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The Role of HR in Planned and Emergent Change: the Same or Different?. Sarah Lewis Jemstone Consultancy. A map of organizational change theory. Planned. Planned change of processes and structures Lewin Default model. Continuous improvement of processes and structures TQM. Systems People.

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The Role of HR in Planned and Emergent Change: the Same or Different?

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The Role of HR in Planned and Emergent Change: the Same or Different?

Sarah Lewis

Jemstone Consultancy

A map of organizational change theory


Planned change of processes and structures


Default model

Continuous improvement of processes and structures


Systems People



Dialogue events

Appreciative inquiry

Open space technology

Dialogue process

Organisational conversation

Complex adaptive system


Planned change

  • Underpinning theory: Physical Sciences, Engineering, Taylorism

  • Underpinning metaphor: Machine

  • Associated change interventions: Lewin, Kilman, Bullock and Batten

Common characteristics of planned change intervention models

  • Present change as controllable

  • Present change as a problem of formal logic

  • Linear process with a clear beginning, middle and end

  • They offer step based sequential recipes

  • It as a process driven by management

  • Assume stability in background

  • They draw a line under the past, promising new beginnings

  • Conflict is positioned as a problem

  • They offer an implicit guarantee of success

Common problems and pitfalls

  • Methodical and slow

  • Time consuming

  • Provokes conflict (resistance)

  • By definition the plan is out of date by time it’s implemented

  • The use of inaccurate maps

  • Unpredicted effects and outcomes

  • The struggle to control can produce extra paper work (measurement and monitoring processes)

What leaders need to do to succeed: Kotter

  • Establish a sense of urgency

  • Form a powerful guiding coalition

  • Create a vision

  • Communicate the vision

  • Empower others to act on the vision

  • Plan for and create short-term wins

  • Consolidate improvements and produce still more change (do not pronounce victory too soon)

  • Institutionalise the new changes

Emergent change

  • Underpinning theory: Social sciences, social constructionism

  • Underpinning metaphor: Biological, living systems

  • Associated interventions: Appreciative inquiry, large participation events

Common characteristics

See change

  • As a continuous process of experimentation and adaptation

  • As unfolding in an iterative and messy fashion, multi-level and cross-organizational

  • As a socio-political process not an analytical-rational one

  • With the keys to change lying in patterns of relationship, belief systems and interaction, and the processes of sense and meaning making

  • Managers’ role to create and foster a helpful organizational climate in which productive change can emerge

Common problems and pitfalls

  • Its messiness can offend the organizational sense of order (redundancies of effort, inefficiencies)

  • It requires a letting go of beliefs of managerial omnipotence, agency and control

  • Its iterative nature does not fit well with linear stories of progress

  • It is by definition unpredictable in its effects

  • It upsets existing and established relationship patterns (power bases)

The role of leaders: Pascale

  • To focus organizational and individual attention

  • To disturb the existing socio-political system in profound and prolonged ways

  • To magnify/amplify pertinent and key features of the organizational landscape (opportunity, threat, change, internal resources etc.)

  • To propagate ‘genetic diversity’ in the system

  • Mobilize the organization at all levels to help find the way forward

  • Maintain an un-equilibrium until other ways forward or solutions begin to emerge

The role of HR in these two approaches to change: the same or different?

Divide yourselves into four roughly equal groups

  • Consider the list on the handout and change as you see fit (no more than 5 minutes on this)

  • Consider how applicable (or not) these may be to the second column, note this

  • Identify any further role HR could/should play in the achievement of change in organisations through emergent processes and note these down

  • Join another group, discuss ideas so far and be prepared to feedback up-to five headings under the second column

    We will take feedback on these and, if time permits, will then consider the revisions to the first column!

Planned Change

Provide up-to date maps of the organisation

Provide guidance on the limits of flexibility

Provide technical support in drafting JD, making redundancies

Provide training

Recruit new skills/roles

Update HR processes such as appraisal, competencies to reflect/support new order

Provide advice to managers about getting people onboard with the changes and dealing with resistance

Emergent Change

The role of HR in planned and emergent change situations

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