This essay looks at the some of the forces that act as catalyst to organisational change and explores the approach to change in two different types of organisations and makes comparisons with Lewin (1951) and Dunphy & Stace (1988,1993) theories of change and change management.
What is organisational change?
Daft (1989) defines an organisation as; “1. A social entity that 2. Has a purpose, 3, Has a boundary, so that some participants are considered inside while other are considered outside, and 4. patterns the activities of participants into a recognisable structure”.
Taking Dafts (1989) definition of an organisation; organisational change can be described as circumstances and or events that impact the activities within an organisation.
Change can have both negative and positive effects, it can cause disruption, occur on different levels, and be difficult to manage, so why change ?
Forces of change
There are widely used frameworks that help steer an organisation through the process of identifying which forces are likely to drive change e.g.; political , economic, social, technological, ethical, environmental as well as internal: resource capabilities, mergers and acquisition.
The industrial revolution is an example of change driven by technological advancement. We saw the growth in manufacturing and the birth of mass production. This had a significant impact on the way employees carried out their work and how they were managed. Henry Ford, was working in an organisation, at a time that enjoyed a market that was invariably more supply led. With limited consumer pressure, arguably change could be far more controlled and planned.
Over time, further innovative technological advancements, led to a shift that meant supply over took demand. Increased global competition changed the way in which organisations respond to change.
Meany and Wilson (2009) estimate that “the success rate of planned change programmes is approximately 40% whilst Lawler and Mohram (2002) state; “repeat change is the norm”.
Dumpy and Stake (1988, 1993) look at different approaches to managing change, dependant on the context and scale of the change see illustration below. They point out a prescriptive set of guidelines based on the type of change for example; whether the change is incremental or transformational. In my experience elements of this approach lend themselves well to large scale organisational restructures. Were changes are taking place in the context of a relatively stable environment. Change is generally infrequent and is meticulously planned.
Lewin (1951) argues in his force field analysis; the forces that maintain the status quo need to be shifted by driving forces for change. Lewin (1951) describes driving forces as being on one side and restraining forces on the other. The point, at which they meet, is the equilibrium. Managing change requires tipping the balance in favour of the driving forces. Once tipped, this creates step 1; an unfreezing state, that upsets the status quo thus creating an appetite for change. This enables step 2 - the movement, which allows the change to take place. Step 3 - the refreezing and retaining the new status quo. If the restraining forces outweigh the driving forces then change is unlikely to occur. This approach relies on a clear start with a known end goal. Lewins’ (1951) approach relies on a transition from point a to point b.
Taking both approaches, below is a reflective account of how this has played out, in two companies I have worked for during a period of transformation change.
Company A: A large