Human Resource Managment

Six Images of Managing Change

Arising from 
Table 2.1 are six differing images of managing change, each of which is dependent on the images held of managing and of whether intentional change outcomes can be achieved. In what follows, we outline each image and discuss various theories that underpin and support them.

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Image 1: Change Manager as Director

The 
director image is based on an image of management as control and of change outcomes as being achievable. It is therefore up to the change manager to direct the organization in particular ways in order to produce the required change. The assumption is that change is a strategic choice that managers make and the survival and general well-being of the organization depends on them.
16 So, for example, if a change manager decides that it is important to realign the organization to changes in the environment by introducing a new information technology system throughout the organization, then it is assumed that this can be done, that it will work well, and that the outcome will be a better-performing, better-aligned organization.

Theoretical Underpinning of the Image

As we will see in 
Chapter 8, there are a variety of what are sometimes referred to as
n-step models or theories of change that assume the image of the change manager as 
director. These 
n-step models outline a set of steps that change managers should use to implement whatever is the change. The models vary in the number of steps they propose and the order in which they should be taken. However, what unites them is an optimistic view that intentional change can be achieved—as long as the change manager follows the correct steps that need to be taken.

Even writers such as Kotter who acknowledge that successful change efforts are messy and full of surprises
17 nevertheless remain optimistic and maintain that his eight-step change model will produce a satisfying result
18 as long as the change manager follows these steps. Similarly, Ghoshal and Bartlett
19write that while change is often thought to be difficult and messy, there is nothing mystical about the process of achieving effective change as long as certain steps are followed.
20 As we will see in 
Chapter 8
contingencytheories of change such as found in Stace and Dunphy
21 and Huy
22 share with 
n-step theories the assumption that change can be directed; they part company with 
n-step theories in arguing that the nature of this direction depends on (or is contingent upon) a range of organizational factors such as the scale of the change, the urgency of the change, and the receptivity of organizational members to engaging in the change. There will be different best ways, that is, different types of steps that change managers should take, depending upon the confluence of such factors. However, as long as they align the type of change with the style best suited to it, then intended change outcomes can be produced.

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Image 2: Change Manager as Navigator

In the 
navigator image, control is still seen as at the heart of management action, although a variety of factors external to managers mean that while they may achieve some intended change outcomes, others will occur over which they have little control. Outcomes are at least partly emergent rather than completely planned and result from a variety of influences, competing interests, and processes. For example, a change manager may wish to restructure his or her business unit by putting cross-functional teams in place in order to assist product development across the different business functions. While a change manager may be able to formally establish teams (an intentional outcome), his or her ability to get them to work effectively may be minimal where there is a history of distrust, hoarding of information, and boundary protection by functional units. In this situation, functional managers may appoint people to the cross-functional teams who they know will keep the interests of their department uppermost and block any decisions that might decrease their 

2728organizational power (an unintended outcome of putting the teams in place). As Pendle-bury et al.
23 point out, Any sort of change is a leap in the dark. For them, this does not mean that managing change is something that is not able to be controlled; rather it is only 
partially controllable with change managers navigating the process toward an outcome, not all of which will be intentional.
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Theoretical Underpinning of the Image

The 
contextualist or 
processual theories of change, which, Burnes
25 maintains, are associated with the work of writers such as Dawson
26 and Pettigrew and Whipp,
27 rely upon the 
navigator image. These theories share an assumption with contingency theory that change unfolds differently over time and according to the context in which the organization finds itself. However, they differ from contingency theory in assuming that change should not be and cannot be solidified, or seen as a series of linear events within a given period of time; instead, it is viewed as a continuous process.
28 Change is therefore a process that unfolds through the interplay of multiple variables (context, political processes and consultation) within an organization.
29Directing is not an option as there can be no simple prescription for managing transitions successfully.
30 It is up to change managers to navigate their way through this complexity by identifying the range of options open to them, gathering and monitoring information, and availing themselves of appropriate resources.
31

Even so, change managers need to accept that there will be unanticipated disruptions so that even these options and resources will need to be reviewed and reevaluated. In so doing, change managers are urged to incorporate bottom-up involvement of staff in their approach to managing change so, for senior managers, [i]nstead of directing and controlling change, their role becomes one of ensuring the organization’s members are receptive to, and have the necessary skills and motivation, to take charge of, the change process.
32 In this approach, change managers are assumed to have some scope for choice and maneuver.
33 In keeping with the metaphor of the change manager as 
navigator, change courses may need to be plotted and then replotted as new information comes to light and variations are made. There is no guarantee that the final destination will be that which was initially envisaged (if there is, indeed, a final destination) and there is the ever-present likelihood that a variety of other, unanticipated destinations might eventuate, brought about by the shifting winds and currents underlying the change.

Image 3: Change Manager as Caretaker

In the 
caretaker image, the (ideal) image of management is still one of control, although the ability to exercise control is severely constrained by a variety of forces, both internally and externally driven, that propel change relatively independent of a manager’s intentions. For example, despite the change manager’s best intentions to implement activities to encourage entrepreneurial and innovative behavior, they may feel like this is a continually failing exercise as the organization grows, becomes more bureaucratic, and enacts strategic planning cycles, rules, regulations, and centralized practices. In this situation, inexorable growth and the issues associated with it are outside the control of any individual manager of change. In this rather pessimistic image, at best managers are caretakers, shepherding their organizations along as best they can.

Theoretical Underpinning of the Image

Three organizational theories reinforce this 
caretaker image of managers of change: life-cycle, population ecology, and institutional.

Life-Cycle Theory

As in the example above, this theory views organizations as passing through well-defined stages from birth to growth, maturity, and then decline or death. These stages are part of the natural, developmental cycle of organizations. There is an underlying logic or trajectory and the stages through which it passes are sequential.
34 There is little change managers can do to stop this natural development; at best they are caretakers of the organization as it passes through the various stages (see 
Table 2.2). In 

2930all this, managers have a limited role, helping to smooth the various transitions rather than controlling whether or not they occur.

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TABLE 2.2: Life Cycle Stages and Change Management Issues

 

Source: Adapted from Harrison and Shirom, 
1999:307–14.

Population Ecology Theory

Drawing on biology and neo-Darwinian logic, population ecologists focus on how the environment selects organizations for survival or extinction,
35 with whole populations of organizations changing as a result of ongoing cycles of variation, selection, and retention.

  •  Organizational variation can occur as the result of random chance.
  •  Organizational selection can occur when an environment selects organizations that are of best fit to its conditions.
  •  Organizational retentionconsists of forces that retain various organizational forms and thereby serve as a co

    Some population ecology theorists suggest that there are at least some limited actions that change managers may take to influence these forces. For example, some writers point to:

    •  The ability of some organizations, or their key stakeholders, to interact with other organizations to lessen the effect of the environment.
    •  The ability of an organization to reposition itself in a new market or environment.37

    In general, however, the implication of population ecology theory is that managers have little sway over change where whole populations of organizations are impacted upon by outside forces. One might point, for example, to how managers of many promising dot. com companies were unable to withstand the impact of the widespread 
    dot.com crash in April 2000 that affected the whole population of 
    dot.comorganizations.

    Institutional Theory

    Institutional theory argues that change managers take similar actions across whole populations of organizations. This similarity in the actions that they take occurs through pressures associated with the interconnectedness of organizations within an industry or environment.
    38 DiMaggio and Powell
    39 identify three such pressures:

    •  Coercive (including government-mandated changes).
    •  Mimetic (where organizations imitate the structures and practices of other organizations in their field, usually ones that they consider as legitimate or successful).
    •  Normative (where changes occur through the professionalizing of work such that managers in different organizations utilize similar values and modes of operating in their actions and decisions).unterinfluence to the forces of variation and selection.36
    •  

While not all organizations succumb to these pressures—there are deviant peers
40— the assumption is that these external forces are inexorable and individual managers have only limited ability to implement change outcomes that are at odds with these forces. At best, change managers are 
caretakers having little influence over the direction of change.

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