The book Organisational Change: Development and Transformation by Waddell, Creed, Cummings and Worley (2017) 6th edition provided an integrated view of organisational development and organisational transformation. The book’s objective was to bring together the various views about change management with an emphasis in improving the students learning experience through lessons in fundamental theory as well as its practical applications in the real world. Change management perspectives were presented in different viewpoints as there is no ‘one size fits all’ method for being a successful change agent.
The book review was based on an electronic format and did not consider the book’s physical appearance.
The book was written with students in mind to prepare them for the challenges of change management from a real-life perspective. The book was predominantly about organisation development (OD), a comprehensive approach to a planned organisational change that involves the application of behavioural science in a systematic and long-range effort to improve organisational effectiveness (Campling, Poole, Wiesner & Schermerhorn, 2006).
The book consisted of 12 chapters in 6 parts including Part 6 as Integrative Case Studies.
Chapter 1 introduced the concept of organisation development (OD) and organisation transformation (OT) including explanation of their similarities and differences, the role of OD and historical framework. Each chapter of the book began with the learning outcomes and concluded with a summary and review questions to reinforce the lessons learnt. The book also featured current case studies, applications and extensive support material. With the field of organisation change continuing to evolve, especially in an international context, future directions of change management was also discussed.
The authors were all academics and had numerous publications including book and other papers. Dianne Waddell was formerly Professor and Academic Director at Melbourne Institute of Technology (MIT) and is currently Dean at the Royal Gurkhas Institute of Technology. Andrew Creed is an award-winning lecturer and writer at Deakin University, specialising in change management and organisational behaviour. Thomas Cummings is Chair of the Department of Management and Organization and Professor of Management and Organization at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles, California. Dr Christopher Worley holds a joint appointment as a research scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business and as an associate professor at Pepperdine University.
The book was researched well. The authors’ writings were clear and reader friendly. The concepts and theoretical frameworks served as a good base for foundation learning while the discussion and essay questions at the end of each chapter invited critical analysis and reflection.
The book was structured into parts to help organise thinking about change management. For example, in Chapter 1 Introduction, the book defined Organisation Development (OD) and its application to an entire system, such as an organisation, a single plant of a multi-plant firm, or a department or work group. The attention was narrowed to individuals within a system or to the improvement of particular products or processes.
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The concept of an organisation as an open system was first developed by the Tavistock Group. Eric Trist, a researcher and consultant for Tavistock, developed the concept than an organisation was also a socio-technical system, a system which has both a material technology for example, machinery and equipment and a social organisation such as job specifications and management structure (Huczynski & Buchanan, 2013). The theoretical narrative of the Socio-Technical Systems (STS) approach was described in Chapter 8: Organisation Development Interventions: Strategy and Structure, starting from page 298.
The structure of the book collated chapters into parts to help organise the authors thinking about the management of change and each element was interconnected to other parts and other chapters of the book. Therefore, it was important for the learner or reader to understand that the book was constructed to provide an integrated thinking and learning skills and be guided by the Book Overview (pages xxviii to xxx). It is highly recommended to view the index to follow the sub-topics listed under each topic.
Understanding Change – Theoretical Framework
Mckinsey (2016) stated that change management as it is traditionally applied is outdated with 70 percent of change programs failing to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. When people are truly invested in change, it is 30 percent more likely to stick. Chapter 2 of the book compared three major theories of organisation change: Lewin’s change model, the action research model and the positive model. These three approaches offered different concepts of planned change. Waddell et.al (2017) noted that all three models overlap in emphasis on action to implement organisational change. These processes were preliminary stage (unfreezing, diagnosis or initiate the inquiry), movement and then a closing stage (refreezing or evaluation). In contrast, Lewin’s model and traditional action research models emphasised the role of the OD practitioner with limited member participation in the change process. Contemporary applications of action research and the positive model, on the other hand, treated both OD practitioner and participants as co-learners who were heavily involved in planned change. In addition, Lewin’s model and action research were more concerned with fixing problems than with focusing on what the organisation did well and leveraging those strengths.
Waddell et.al (2017) went into a detailed description of the framework describing the basic sequence of activities that practitioners and organisation members jointly carried out in organisation development – entering and contracting, diagnosing, planning and implementing change, evaluating and institutionalising change and discussing them more in details in the later chapters of the book. Figure 2.2 on page 44 provided a visual representation of the framework.
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However, Waddell et.al’ (2017) book methodology was laborious and needed visual presentation. An analysis made by Asumeng & Osae-Larb (2015) of the same topics included a simple table that showed the sequence of events in one column and the models in different rows with a simple yes or no answer. The presentation provided a simple and easy comparison to understand the general strengths, effectiveness and weaknesses of each model which was helpful while emphasizing their similarities and differences.
Organisational Transformation in a VUCA world
Peter Drucker wrote that “the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” The headline news from ABC (7 September 2019) reported that more than 50 fires were burning across Queensland and a severe weather warning was in place for dangerous winds in New South Wales. Across the globe, Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas bringing sustained winds of up to 298km/h at its peak, storm surges and flooding. Geo-political turmoil including Britain’s exit from the European Union and the United States and China trade war were all building to a case that the world we are living in is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA).
VUCA was introduced by the U.S. Army War College in the 1990s to describe the new, constantly changing and extreme conditions it faced in Afghanistan and Iraq. From these origins the term has leapfrogged into corporate boardrooms and strategic planning meetings. Operating in a VUCA world requires an organisation to be adaptable and agile, imbued with systems thinking, and is willing and capable of experimentation and to test hypotheses and to ensure lessons learned can be applied to drive positive outcomes (Cutts, 2015). To survive in a world characterised by VUCA, an organisation must deploy a unique type of change, a transformational change more complex than OD.
Transformational change entails large-scale change involving radical, frame-breaking and fundamentally new ways of thinking solving problems and doing business. Transformational change involves a paradigm shift by the organisation including a rethink of doing business, redefining boundaries and strategic change (Huczynski & Buchanan 2013).
In Chapter 9, Waddell et. al (2017) discussed organisational transformation and change that could sometimes be revolutionary in response to or in anticipation of major changes in the organisation’s environment or technology. Change may require modifying a firm’s internal structures and processes as well as its corporate culture to support a new direction or to respond to disruption or threat to its survival. It also needs a different leadership style that would be more directional and/or charismatic.
Waddell et. al (2017) started with a description of several major features of transformational change then the three kinds of interventions: integrated strategic change, organisation design and culture change. Integrated strategic change (ISC) was a process applied in four phases: performing a strategic analysis, exercising strategic choice, designing a strategic change plan and implementing the plan. The four steps were discussed sequentially with an accompanying diagram for better understanding of the concepts.
Organisation Design is the process of creating structures that best serve mission and objectives (Campling et. al. 2004). The book listed the five components of organisational design were: strategy, structure, work design, human resources and management information systems and presented a systems model showing the different components of organisation design and the interdependencies among them. Waddell et.al (2017) emphasised that the most essential purpose of organisation design is to create an alignment or ‘fit’ among the components. However, the book did not impart any indicators of how to measure whether an organisation design was successful. According to McGee and Molloy, these were some of the measures of success of an organization design efforts:
- there is a faster cycle time for developing the right products/services defined by company strategy;
- the company’s resources move quickly when needed;
- the business is able to adapt to changes in market conditions quickly, without creating a feeling of chaos to employees and suppliers;
- work is getting done efficiently – without rework, excessive reviews; and
- the right information is getting to the right people.
Hanson, Hitt, Ireland & Hoskisson (2011) defined organisational culture as referring to the complex set of ideologies, symbols and core values that are shared throughout the firm and that influence how the firm conducts business. The book provided an in-depth narrative of culture including evidence that in addition to affecting the implementation of business strategy, corporate culture could affect organisation performance. Waddell et.al (2017) also emphasised that culture is a foundation for change that could either facilitate or hinder organisational transformation.
The book discussed in detail each intervention in responding to complex and uncertain environmental pressures and those changes could occur at any level in the organisation but their ultimate intent is to change the total system.
Plowman (2000) stated that organisational change has for many years been informed by organisational development (OD) theory and practice which have traditionally been `gender blind’. Gender issues were addressed as part of a wider package commonly referred to as `diversity’ issues. This was very much the case in this book where Waddell et.al (2017) included gender in passing, for example, in Application 10.4, Bridging Gender Diversity. The book did not provide any extensive writings about gender issues in the workplace. Gender inequalities must be talked about if they were to be addressed, challenged, and changed (Plowman, 2000).
Organisational culture had been highlighted as significant barrier to change. Even in organisations where equal opportunity initiatives were well-developed, their culture would still be resistant to and intractable by continuing with the messages of putting women in their proper place and a gender hierarchy where men were mainly at the top level of the organisation (Itzen & Newman, 2003). For example, women are underrepresented in academic science and medicine, particularly in leadership positions, as well as specialised (and better paid) areas of medicine such as surgery. Data from the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development showed that the overall proportion of female doctors has increased from 29% in 1990 to 46% in 2015, suggesting a trend towards increased participation of women. However, the variation in participation rates across countries continues to be striking, suggesting a substantial impact of local social norms and cultural influence (Coe, Wiley, & Bekker, 2019). Plowman (2000) advised that gender inequalities must be questioned openly and dealt with directly to effect change. `Gender’ could not be viewed as an optional topic or relegated to an afterthought in OD theory and practise.
Waddell et.al (2017) conveyed the principles and frameworks of organisational development and organisational transformation designed for learning and possible future implementation to effectively assist an organisation change its process, structure, systems, process including teams and leaders that they are best aligned to the most appropriate business strategy for a firm to increase its effectiveness, improved its health, and overall success especially in times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
- ABC News, 7 September, viewed 7 September 2019, <https://www.abc.net.au/news/>.
- Asumeng, M & Osae-Larbi J 2015, ‘Organization Development Models: A Critical Review and Implications for Creating Learning Organizations’, European Journal of Training and Development Studies, vol. 2, no. 3, pp.29-43.
- Campling, JT, Poole, D, Wienser, R & Schermerhorn, JR 2004, Management: An Asia-Pacific Perspective, John Wiley & Sons, Milton, Queensland.
- Coe, IR, Wiley, R & Bekker, LG 2019, Organisational best practices towards gender equality in science and medicine, Lancet, vol. 393, pp. 587–93.
- Cutts, S 2015, What is a VUCA environment and is your organisation agile enough to deal with one, viewed 31 August 2019,
- Hanson, D, Hitt, M A, Ireland, R D & Hoskisson R E 2011, Strategic Management: Competitiveness and Globalisation, 4th Asia-Pacific Edition, Cengage Learning, Victoria, Australia.
- Huczynski, A & Buchanan D 2013, Organizational Behaviour, 8th edn, Pearson Education Limited, United Kingdom.
- Itzen, C & Newman, J (eds.) 2003, Gender, Culture and Organizational Change: Putting Theory into Practice, Routledge, New York.
- Kok, J & Van den Heuvel, S (eds.), 2019, Leading in a VUCA World: Integrating Leadership, Discernment and Spirituality, e-book, viewed 1 September 2019, <https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319988832>.
- McGee, EC & Molloy, K (n.d.), Getting results through organization design, viewed 6 September 2019, <https://www.grovewell.com/wp-content/uploads/pub-org-design.pdf>.
- Mckinsey & Company, 2016, Mckinsey on Organization Culture and Change, Organization Practice November 2016, viewed 2 September 2019, < https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Business%20Functions/Organization/Our%20Insights/McKinsey%20on%20Organization/McKinsey-on-Organization-Culture-and-Change.ashx>.
- Plowman, P 2000, Organisational change from two perspectives: Gender and organisational development, Development in Practice, vol. 10, issue 2, pp.189-203.
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