Strategic Change Literature Review

Topics: Complex system, Strategic management, Complexity Pages: 5 (1708 words) Published: January 6, 2011
In an ever evolving and developing world, organisational change is becoming inevitable. In order to be successful an organisation must adapt to the constantly changing and highly competitive environment in which it operates. This suggests that an understanding of the concepts of organisational change is crucial. But before trying to understand change in relation to organisations, one must understand the concept of change in general. Tsoukas and chia (2002567) define change as the reweaving of actors webs of beliefs and habits of action to accommodate new experiences obtained through interactions. This means that people/animals alter the way they think and behave in order to adapt to new situations. For organisational purposes, change can be defined as the process of continually renewing organisations direction, structure and capabilities to serve the ever changing needs of external and internal customers (Moran and Brightman 2001111).Due to the increase in Globalisation and the advances in technology, organisations are being forced to change in ways that were never anticipated. Graetz (2000) believes that due to these factors, as well as deregulation and a more intelligent workforce, the key role of managers today is the leadership of organisational change. Because change in the environment surrounding companies is often unpredictable, it is difficult to prepare for and organisational change therefore tends to be reactive. As a result of this, the skills required to manage change are becoming increasingly sought after by organisations (Balogun and Hailey 2004). Due to an increase in the need for organisational change, many researchers have come up with frameworks to help organisations implement change programmes.

Until the 1980s Kurt Lewins planned approach to change dominated the theory and practice of organisational change (Burnes 2005). Lewin believed that in times of crisis, be it personal, organisational or societal, established routines and behaviours break down. In reaction to this, new forms of activity rapidly emerge to regain stability (Lewin 1947). Lewin developed the 3-step model and argued that a successful change project involved 3 steps. Unfreezing was the first step. He believed that in order for change to occur, the equilibrium needs to be destabilised (unfrozen) and old behaviour disregarded (Burnes 2004). Step 2 was named moving and Lewin believed that this was the shift from undesired to desired actions/behaviours. Refreezing was the final step and this was the stabilisation of the new set of behaviours to prevent regression. However, Lewins work has received a great deal of criticism from many other researchers in this field. Kanter et al (1992) claimed that his 3 step model was too simple and that organisational change was much more dynamic than his 3 step model suggests. On the other hand Burnes (2004) argued that when Lewin developed his 3-step model it was not intended to be solely for organisational use, but for social and personal means also. A further criticism of this model could be that it is now outdated and may not be efficient for organisations in current times.

In response to the criticism associated with Lewins work, a new approach to organisational change emerged in the 1980s, known as the processual approach (Burnes 2005). This approach argues that change is continuous and unpredictable. Two main researchers in this field believe that organisation is the way in which humans try to channel instability towards certain ends (Tsoukas and chia 2002567).In their research, Tsoukas and Chia try to prove organisational change to be a normal condition of organisational life. They reject the more traditional view that change is an exceptional activity individuals undertake in the hope to gain stability. Rather, they see change as a continuous and emergent process. In order to justify these claims the authors draw upon the findings of studies conducted by researchers in this field, such as...

References: Balogun, J. and Hailey, V.H (2004) Exploring Strategic Change, second edition.
Burnes, B. (2004) Kurt Lewin and the planned approach to changeA re-appraisal, Journal of management studies 4(6) 979-1002.
Burnes, B. (2005) Complexity theories and organisational change, International Journal of management reviews 7(2) 73-79.
Feldman, M. (2000) Organisational routines as a source of continuous change, Organic Science 11(6) 611-629.
Graetz, F. (2002) Strategic change leadership, Management decision 38(8) 550-562.
Houchin, K. and MacLean, P. (2005) complexity theory and strategic changean empirically informed critique, British journal of management 16.
Kanter, R.M., Stein, B.A., and Jick, T.D (1992) The challenge of organisational change, New Yorkfree press.
Lewin, K. (1974) Frontiers in group dynamics, in Cartwright, P. Field theory in social science.
Moran, J.W. and Brightman, B.K. (2001) Leading organisational change, Development international 6(2) 111-118.
Stacey, R.D., Griffin, D. and Shaw, P. (2002) complexity and managementFAD or radical challenge to superior thinking.
Stacey, R.D. (2003) Strategic management and organisational dynamicsthe challenge of complexity.
Tsoukas, H. and Chia, R. (2002) On organisational becomingre-thinking organisational change, Organisation science 13(5) 567-582.
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