Critically Examine the Arguments for and Against Deliberately Trying to Change Organizations

Topics: Change management, Organization, Management Pages: 9 (3468 words) Published: April 28, 2010
Assessed Essay OC4
“Critically examine the arguments for and against deliberately trying to change organizations”


Before we begin to explore whether it is a worthwhile exercise to seek to change an organisation through a planned approach we must first begin with a definition of our terms. What might we mean by “deliberate”, “change” and an “organisation” To do so will help us explore under what circumstances planned change may be worthwhile or even possible. Huczynski & Buchanan (1991) define organizations as “social arrangements for the controlled performance of collective goals”. This definition fits well those who would propose a deliberate change approach as it suggests an element of control of the organisation is possible. It also pictures the organisation as a separate entity whose goal is to control and that there is agreement by the members on what these goals should be. The fits with the roots of Organisational Development that the performance of the organisation can be enhanced by exerting control in some way over the structures, processes and individuals that make up the organisation. Some would take issue however with the concept of the organisation as a seperate entity: Morgan (1986) “organizations are complex and paradoxical phenomena that can be understood in different ways” thus change of the organisation is a much more complex issue. In Morgans view, the idea that we can identify the elements that make up the organisation, in the same way that you might dismantle a machine, does not allow for the complexity that exists. As our view of the organisation affects our perspective our definition of the type of change we are examining will also affect the scope of our investigation. Schein (1969) defines change as “the initiation of new patterns of action, belief and attitudes among substantial segments of the population”. Change is something that is started by someone (a change agent), but does not necessarily need to involve everyone. For Schein, change is deep rooted in that it goes beyond the surface level change of process and goes to the core of behaviour: beliefs and attitudes. Lippett (1973) uses a broader definition: “any planned or unplanned alteration to the status quo”. We will explore whether, using such a broad definition, the planned approach might be more suitable to particular contexts. Our final term in need of definition is “deliberate change”. Ford & Ford (1995) define this as “when a change agent deliberately and consciously sets out to establish conditions and circumstances that are different from what they are now and then accomplishes that through some set or series of actions and interventions either singularly or in collaboration with other people”. Thus deliberate change involves intent that distinguishes it from change which is not consciously produced and instead occurs as a series of side effects, accidents or unanticipated consequences of actions.

The Arguments for Deliberate Change

1. Performance is enhanced by the controlled introduction of change rather than allowing it to happen haphazardly.

It is worth noting that the classical approach, from which this argument derives, was developed during a period when the management approach was fairly reactive and adhoc. The scientific approach to management was an attempt to create order and efficiency. Fayol (1949), suggested the role of mangers is to plan, organise, command, co-ordinate and control. Critics of the approach would attack the concept of leadership portrayed by Fayol and others e.g. Collins who speaks of “Level 5” leaders who are more servants than charismatic controllers; those who would look in the mirror when performance dips and praise their team for the successes achieved. Those who would act more as facilitators than controllers. There is also wider criticism of the notion that planned change is good for organisations per se. This seems to be a notion that permeates much of OD...

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