I attended a Change Management Workshop. Herewith my impressions of the workshop. This review will first explore organisations and management theories and the development of these theories over the past decades. Following this exploration, I will explore managing change before it will report on the reasons, nature and consequences of change initiatives within this context. Lastly, I will conclude with the effects of the change strategy on the organisation.
What is the objective of Change Management? It was summarised by this:
- analyse how our organisation works and the implications of change
- demonstrate the ability to critically engage with management theories
- to critically discuss change theories and practices.
An organisation can be defined as a living organism where individuals systematically participate to achieve a common goal. It originates from the verb, to organize which means to bring order. An organization is thus something that has been made into an ordered whole. Inherent to the concept is the establishing of a structure, a way of systematically arrange things (management), a group of people who work together in a relationship towards a common purpose. Therefore, an organisation is the “planned, coordinated and purposeful action of human beings to construct or compile a common tangible or intangible product or service” (Answers.com).
Development can be defined as actions to cause gradual evolutionary improvement and/or growth from one point to a next. The importance is the clear movement from a previous stage to a next stage.
Design, when we talk about organisational design, is the creative plan to make or develop into something new.
Management is the process of influencing people to achieve common goal. Part of management will include the direction and controlling of people's actions. A manager affect and are affected by the process and therefore, personal growth and coping mechanisms is part of the task of management. The key functions of management are planning, operationalization (operations to achieve objectives), leadership and control.
Change can be defined as the movement from 1 point to another, to alter to make something different. Change is therefore close to development. The difference to me is that development expects that there is an inherent improvement from the previous to the next, while change doesn't assume the same. Change can result in a worse position as the previous.
Lastly, I found the definition of a bureaucracy originated from Max Weber very helpful in understanding organisations and management. Bureaucracy developed because of tasks and responsibilities within a structure that became a permanent form of administration and standardized work procedures (Churchill, C. Class Notes 2006). Although Max Weber preferred a bureaucracy as a more efficient form of administration, the danger exists that citizens are treated as objects, a real danger to which many citizens can testify.
First, lets look at common Organisational Theories
The classical approach to Organisational Theories has its roots in modernism. Modernism with its positivism, rationalism, efficiency, division of work and specialisation saw an organisation as a self-sufficient purposeful hierarchical organisation with a formal structure. Management’s task is to improve the structure of the organisation and control the operations. This is done by rational logic dissemination of scientific data. The critique against this approach was the de-humanising factor of it. Jobs were overly specialised. The realisation that organisations are more than just technically efficient organisms brought a new approach to organisational behaviour. There are actually people with personalities and social needs working for organisations and therefore influencing organisational behaviour.
Human Relations Approach
This lead to the “human relations” theory of organisations. This approach moved away from the machine-orientated, de-humanizing organisational structure by recognizing the social factors affecting organisational behaviour. Improvement of relations and recognising values and attitudes and the well-being of employees became the new management strategy, and it was believed this approach will improve efficiency rather than the technocracy of the classical view. Although this is a much improved theory, it didn’t recognise the environment and the socio-technical system in which an organisation functions.
The systems theory integrates the human and classical theories about organisations, but adds the organisation’s external environment and its influence on organisations as an important variable. This theory recognises that organisations are dynamic organism and that there is a reciprocal relationship between the structural and behavioural aspects of an organisation.
The systems theory is generally regarded as the brain child of the biologists , Ludwig von Bertalanffy in reaction to physicists who studied organisms as closed entities, “as if the rest of the universe does not exist” (Heylighen, F. 1998) . Von Bertalanffy exerts that organism are open systems and are therefore continuously influenced by its environment. In, for example the human body, organisms will simply die if it is extracted from its environment. Another important fact of von Bertalanffy’s argument is that the environment consists of other systems also interacting with its environment as well. Even individuals are a system (the body as the whole) which is part of a bigger system, society at large. “…human beings are not just individual identities, but fulfil a social role: i.e., they are a function of a social system” (McKercher, P.M. 1993: Ch 4).
Applying this to organisational behaviour means that an organisation can only be understood by looking at it holistically, that is in conjunction with its inputs, outputs and environmental influences. Interaction with the environment is therefore an intrinsic part of this theory.
Although this was a major shift in organisational behaviour, it didn’t solve all the questions of organisational behaviour. One of the biggest concerns were the validity to use a physiological theory (body with its organisms) superimposed on social systems like organisations. “Recognizing that the social organization is contrived again cautions us against making an exact analogy between it and physical or biological systems” (Kast, F.E. & Rosenzwieg, J.E. 1972: 456). This brought about the contingency theory, adding the situation as another variable to take note of.
The contingent approach adds situational variables to the systems theory and can therefore be seen as an extension of the Systems theory. “Basically, this approach seems to be leading to the development of a ‘contingency’ theory of organization with the appropriate internal states and processes of the organization contingent upon external requirements and member needs” (Lorsch, J.W. & Lawrence, P.W. 1970: 1). This approach takes cognisance of the fact that every situation might impose different variables to be used and to act upon. Therefore, management should use the appropriate technique for each unique situation.
Another interesting theory of change is the institutional approach with close links to post-modernism. This approach acknowledges the use of different fields of study, for example culture, ecology etc. This theory see change as a “process of homogenisation since organisations are perceived to be looking for legitimacy in their own particular fields” (Ngoma, W. undated: 4). The focus here is the environment which is also the critique against this approach as if the environment determine the change and not active participation and management form the organisation and its leaders.
Organisational Development (OD) Approach
The Organizational Development (OD) approach has its roots in human relations and relies on external agents to facilitate change. The critique against this approach is that the change agents or consultant is seen as a physician who comes in, diagnose and prescribe the correct “medicine”, often using a “toolbox” solution. The critique against the OD approach is its over-reliance on a “toolbox”-solution, as if all organisational problems can be fixed by using simple step-by-step guides from a book. Another critique is the involvement of external agents instead of the internal employees and/or managers of the organisation. Although these are fair critique, the use of a practical guide proved to be helpful in our organization in providing direction and it did even ease the fear associated with change. The same applies to the external agent. The critique is also valid but the involvement of an external agent brought an unbiased critical view to the processes and especially to the relationships which were necessary to facilitate the change. It seems therefore, that a combined approach (change agent and internal management) can be beneficial. As Richard Seel (2002) pointed out, change agents can not change organisations, they can only help organisations and individuals to discover new goals. As Seel (2000) so eloquently puts it, the change agent becomes a virus to the organisation, causing the internal participants to become their own agents of change.
Nichols (2004) does add the importance of the different skill set of the consultant as a change agent. Kegan & Lahey (2001) even adds another dimension to the skill set, that of a “psychologist”. To help individuals overcome their “competing commitments” (Kegan, R. & Lahey, L.L. 2001: 38), they provide a set of questions to help the change agent uncovering the real reasons why people won’t change. Although this is a useful guide for change agents to help individuals, and although the authors do admit that it’s a “challenging and painful” (2001: 54) process, this proved to be more difficult than was thought. In our organization it was very difficult to establish the necessary trust relationship that was needed to “uncover” the competing commitments. In some cases it wasn’t even possible to let people open up for such a process to start. Another factor which is not yet fully researched is the implementation of this technique in different cultural scenarios.
Managing change is closely related to the Organisational approach because OD is all about assisting clients to change by assessing the need, proposing the plan and helping them through the change (Answer.com : Managing-change). To summarise, the factors that play a major role in changing organisations, are:
- Create a need for change. Change in an organization can be induced by major external changes in the environment, in the market or in technology.
- Some authors propose that such “crisis” or need for change should even be “orchestrated” by bad financial reports or a crisis in the organisation.Strong leadership and commitment of the leaders to a new vision (see also Kotter’s 8 steps).
- Get everybody involved. It shouldn’t only be a “management” objective.
French & Delahay’s (1996) introduced a new approach, the 4-phased model for changing individuals. They challenge the assumptions of the old approach of the gap closure and gap connection which assumed that change is a linear and finite process and that individuals will resist change because it is seen as an external force upon them. Their cyclical model moves from a position of security to anxiety to discovery to integration. In a nut shell: security creates a sense of boredom, but individuals’ creativity moves them to the next stage; anxiety. The loss of the familiar patterns created anxiety but a need to learn, which offer development moves individuals to the next stage; discovery. Newly discovered information and skills, and creating new strategies leads individuals to make choices which leads them to the next stage; integration. In this stage, individuals accept the new way of doing things and create a new form of security. In a certain sense, this new stage of security caries the seeds of a new cycle.
Many of the readings were very interesting, for example:
- Burnes' (1997) questions why organisations choose inappropriate changes and what factors influence changes;
- Rainey's (2003) discussion of Down's organizational life cycle and Quinn's organizational stages, and the characteristics of innovative managers/leaders;
- Nickols' (2004) unfreezing - change - re-freezing change process;
- Seel's (2002) question whether change agents can change organisations;
- French & Delahay's (1996) 4 phased model for individual change, replacing the 2 old perspectives, gap closure and gap connection;
- Kegan & Lahey's (2001) competing commitments why people won't change;
- Seel's () epidemiology approach to culture and the change agent who becomes a "virus" to the organization;
- Kearin's () discussion of a Foucauldian perspective on power.
The Organizational Development (OD) approach has its roots in human relations and relies on external agents to facilitate change. The critique against this approach is that the change agents or consultant is seen as a physician who comes in, diagnose and prescribe the correct "medicine", often using a "toolbox" solution. I understand the critique of the "toolbox"-solution but also acknowledge that a practical guide does help in providing direction and might even ease the fear associated with change. The critique against an external agent is also valid but again, an external agent does bring in an unbiased critical view to processes and relationships which can facilitate the necessary change. I do believe however, that a combined approach (change agent and internal management) is beneficial. As Richard Seel (2002) pointed out, change agents can not change organisations, they can only help organisations and individuals to discover new goals. As Seel (2000) so eloquently puts it, the change agent becomes a virus to the organisation, causing the internal participants to become their own agents of change.
Nichols (2004) does add the importance of the different skill set of the consultant as a change agent. Kegan & Lahey (2001) even adds another dimension to the skill set, that of a "psychologist". To help individuals overcome their "competing commitments" (Kegan, R. & Lahey, L.L. 2001: 38), they provide a set of questions to help the change agent uncovering the real reasons why people won't change. Although this is a useful guide for change agents to help individuals, and although the authors do admit that it's a "challenging and painful" (2001: 54) process, I'm not sure if this process of uncovering competing commitments will be as easy as the article make it to be, especially in a big organisation.
I prefer French & Delahay's (1996) new approach, the 4-phased model for changing individuals. They challenge the assumptions of the old approach of gap closure and gap connection which assumes that change is a linear and finite process and that individuals will resist change because its seen as an external force on them. Their cyclical model moves from a position of security to anxiety to discovery to integration. In a nut shell: security creates a sense of boredom, but individuals' creativity moves them to the next stage; anxiety. The loss of the familiar patterns created anxiety but a need to learn, which offer development moves individuals to the next stage; discovery. Newly discovered information and skills, and creating new strategies leads individuals to make choices which leads them to the next stage; integration. In this stage, individuals accept the new way of doing things and create a new form of security. To me, this new stage of security caries the seeds of a new cycle.
The reasons for change initiatives in the congregation were the loss of identity resulting from major environmental changes that occurred in the South African society. Because the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) was historically associated with the National Party and therefore the regime, it lost its critical relationship towards the state.
The relationship between church and state is a theological debate since the early church. Over the centuries the relationship has gone through many changes. In the early church, the state persecuted the church. Later, in the conception of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) it became the state. Nazism and apartheid gave rise to 2 distinct views on the role of the church and the state. On the one spectrum, the church is seen as the critique of the state; opposing the state because of the notion that the state doesn’t have any links to the Kingdom of God. On the other spectrum there is such solidarity with the state that the state is equated with the Kingdom of God. The, in my view, correct view is a critical-solidary (Heyns, J.A. 1977: 98) relationship between church and state. This view holds that the church should be solidary with the state in that the same basic human principles are being sought after. On the other hand, the church must never be so solidary that it can’t exert its critical function, calling upon the church to oppose the state when in conflict with the Kingdom of God.
This explains the reasons and nature of the change imposed on the DRC since 1994. Traditionally the white, black, brown and Indian DR Churches were all separate churches, united in an association called the “Family of DR Churches”. Since the late 1970’s and 1980’s the call for unity in the “Family” became stronger and stronger. Now, in a new democratic society there is no fundamental ground for nót being one united church. Not only is this a biblical postulate (John 17:20-21) , it is also seen by some as proof of true commitment from the DRC to the democratic South Africa, in the light of its historical past.
Although the DRC condemned apartheid as a sin already in the late 1980’s, change was therefore provoked onto the church by the democratization of South Africa. As the policies of the democratic South Africa were implemented, it affected the members of the church on every existential domain (employment, social life, church life, security etc). It also affected the fundamental and Biblical truths the DRC believed in, regarding unity. The separation of the DR Churches in the past was always seen as a stumbling block in the church’s mission to the world. Many scriptures (John 17:20-22; Rom 10:12; 1 Cor 12:12-13; Gal 3:26-29; Col 3:11) refer to the importance of unity, being the hub of the biblical message to the world. In Jesus’ prayer he prays for unity “so that the world will believe… (John 17:21 New American Bible).
Progressively the church leaders had therefore the mission to change the church into a dynamic organisation that would be true to its own nature and the Word of God. This change initiative didn’t come easily. At first, different parties had different objectives for the change initiatives. One major stumbling block for years was demands that were imposed on others. It is only recently that there is a real move towards the same objectives and unity. But in all the DR Churches, change initiatives were pivotal. Each church had the mission to guide its members to this shared goal. This assignment only reflects on the initiative in one of the DR Churches namely, the DRC.
The process was to consult and accommodate as much as possible not to alienate any of its members. Because of the size of the DRC, the organisation of the synods and the geographical structure, the consultation resulted in a lengthy process and caused much ignorance amongst church members. And ignorance worsens the effects of change initiatives.
The consequences of these change initiatives are, in my view, the following:
- Reluctance from many members and congregations to change. Reflecting on this, a few “competing commitments” (Kegan, R. & Lahey, L.L. 2001: 38) is visible. Over the years it became clear that people are willing to change in many aspects (cultural life, work environment, relocation etc) but the same people are often reluctant to accept change in the church. Some will even say that the church is the one place where they cherish the stability and the “known”. The church becomes the “comfort zone”. People also fear that the change will result in having to worship in another language, or that the format of the worship will change, and that the church will be swamped by others, etc.
- Loss of identity. Because the DRC tries to be everything for everyone, and because the DRC has already experienced a split in the 1980’s when apartheid was declared a sin by he DRC synod, the DRC is losing its distinctive own character. As a result, many members leave the church for other congregations and others choose to continue to live their faith without the church. But the consequence on the future of the DRC, as well as its relevance is in dire straits. As Seel (2002) points out, a “strong and secure sense of organisational identity will enable change to be tested and accepted”. Because there is currently a loss in identity, there is also a bigger reluctance to change.
- Loss of relevance. Because the DRC tries to accommodate as much as possible and in the result, moves too slowly towards the sought after change, many members and outsiders feel that the DRC has lost it’s relevance in the South African society. On the one side the DRC is criticised that its reluctance to change proof that the majority of church members didn’t break from apartheid and doesn’t want to accept the changes. Furthermore, the church is criticised from inside and outside for being a flunkey to the state, not practising its critical-solidary role towards the state.
- Internal schism. Inside the DRC, and even amongst the leaders, there is an imminent danger of a church split, which will affect the DRC’s relevance even more.
The change initiative in the DRC isn’t finished yet and therefore a complete assessment of the success or failure is not yet possible. However, it is already clear that many leaders doesn’t want to participate and are therefore not committed to the change initiatives. This demonstrates the conclusion of Rainey (2003: 380) and J.P. Kotter (1995: 62) of the importance of good leadership in change management. The problem in the church is that leadership is not accentuated as in other organisations because of the protestant reformation’s rejection of the papal leadership. The current leaders managing this change are torn between leading, but not so “strong” that it is seen as papal authority over the congregations.
Another constraint in the current process is the “need for change”, or as Kotter (1995: 60) put it: “not establishing a great enough sense of urgency”. It seems as if there is no urgency from the lower leadership towards change, and that is where the bulk of the members are informed and motivated for change. This further results in a lack of participation, which is essential for successful change.
The change from modernism to post-modernism affected the church as well, maybe even more than people want to believe. Because the church and its dogmas were firmly rooted in modernism where objective scientific researched truths about the church determined its identity, this social change has an enormous impact on the church. It can be seen in the fierceness of the debate in the daily press of theologians who started questioning the resurrection of Christ. Managing these current change initiatives will have to take cognisance of the social change or paradigm shift in the church as well as the broader society.
This paper briefly discussed different organisational theories and change management in these organisations.
It contextualised these theories with change initiatives in the DRC. Although change is not a linear process, one can say that these change initiatives in the DRC is not yet finished. The objectives of unity among the “Family of DRC churches” are not yet accomplished. But change in the DRC will always be a never-ending process. Not only because the growth and societal profile of its members, but also because change is inherent in the identity of the church and its mission towards the world. “Juist als de kerk trouw wil blijven aan haar wezen mag zij niet eenvoudigweg haar eigen verlede conserveren, maar moet zij als een historische kerk veranderen: om haar wezenlijke zending in de wereld, die een steeds veranderende wereld is die steeds niet in het verlede maar in het heden leeft, te vervullen” (Kung, H. 1970: 24).
Lastly, some consequences of the change initiatives were discussed, showing that the change initiatives, although not yet completed, already has a critical impact on the DRC.
Although the DRC might experience a loss of members, it is important to commit itself to the fundamental issues and align itself with Biblical norms. Often it is necessary to accept these “losses” to gain much more in the long term. But it is also critical for the church to establish a clear sense of identity, even if it results in a loss of membership. Identity is not only necessary for change but also affects an organisations on all levels; mission, vision, operations, relevance etc.
The need for change, strong leadership and broad participation will help this initiative to be successful.
If I were asked to comment on the factors that do play a major role in changing organisations, the following strike me as important:
- Create a need for change, even if it needs to be "orchestrated" by bad financial reports or a crisis in the organisation
- Strong leadership and commitment of the leaders to a new vision (see also Kotter's 8 steps)
- Get everybody involved. It shouldn't only be a "management" objective.
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- Burnes, B. (1997). Organizational choice and organizational change. In Management Decisions, Sep – Oct 1997; Vol 35; No 9010. p 753(7). University of Witwatersrand.
- Carrel, M.R. and others (1999) Human Resource Management in South Africa. South Africa: Pearson Education. p 104 - 136
- French, E. & Delahay, B. (1996). Individual change transition: Moving in circles can be good for you. Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 17/ 7, 1996. pp 22 – 28
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- Heylighen, F. (1997). Analytic vs. Systemic Approaches. Retrieved 12 November 2006 from http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/analsyst.html
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- Kegan, R. & Lahey, L.L. (2001). The real reason why people won’t change. In Harvard Business Review on Culture and Change. pp 37 – 58.
- Kotter, J.P. (1995). Leading Change: Why transformation efforts fail. In Harvard Business Review on Change. pp 1 – 20.
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Heylighen (1997) drew a useful comparison between the analytic approach and the systems approach but warns that its only purpose is to provide a simple comparison.
|Analytic Approach||Systemic Approach|
|isolates, then concentrates on the elements||unifies and concentrates on the interaction between elements|
|studies the nature of interaction|
|emphasizes the precision of details||emphasizes global perception|
|modifies one variable at a time||modifies groups of variables simultaneously|
|remains independent of duration of time; the phenomena considered are reversible||integrates duration of time and irreversibility|
|validates facts by means of experimental proof within the body of a theory||validates facts through comparison of the behavior of the
model with reality
|uses precise and detailed models that are less useful in actual operation (example: econometric models)||uses models that are insufficiently rigorous to be used as
bases of knowledge but are useful in decision and action (example: models of the Club of Rome)
|has an efficient approach when interactions are linear and weak||has an efficient approach when interactions are nonlinear and strong|
|leads to discipline-oriented (juxtadisciplinary) education||leads to multidisciplinary education|
|leads to action programmed in detail||leads to action through objectives|
|possesses knowledge of details poorly defined goals||possesses knowledge of goals, fuzzy details|
John P Kotter provides reasons why change often fails and conclude with these 8 steps to transforming an organisation (Kotter, J.P. 1995: 7):
- Establish a sense of urgency
- Form a powerful guiding coalition
- Create a vision
- Communicate the vision
- Empower others to act on the vision
- Plan for and create short-term wins
- Consolidate improvements, producing more wins
- Institutionalise new approaches