The inevitability and constant of Change


No single book can hope to cover adequately all aspects of what is wide and essentially multidisciplinary field of enquiry, and it's not the intention to attempt to cover all aspects of change. In order to attain a reasonable depth, this paper will concentrate on selected topics of particular relevance and instrumental to change theories.

Change can be defined as an event that occurs when something passes from one state or phase to another (wordreference, 2009), the result of alteration or modification, or lay aside, abandon, or leave for another, become different in essence; to lose one's or its original nature, to make different; cause a transformation, or to make or become different in some particular way, without permanently losing one's or its former characteristic or essence (Mullins, 2005).

We live in an environment that is constantly affected by change. The last ten years alone have proven that to be true, with the huge impact of technology, organizations have dealt with massive economic growth followed by a crippling recession. Organizations have had to re-think and plan their strategies in order to survive or prosper in the current environment, and never before has change management been such a widely discussed topic.

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Change management is the implementation of processes and tools that are applied by key players in the organization (Jawad, 2009). Key players are considered to be senior leaders, management and supervisors, employees, project team, and change management team.

Numerous authors have defined 'change' through various literatures over the years, and many have described or defined it in different ways. To better understand and gain our own collective view of what change is to us we can categorize the various definitions to show a segmented definition of change.

By doing this we will be able to study each authors definition of change and give us an overall picture.

Categories of Change

Causes of change:

Environmental forces - Internal & external: External forces are made up of political, economic, international, and socio cultural changes in the environment the organization is situated in also the immediate external environment consisting of competition, suppliers, customers, regulators, called exogenous change (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004). The forces that affect the organization from within its own environment are called internal forces. Triggers in the internal environment can be new product and service design innovations, low performance or moral, new senior manager, inadequate skills or knowledge base (Buchanan & Huczynski, 2004). The change that comes from internal forces is called endogenous change.

The adaptation and implementation of change:

- Planned & Unplanned: Planned change occurs when leaders of the organization recognize a need for major change and set out a proactive plan to achieve it. The majority of planned change is slow moving and agreed upon by a majority in the organization bringing together groups / departments. Unfreeze, move, refreeze is the three step model created by Kurt Lewin, which is a good example of planned change. Burns (2004) describes changes that are Unplanned are often initiated by a major, sudden surprise to the organization, which requires its employees to respond in a highly reactive disorganized fashion.

- Adaptive & proactive: Adaptive change effects the day to day organizational transactions run by management. An organization will implement Proactive change to avoid problems or threats it foresees in the future.

Change on the basis of its depth

Shallow - Fine tuning: focus on efficient

Restructure: centralize, decentralize

Relocate resources: grow some departments, cut others

Improve business planning: symbolize a shift in thinking

Change the leadership: new CEO with major change remit

Change the organization's definition of success: create new goals, objectives, targets to change behaviour

Deep - Change the mission, vision, values and philosophy: symbolize a radical shift in thinking and behaviour

Deepest - Paradigm shift: change how we think, how we solve problems, how boundaries are defined, the way we do business: frame-breaking, mould-breaking, fundamental strategy change.

(Buchanan, Huczynski, 2004 - Fig 18.1)

Change on the basis of its speed and time to be implemented

- Incremental & Radical: Incremental change is usually implemented over a period of time that can lead to it being unnoticed allowing the organizations process to run unaffected (Kanter, Stein and Jick 1992). Where incremental change can be described as and evolution radical change is best described as revolution (Perkins 2006). This type of change is effective when used to influence changes culture and behaviour (Buchanan, Huczynski, 2004). It is also known as transformation change. The result of this change can be mergers, acquisitions and disposals.

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- Continuous & Episodic: Continuous changes are pretty much constant , where within an organization change is not uncommon but more a way of life (Orlikowski, 1996). Episodic changes tend to be infrequent or rare. This change aims to take the organization to a new improved equilibrium, where it may remain unchanged for a period of time, before the next stage comes along (Woodward Nancy, 2007).

The effect of change on different functions, units or divisions

- Technological: Technology will effect the invention of new materials, the flow and sharing of data, the control of production areas and automation, introduction of advance computer systems, machinery & tools, and improved communication system.

- Structural: Structural change is compiled of six elements;

Chain of command

Work specialization

Authority and responsibility

Span of control




Drucker (1990) has stated, "Structure is a means for attaining the objectives and goals of an organization. Any change in structure must start with objectives and strategy".

When change is implemented within an organization at this level it can mean alteration to the authority and responsibility a manager or supervisor will have on a certain operation, in effect adjusting the relationships and job design.

- Infrastructural: Change in the physical infrastructure of organization, e.g. relocation of departments or expansion of building,

- Cultural change: Many companies describe structure and system change under the label of 'culture' (Kanter, 1992). Hambrick (1998) explains that organizational culture is the psychology, attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values of an organization and contributes to how employees behave. Organizations around the world are experiencing changes in the culture, as the population surrounding them undergo changes too.

- Identity change: Change in identity of firm, e.g. change in institution from college to university college.

Strategic: Strategic change consists of changes that are part of organizational strategy, and are closely linked to the organizational goals.



Joint ventures

From this study we can define 'change' as a process of modification or improvement according to the internal and external environment the organization is situated. The changes that might occur within an organizations activities could be to its functions, such as, strategy, policies and culture or its resources which could be, technology, human skills knowledge, learning.

Models of Change

Throughout the last decade there have been numerous changes and developments in the way we manage work. From the classical era Frederick Winslow Taylor introduced the scientific approach, often criticized for the lack of scientific rigor and one dimensional view of human motivation (Burnes 1989; Kelly, 1982). Rose (1988) argues, that Taylor portrays human beings as 'greedy robots': indifferent to fatigue, boredom, loneliness and pain, and driven solely by monetary incentive. However, Taylor does not ignore the fact that individuals have different abilities. He was quick to point out that not everyone was capable to work in a scientific 'one best way', and that individuals needed to be selected on their ability to work hard and in accordance with instruction (Linstead, Fullop & Lilley, 2009).

It would be wrong to say that Taylorism or scientific management is a thing of the past, these theories are alive today. Giving strength to the French proverb 'The more things change, the more they stay the same', Burkard Sievers (1995) argues that changes in the structure of work, such as Taylorism job specification / simplification, have deskilled many jobs and made work meaningless. He goes on to state, we only need to look at McDonalds, behind the strong family image of the company, both internally and externally and the importance of team membership, is a highly Tayloristic organization which studies have demonstrated depend on a high proportion of expendable part-time and contract labour and a punitive control system.

Taylors view was to achieve the highest productivity you had to follow 'one best way' which was subject to rigorous control, however, Elton Mayo's experiences in the Hawthorne Works Experiments disproved those beliefs.

The experimenters at Hawthorne had discovered that teaching employees to become a team rather than inflicting "one best way" also had a strong influence on productivity. Also the employees would have the opportunity to vary their work methods, avoiding boredom. Unlike Taylorism, the employees at Hawthorne had a great deal of freedom in comparison.

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These experiments lead us to the humanistic management approach, where changes were being implemented in consideration for the working environment for its employees with the aim to be more productive.

In 1951 saw the introduction of Kurt Lewin's three step model for change. This theory set out to answer the question "How does successful change happen? (Comparison of Change Theories, 2009)

The key was to see that human change whether at the individual or group level, was a profound psychological dynamic process that involved painful unlearning without loss of ego identity and difficult relearning as a cognitive attempt to restructure one's thoughts, perceptions, feelings and attitudes. (Change Management, 2009)

Unlike previous theories which looked at how we approach the way we work, Lewin looked at how we implement the changes in how we work, devising the three step approach set out below.




Unfreezing - Changing to overcome the pressures of both individual resistance and group conformity.

Movement - A change process that transforms the organization from the status quo to a desired end state.

Refreezing - Stabilizing a change intervention by balancing driving and restraining forces.

(Robbins, fig 19.3, 2009)

The introduction of this new way of thinking is regarded to be the corner stone model for understanding organizational change and also the beginning of Organizational Development (Understanding the Three Stages of Change, 2009). Organisational development has provided us with models that consider employee involvement and psychologies in the change process which is confirmed through the works of Gleicher, Beckhard and Harris and the 'change equation'.

D x V x F > R

(, 2009)

This equation shows us that Dissatisfaction, Vision and the First steps of change must be greater than the Resistance to enable successful change; unlike Taylorism this model acknowledges the resistances that can be met when trying to achieve change.

Since the beginning of Organisation Development resistance to change has been discussed in far greater depth than ever before. Alvin Toffler (1970) argued that 'the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time' is unhealthy; he penned this idea as ''future shock. The 'Yerkes-Dodson Law', named after Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson, investigated this further adding the five stages starting with 'healthy pressure' leading to 'optimal performance', decreasing to 'exhaustion' further down 'damage to health' and finally 'breakdown' (Buchanan, Huczynski, 2004)

It is evident from this research there is now a more humanistic approach to how we measure the impact of change, in trying to gain understand of the stages a person might go through when experiencing change this investigation now helps organizations to better diagnose when someone may need appropriate guidance and support.

We can conclude that from this research organizations have progressed from using an authoritarian style of managing work and change, Taylor' 'one best way' has elements that are relevant to today, however organization development displays a far more perceptive and intelligent way in operating the 'system'.

Our existence is defined by the fact that we have to shape our lives to fit reality. In the sense that there are universal constants we have to make the best of, like a finite amount of resources or physical laws. In an organizational sense our final aim is to reach a point where we can shape the organisation to fit our lives. Which begs the question; if we achieve this what will we do then? This is why we have culture. To do something is not an end in itself. We need culture to reflect on how we managed to change something and how it changed us and what we need to change for the future. From the works of Frederick Winslow Taylor we have come a long way from shaping our lives to fit the organization we now look to shape the organization to fit our lives.