Change Management

Approaches to Managing Change

Management of change Opens in new window involves the process of developing approaches to implementing changes in organizations.

Approaches to managing change must address a number of organizational factors such as leadership, communication, employee motivation, training and development, etc. that are ongoing throughout the change process (Hayes, 2002) because a proper understanding of how employees are likely to respond to change is central to managing the process (Porter, 2004).

Although there exists a number of approaches to change Opens in new window, it is generally accepted that the two dominant ones are planned and emergent approaches (Burnes, 2004).

The planned approach views organizational change as essentially a process of moving from one fixed state to another through a series of predictable and pre-planned steps (Burnes, 1996). Planned change, then, results from a well-thought-out and deliberate effort to make something happen.

While the planned approach Opens in new window views change as an intentional and rational process, the emergent approach Opens in new window recognizes change as a process that unfolds through the interplay of multiple variables (context, political processes and consultation) within an organization (Burnes, 1996).

According to the emergent approach, organizational change can be regarded as a continuous process of experiment and adaptation aimed at matching an organization’s capabilities to the needs and dictates of a dynamic and uncertain environment.

This is often effectively achieved by a number of small-scale incremental changes over time which can in turn lead to major transformations. The role of managers in this approach is very different to that of the planned change approach. Rather than being planners and implementers of change, their responsibility lies in creating an organizational structure and climate which encourages staff to embrace and initiate change.

Both approaches have their uses and also their limitations in helping us to understand change. Both stress the fact that the change process is a learning process and both have been developed with particular situations and assumptions in mind.

For example, planned change is based on the assumption that organizations are operating in stable and predictable environments. In this situation, it is believed that change is about moving from one state to another. In contrast, emergent change is built on the assumption that organizations operate in more turbulent environments that are more unpredictable and that change is a continuous process of adaptation.

In spite of the differences between these two approaches, there is ‘reasonable consensus in the literature regarding the critical ingredients needed to implement a successful change management program’ (Angehrn and Atherton, 1999, p.2). Burnes (1996) suggests that, in fact, planned and emergent change approaches are two ends of the same continuum.