No such thing as … a “one best way” to manage organizational change

Bernard Burnes (Manchester School of Management, UMIST, Manchester, UK)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 1 December 1996


States that the ability to manage change is now recognized as a core organizational competence, and this is reflected in the large number of books and articles devoted to prescribing how success in this area can be achieved. Notes that although these prescriptions may vary significantly, they all tend to argue that their way is the “one best way” for all organizations. Challenges the idea that there can be a “one best way” and instead seeks to replace prescription with choice. Begins by reviewing the two main models of change ‐ the planned and emergent approaches ‐ before moving on to discuss the merits of adopting a contingency model of change. However, argues that such an approach does not offer real choice: instead it merely seeks to replace one set of prescriptions with another. Concludes by calling for a recognition that organizations do have real choices in what they change and how they change it.



Burnes, B. (1996), "No such thing as … a “one best way” to manage organizational change", Management Decision, Vol. 34 No. 10, pp. 11-18.

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Copyright © 1996, MCB UP Limited

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