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Organisational Change. Chapter 2 The Nature of Change. Introduction. The chapter: Discusses a number of frameworks for categorising change. Explains why, in order to be effective, it is necessary to understand the differences between various types of change. Objectives. To:

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organisational change

Organisational Change

Chapter 2

The Nature of Change


The chapter:

  • Discusses a number of frameworks for categorising change.
  • Explains why, in order to be effective, it is necessary to understand the differences between various types of change.


  • Emphasise the complex nature of organisational change;
  • Describe and discuss the multi-dimensional nature of organisational change;
  • Analyse change situations in order to choose appropriate methods of managing and implementing change;
  • Recognise that there are limitations to the ‘common-sense’ approach to managing change that assumes that change can be planned as a logical. Step by step, sequence of activities.
  • This because of cultural, political and leadership dynamics.
background a definition of strategy
Background: A definition of strategy

Strategy is:

the direction and scope of an organisation over the long termwhich achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a changing environmentto meet the needs of marketsand to fulfill stakeholder expectations.

Source: Johnson, G. & Scholes, K. (1993) Exploring Corporate Strategy, London, Prentice Hall, p. 10.

environmental turbulence
Environmental turbulence
  • Ansoff & McDonnel (1990)(recap)
    • Level 1. Predictable
    • Level 2. Forecastable by extrapolation
    • Level 3. Predictable threats & opportunities
    • Level 4. Partially predictable opportunities
    • Level 5. Unpredictable surprises
  • Strebel (1996)
    • Weak forces
    • Moderate forces
    • Strong forces
  • Stacey (1996)(recap)
    • Close to certainty
    • Far from certainty
varieties of change overview
Varieties of change (overview)
  • Grundy (1993)
    • Smooth incremental
    • Bumpy incremental
    • Discontinuous
  • Tushman et al (1986)
    • Converging (fine-tuning)
    • Converging (incremental)
    • Discontinuous or frame-breaking
  • Dunphy & Stace (1993)
    • Fine tuning
    • Incremental adjustment
    • Modular transformation
    • Corporate transformation
varieties of change grundy
Varieties of change (Grundy)
  • Smooth incremental – evolves slowly, in a systematic and predictable way.
  • Bumpy incremental – periods of relative quiet interrupted by sudden bursts in the rate of change (e.g. re-organisations).
  • Discontinuous – ‘divergent breakpoint’, changes involving crisis, breakthrough, response to high turbulence.
major types of change grundy
Major Types of Change (Grundy)



of change

Bumpy incremental

Smooth incremental


Source: Grundy, T. (1993) Implementing Strategic Change, Kogan Page, p. 25

varieties of change tushman et al
Varieties of change (Tushman et al)
  • Converging (fine-tuning) - trying to do better what is already being done well.
  • Converging (incremental adaptation) - small changes in response to small shifts in the environment.
  • Discontinuous or frame-breaking – major, rapid (spread over 18-24 months) and revolutionary changes in strategy, structure, people & processes in order to meet radically new or different circumstances. Also termed ‘upheaval.’
    • Most organisations follow a pattern of convergence/upheaval cycles. This pattern can apply at all levels (department, unit, corporation).
pressures for frame breaking change
Pressures for Frame-breaking Change
  • Industry discontinuities, e.g. sharp changes in the legal, political or technological conditions which shift the basis of competition
  • Product life-cycle shifts, i.e. strategic change to fit the next stage of the cycle
  • Internal dynamics, e.g. new management team, with different strategy preferences
examples of frame breaking change
Examples of Frame-breaking Change
  • Change of mission or core values
  • Power shifts, resource re-allocation
  • Total reorganization
  • New workflow procedures
  • New CEO coming from outside
scale of change 1 dunphy stace
Scale of change (1) (Dunphy & Stace)
  • 1. Fine Tuning.
    • At departmental level.
    • Making re-alignments to ensure that there is a match between strategy, structure, people and processes.
  • 2. Incremental Adjustment.
    • Bit by bit changes to match the changing environment.
    • Minor modifications to strategies or structures…..
scale of change 2 dunphy stace
Scale of change (2) (Dunphy & Stace)
  • 3. Modular Transformation.
    • Major realignment of one or more departments or divisions.
    • Downsizing, re-engineering.
  • 4. Corporate Transformation

(frame-breaking effecting the whole organisation).

    • As described earlier as discontinuous or frame-breaking change.

A contemporary research study found that most organisations have been undergoing types 3 & 4 change.

phases of emergent versus planned change 1
Phases of Emergent Versus Planned Change (1)
  • Fine tuning and incremental change are usually also seen as emergent, ‘unfolding as it happens’.
  • The organisation, an open system, engages ‘naturally’ in emergent change as it tries to maintain equilibrium with its changing environment.
phases of emergent versus planned change 2
Phases of Emergent Versus Planned Change (2)
  • However, organizations that rely only on making emergent change may ignore ‘warning signs’ of the need for more radical forms of change, and the organisation will suffer ‘strategic drift’, i.e. the strategy and perceptions of the organisation will become less and less in tune with the environment.
phases of emergent versus planned change 3
Phases of Emergent Versus Planned Change (3)
  • Some theorists argue that PLANNED CHANGE that is also frame-breaking may then be necessary as a drastic remedy to bring the organization back to health.
logical incrementalism 1
“Logical Incrementalism” (1)
  • Quinn does not agree that change is eitheremergentorplanned. Quinn believes that although managers may have an idea of the destination, they do not really plan change in ‘big chunks’.
logical incrementalism 2
“Logical Incrementalism” (2)
  • Quinn says that managers:
    • Are flexible about how to get to the destination.
    • Arrive at strategic change through negotiation with stakeholders.
    • Allow strategic change to evolve incrementally, although this is not piece-meal or haphazard because it is based on agreed purposes and involves constant critical re-assessment.
    • The planned change processinvolves opportunist learning as it goes along.
    • Logical instrumentalism is both emergent and planned.
predictable change 1
Predictable Change (1)
  • Some theorists think that change might be neither wholly emergent nor wholly planned.
  • Instead, change may reflect the organisation’s LIFE-CYCLE.
  • Greiner identifies 4 stages or 5 phases through which organisations go as they grow and develop.
predictable change 2
Predictable Change (2)
  • Each of Greiner’s stages contains a crisis period.
    • Stage 1 is entrepreneurial - survival oriented.
    • Stage 2 is collective - based on division of labour.
    • Stage 3 is formalised- based on bureaucracy.
    • Stage 4 is elaborated - based on problem oriented teams.

Stages of organisational growth

Source: Clarke, L. (1994) The Essence of Change, Prentice Hall, p.12.

predictable change 3
Predictable Change (3)
  • Greiner’s model is potentially useful in identifying what stage an organization is at, and therefore what type of change situation it is in and will be in.
  • The model may therefore help an organisation to plan change and predict the next crisis point.
diagnosing change situations
Diagnosing Change Situations
  • Diagnosisof change situations is not an exact science.
  • Various diagnostic methods can be used in combination, e.g. SWOT, PETS, multi-cause diagrams.
  • Some more methods are now discussed.
evolutionary cycle of competitive behaviour 1
Evolutionary Cycle of Competitive Behaviour - 1
  • Strebel has suggested a model that examines the industry within which the organisation is located, i.e. the organisation’s competitive environment.
  • Two key concepts are:
    • the ‘evolutionary cycle of competitive behaviour.’
    • ‘breakpoints’, when companies must change their strategies in response to changes in competitors’ behaviour.
evolutionary cycle of competitive behaviour 2
Evolutionary Cycle of Competitive Behaviour - 2

The cycle involves two main phases.

1. The DIVERGENTPHASE, based on innovation/variety: beginning when one organisation discovers a new business opportunity, the industry as a whole strives to create differentiated products and services that add customer value.

evolutionary cycle of competitive behaviour 3

2. Eventually a breakpoint occurs, as the emphasis shifts to the CONVERGENT PHASE, based on efficiency/survival, which begins with imitation of competitors’ best features, and then leads to an emphasis on reducing costs. Competitors converge on total quality management, continual improvement & re-engineering to cut costs and maintain market share. Only the fittest survive.

3. Then back to 1, as further savings are marginal.

Evolutionary Cycle of Competitive Behaviour - 3
evolutionary cycle of competitive behaviour 4
Evolutionary Cycle of Competitive Behaviour - 4
  • Progressively, with cycle after cycle, industries deliver both more customer value through various generations of differentiation (e.g. mobile phone technology) each followed by more cost reduction.
    • Industries vary according to the relative emphasis on divergent phases versus convergent phases
evolutionary cycle of competitive behaviour 5
Evolutionary Cycle of Competitive Behaviour - 5


Customer Value



of products

cost reduction phase

Concern for Innovation &

customer value

differentiation phase

cost reduction phase

 = breakpoints


Customer Value

pioneering/novelty phase


Delivery of efficiency & cost savings

Low Costs

evolutionary cycle of competitive behaviour 6

Spotting the breakpoints.

  • Formal Methods include:
    • Environmental scanning
    • Benchmarking
    • Monitoring, data collection and data interpretation
      • Detecting when a new divergent phase is about to begin is more difficult because the new wave of innovation cannot yet be seen.
  • Informal methods include:
    • Open-minded attitudes
    • Cooperation across the organisation
    • Culture supporting innovation and change
Evolutionary Cycle of Competitive Behaviour - 6
difficulties and messes

These are characterised by ‘hard complexity’.

There are lots of factors and variables.

But they can be meaningfully quantified.

Optimal solutions can be developed.


These are characterised by soft complexity.

People’s description of events is ambiguous.

There aremultiple interpretations and reconstructions of what the problem is.

Stakeholder groups will see things according to their stake in the problem.

Thus there are many different ideas about what kind of solutions there might be.

Difficulties and ‘Messes’

Difficult versus messy problems

DIFFICULTIES - Smaller scale, well-defined, ‘hard complexity’, multiple variables, cerebral



know what

would be a




know what

the problem is




can be treated

as a separate


know what

needs to be



number of

people involved


MESSY PROBLEMS - bigger, poorly defined, ‘soft complexity’, multiple perspectives, emotional

longer uncertain


no solutions

priorities called

into question


but greater




know what

the problem is

can’t be


from its context

don’t know what

needs to be known

more people


concluding remarks
Diagnosing necessary change and managing subsequent change is usually not just a matter of objective calculation.

Soft problems present various emotional and social dimensions which demand a broad range of managerial change competencies and approaches.

Concluding Remarks