As competitions within the global market continue to intensify, change is arguably the only element that ensures organisation survival. Nadler and Tushman (1986) supported the view that organisations must accept change as the corporate way of life to remain competitive. Albeit the notion “change or else perish” sounded relatively simple, it can be difficult to execute to perfection given that change comes in many shapes and forms. Meyerson (2001) stipulated that there is no one right way to manage change and what work for one individual under one set of circumstances may not work for others under different conditions. In other words, there is no one panacea to managing change. In the subsequent parts of this essay, we will explore the various types of change and its characteristics bounded by its scope and pace of change, and further examine some of the ways in which change can best be implemented in the least painful way for organisations.
Grundy (1993) suggested that change comes in three forms - smooth incremental, bumpy incremental and discontinuous. “Smooth incremental change evolves slowly in a systematic and predictable way” (Gundy, 1993). This type of change usually paced at a constant speed and in a relatively clam manner. On the other hand, Gundy (1993) stipulated that bumpy incremental change is like a roller coaster ride where organisation goes through sudden spur periods of interrupted change, triggered by the external environment causing a need to respond imposed by the organisation for achieving efficiency. The third type of change involves a rapid transformation shift in the organisation’s strategy, structure and/or culture where the organisation embraces a new breakpoint in strategy, structure and/or culture and detached itself from the old state (Grundy, 1993).
However, Senior and Swailes (2010) argued that change in itself is far more complicated than what Grundy (1993) had suggested. Plowman, Baker, Beck, Kulkarni, Slansku and Travis (2007) shared similar view by stipulating that change can be further analysed by the dynamics of the change in both its scope and pace. Plowman et al (2007) further suggested that change is either convergent or radical in its scope and either evolutionary or revolutionary in its pace. In other words, change is not homogenous. Roberts (1998) believed that the pace and scope of change produces further clarity to the dynamics of change through understanding how organisation experienced periods of convergence change via either element or system adaptation, or punctuated change via either element or system transformation.
Convergent and Evolutionary/Continuous Change: Element Adaptation – “Continuous change is often viewed as consisting of small adaptations that having emerged from improvisation and learning, may or may not accumulate and that occur because systems cannot maintain stability” (Plowman et al, 2007). Changes at this level involve an on-going process but in a less upheaval manner of making minor adjustments within departmental or divisional level in reaching alignment with the overall organisation’s strategy, structure, processes and people.
Radical and Evolutionary/Continuous Change: System Adaptation – Romanelli and Tushman (1994) argued that radical change does not happen in a slow and continuous manner given its level of intensity that needed to be addressed. Reardon, Reardon and Rowe (1998) further supported that radical change demand people depart drastically from the status quo and often need to do so in a limited period of time. However, Roberts (1998) and Plowman et al (2007) argued the opposite by suggesting that radical change can indeed happen in a gradual manner. Roberts (1998) further supported that system adaptation refers to a change in the system itself rather than a modification in one of its part. “Representing a qualitative rather than a quantitative shift in the way things are done; it is marked by...