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Paf 508 Organizational Behavior

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PAF 508 Organizational Behavior

Organizational Change Thematic Outline and Discussion Questions

March 25th Saturday

The “environment” of public, nonprofit, and private organizations

  • Citizens are becoming more vocal regarding what they expect, especially the quality of service they receive.
  • Technology is changing so quickly.
  • There are changes in the workforce and the expectations of workers.
  • There is the impact of the new global economy.
  • Finally, there are increasingly complex demands for ethics and accountability.

Three ways in which “change may be implemented successfully”

  • Managers need to clarify and communicate the problems with people.
  • Managers should involve people throughout the organization in the change process.
  • Managers must recognize that people involved in change simply need time.

Several different “types of change”

  • Incremental: These changes take place within the context of the organization’s existing framework and orientation and occur in relatively small increments.
  • Discontinuous: These changes involve almost a complete break with the past and a major reconstruction of every element of the organization’s work.
  • Strategic: Changes made by executives, senior managers, consultants, leading to changes that are both broad range and long term.
  • Grassroots: Changes that take place at the local or street level and involve middle-level and supervisory-level managers as well as workers on the front line.

The first step in bringing about organizational changes is to understand something about the process of change.

  • Classic Approaches
  • Social psychologist Kurt Lewin wrote, “Group life is never without change, merely differences in the amount and type of change exist”.
  • There are both forces trying to bring about change and forces trying to resist change.
  • Lewin called these “driving” and “restraining” forces.
  • One way of using this understanding in real-life situation is to conduct a “force field analysis”.
  • In any case, for change to occur, there must be a shift in the balance of forces at play in any given organizational “field”. Either those forces propelling change must be increased or those forces restricting change must be lessened. In either case, according to Lewin, the first step is unfreezing the existing situation. The second step is the change itself. The third step is refreezing the situation.
  • One stream of theory and practice closely related to Lewin’s model, a stream that undergirds much temporary work on organizational change, is the “action research model”. In the action research model, there usually is significant collaboration between group members and an external consultant. 
  • Many of the contemporary ways of understanding and bring about organizational change rest on the assumptions of early “force field analysis” and “action research”.
  • Organizational Culture
  • One more contemporary way of understanding organizational change relies on a concept borrowed from anthropology - the concept of “culture”.
  • The idea is that members of an organization share certain ideas about everything.
  • E. Schein actually distinguished among three levels of organizational change. First, there are artifacts and creations of the culture. Second, there are the values of the organization. Third, there are the basic underlying assumptions of the organization.
  • With respect to organizational change, the key idea is that the culture of an organization will shape the values and attitudes and, in turn, the actions of the organization. If this is the case, then changing the organization’s culture may be a key step in changing the behavior of the organization’s employees.
  • Latham has focused on some practical issues in achieving cultural change by focusing on behavior, then identifying a five-step approach to behavioral change. The first step is establishing a superordinate goal. The second phase is goal setting, establishing goals which make the superordinate goal concrete. The next two steps, ensuring integrity and accessibility of the managers in the organization, are especially important.
  • Schein recognized the limitations of efforts to change culture, writing that managers seeking to change an organization’s culture must “build on and evolve the culture one has rather than wishing for some dramatic changes or some other cultural forms”.
  • In any case, the cultural perspective provides important insights into the operation of complex organizations.
  • Open Systems and Organizational Learning
  • Another way of viewing organizational change is called organizational learning.
  • Organizational learning starts with individual learning. But individual learning is essential, it is not enough.
  • Among contemporary approaches to organizational learning, Open Systems theory of C. Argyris and D. schön began by noting how the theories that people hold shape the way in which they actually behave.
  • P. Senge suggested five “disciplines” in which individuals can engage to build a learning organization: Personal mastery, Mental models, Shared vision, Team learning, and Systems thinking.
  • Large Systems Change
  • The notion is that change does not come about through the accumulation of individually controlled changes, but systematically through a focus on the whole.
  • For example, no single individual or group could have created global warming, yet globalized institutions have made possible a worldwide phenomenon.
  • P. Senge and his colleagues argue that the core capacity to create large systems change comes from within and is captures presence. Presence starts with being immediately and fully aware of one’s circumstances, but there is more.
  • Otto Scharmer argued in Theory U that the key task of anyone bringing about change is to establish others to see the whole.  
  • The key ingredient in successful change is to shift the way in which people see the field in which they operate, moving away from the world of habits and routines to enter contexts that matter, then connecting with the source of the highest future possibilities and bringing them into the present.
  • M. Wheatley and D. Frieze argued that large systems change rarely comes about  as a result of top-down or control strategies. Instead, change in social organizations and social systems follows a pattern similar to that of change in nature, where several small actions come together to create a new dynamic.

Whether we conceive of organizational change in terms of an interplay of driving and restraining forces, building or remodeling an organization’s culture, or building a capacity for organizational learning, there are several specific strategies or techniques that may be helpful in bringing about organizational change.



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