin, 1985).


After analysing the academic literature on managing culture, it has been found that leadership plays an essential role. The successful management of culture requires the backing from leaders. Allen and Kraft (1987:87) claimed that the successful leader is the one who has the ability of to bring about sustained cultural change. A strong and effective leader can exert emotional pressure on his subordinates to bring about the desired change. Most of the times, there is no resistance from the subordinates and if they resist, the leader tries to overcome resistance by leadership process. The leader of an organisation plays a vital role in setting the vision that organisation is going to move towards, in allocating the tasks and duties, in structuring the organisation. Peters (1978) has cogently argued that the CEO can manipulate culture through symbols. (pg 176)

Critically analysing the role of leadership in managing culture it has also been found that sometimes leader can act as the obstacle to organisational culture management. When organisation leader is also a founder, they are oftenly resistant to change. According to Dyer (1986:59) when there is a significant shift in technology, market or competitive structure, most of founder leaders are unwilling to listen to advice, collaborate with others or recognise their own weakness. And therefore unintentionally they get business in deep trouble by fostering cultural pattern that are not amenable to change. (PG 187)

Stability as well as change in organisational culture

Cultures are viewed as being relatively enduring (Schein, 1992), but also changing (Meek, 1988). Core aspects of the culture are quite stable while non-core aspects are more changing (Bate, 1994). There is recognition for the simultaneous need for cultural stability and change. Cultural elements can also promote stability and change in the organisational culture itself. While cultures are both relatively stable and changing, cultures can also acquire meanings that act as sources of influence to promote stability and change within the organisation, an aspect investigated in the next section.


Stability and Change are two major dimensions within organisational life, from which socially constructed meanings may arise, and through cultural development, become embedded within the culture. At the same time, organisations and cultures are both relatively stable and yet are also changing. This suggests a dynamic, complex and somewhat contradictory relationship exists: among organisation, culture, stability and change that has received insufficient attention in the literature and is the subject of a closer examination in this section.


Organisational culture appears to embrace a number of contradictions, complexities and perspectives from which no agreement has been reached concerning its meaning. Despite these issues, culture has been embraced as a way of making sense of and understanding organisational life. So far, this report has explored the nature of organisations in relation to the concepts of stability and change; how organisations and cultures are interconnected; how cultures are inherently stable with aspects staying the Same, yet are also dynamic and changing; where stability and change show relationships with the core or deeper aspects of culture. Cultures are considered to be complex and 'indistinct' in nature where members who typically belong to multiple cultures, share meanings in varying degrees that provide tacit influence on how members perceive, think, feel and behave within an organisation. Contradictions and paradox in cultures are the norms, where opposing tendencies can easily coexist. Leaders can have influence over some surface manifestations while having little over deeper aspects of the culture.


There is increasing reference in the literature concerning organisational cultures that emphasise an ability to facilitate change, adaptiveness, innovation, learning, strategy, although the nature of the relationship with culture is often not explicit. Some approaches have the culture changing as a function of environmental demands in a chameleon like fashion, such that the culture is able to underpin the behaviours required in a new context. Other approaches make less reference to changing the culture, but that the acquisition of a particular type of culture enables the promotion of high levels of organisational change, innovation, and learning or strategy implementation. A common theme in both approaches is that a culture can be acquired or developed to achieve these ends.


Culture as a repository of organisational patterns of stability and change, organisations operate in dynamic and changing environments and as such have a need for change in organisational aspects such as it's people, products, structure, leadership, technology, formal procedures and resources. Organisations also have a need for stability in order to gain efficiencies, consolidate gains, have regularity in organisational life, and provide meaning and security to organisational members (Kast & Rosenweig, 1974). The cultural elements of an organisation come to reflect the meanings associated with organisational experiences of stability and change (Jacobs, 1995). For example, reward systems that encourage quality and regularity of production will be more likely associated with stability, while reward systems that encourage learning, risk taking and innovation will be more likely associated with change. The development of the concept of there being distinct systems within a culture concerned with stability and change is advocated by Burchell (1999; 2000), where some cultural elements may be directly associated with stability and change, while others may be more, or less, indirectly associated.

Cultural influences on organisational stability and change

Cultural forces exist in the environment and organisation to promote stability and flexibility. Lundberg (1985) suggests organisational culture can be classified as being either 'morphogenetic' (change oriented) or 'homeostatic' (stability oriented) to promote stability or change. In particular, Feldman (1990) found the ability of an organisation to adapt to or create change was dependent on the predisposition of culture towards organisational change, while Sathe and Davidson (2000) found cultures associated with learning and flexibility values facilitated continuous organisational change, along with change to the culture itself. Cultural traits such as being candid, open, risk-tolerant, externally oriented, empowering and decisive decision-making, enhance change (Kotter, 1996). The range of cultural characteristics reviewed suggests that such aspects of culture are a source of influence on future patterns of organisational change behaviours. While culture can promote change, it can also contribute to patterns of organisational stability (Katz & Khan, 1966). Authors such as Brooks (1994) advocate a change to the culture from one that promotes control and stability to one that embraces innovation and change, a view that tends to ignore the role played by stability.

There is recognition that organisational culture can be a source of influence on organisational activities that contribute to organisational stability and change (Morey & Luthans, 1985), although such a relationship will invariably be complex and dynamic (Nord, 1985). Nord (1985) also recognises the need for stability and change "..the management of culture requires the ability both to introduce change and to maintain the status quo" (p.188).


Cultural dimensions are means to understand the more important themes in the cultural milieu. Stability and change are two major dimensions in culture that are central to typologies of culture, theoretical model of cultural traits and Schein's (1992) definition of culture concerning internal integration and external adaptation. These dimensions are oppositional in nature and the coexistence of both initially seems paradoxical and contradictory. However, the need for both in organisations is recognised and cultural elements associated with stability and change emerge and better understood when conceptualised as being separate, as well as complementary and interdependent dimensions. Lundberg (1985) advocates that cultural reality could be understood along two fundamental dimensions, where "the second dimensions of reality classifies underlying beliefs of organizations as either essentially stability-oriented (i.e. homeostatic), or change-oriented (i.e. morphogenetic)" (p.185).


Stability and change are opposing tendencies within organisational life that represent contradiction and a paradox, as they can coexist and both are necessary in some form of balance, suggesting that they can be considered as being complementary and interdependent. Eisenstadt (1992) notes the presence of order-maintaining and order-transforming dimensions of culture, which are essentially the two sides of the same coin, where both are necessary for social order and development; Aldrich, (1999) stresses a dynamic view of culture that recognises both stability and change as being concurrent and outcomes of the same cultural processes that collectively explain and constitute the culture phenomenon; Knights & Willmott (1995) found stability and change occur as simultaneous events in an organisation, and are not separate and discreet episodes. The review of this literature suggests that the dimensions of stability and change are separate, but coexisting and interconnected, such that the two should be considered conjointly.

Gioia, Dennis A.; Schultz, Majken; & Corley, Kevin G. (January, 2000), 'Organizational Identity, Image, and Adaptive Instability', The Academy of Management, Vol. 25 (1), p. 63-81.

Available from <> [Accessed on 19/05/2010 18:02]

Kast, F. E., & Rosenweig, J.E. (1974), Organization and management (second ed.).

Kogakusha: McGraw-Hill.

Lewin K. 1951. Field Theory in Social Science.New York: Harper & Row

Brown, Shona L., & Eisenhardt, Katleen. M. (March, 1997), 'The art of continuous change: Linking complexity theory and time - paced evolution in relentlessly shifting organizations', Administrative Science Quarterly, Published by: Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University Stable, Vol. 42 (1), p. 1-34. Available from [Accessed on 19/05/2010 20:39]