Journal of Change Management,
Vol. 4, No. 3, 193-215, September 2004
Influence of participation in
strategic change: resistance,
organizational commitment and
change goal achievement
Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Norway
ABSTRACT Participation in strategic change processes is frequently assumed to have a number of positive consequences for decision quality, affective responses to change and success of strategic change implementation. To date little research has successfully established the validity of these claims. The fact that results from research into the effects of participation in other contexts are inconclusive is adding to the ambiguity concerning participation's efficacy in a strategic change context. This article uses data from a major strategic reorientation of a national telecommunications firm in order to assess the outcomes of participation in strategic change. Findings indicate a strong positive relationship between participation and goal achievement and organizational commitment, and a strong negative relationship with resistance. The results also suggest that the effects of participation are moderated by the changes' compatibility with organizational culture and the personal goals of change recipients.
KEY WORDS: Strategic change, participation, implementation of change
This article studies the influence of participation on a set of dimensions related to the success of the implementation of deliberate strategic change (Mintzberg and Waters, 1985). Participation is believed to have a number of positive effects on the strategy process. Most notably, it is assumed that involvement of those affected by a change in strategy will reduce organizational resistance and to create a higher level of psychological commitment among employees towards the proposed changes. Also, participation has been argued to lead to qualitatively better strategic decisions (Kim and Mauborgne, 1998), One reason for this being that a broader array of relevant skills, competencies and information is brought to bear Correspondence address: Department of Strategy and Management, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Breiviksveien 40, N 5045 Bergen, Norway; Email; Rune,Lines@nhh,no 1469-7017 Print/1479-1811 Online/04/030193-23 © 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd, DOI; 10,1080/1469701042000221696
on each stage in the strategic decision process. Participation is further believed to make the political realities of the organization more salient and thus lead to choices that are based on political as well as socio-technical considerations. In sum, these and other putative effects are believed to lead to successful implementation of strategic change.
Up to this point, very little empirical evidence has been provided to support the assumed effects of participation in strategic change. Some sceptics hold that an individual's reaction to a proposed change is more dependent on the relationship between their own personal goals and the outcomes of change than on the processes used for formulating and implementing change (Guth and MacMillan, 1986; Gaertner, 1989). Procedural justice theorists, on the other hand, argue that the design and execution of strategy processes are the main determinants of individual reactions to change (Korsgaard et al., 1995).
Extant research on participation has mostly been carded out in contexts that differ substantially from strategic change processes; cuasing transference of generalizations of any effects to this setting dubious. Strategic change processes have been characterized as being highly complex, politically laden, affecting large parts of the organization and driven by upper level managers (Hambdck and Mason, 1984; Hardy, 1995), Research into participation, on the other hand, has most frequently been carried out at much lower levels in the organization. Further, existing studies have concentrated on...
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