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Emergent change and planned change – competitors or allies? The case of XYZ construction

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

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 1 September 2004



In a fast‐moving and unpredictable world, there can be little doubt that organizational change is one of the most important issues facing organizations. This is especially so, when it is claimed that over 60 per cent of all change projects are considered to fail. Not surprisingly, therefore, there is also much debate about which approach to change is the best. Over the past 20 years, the emergent approach appears to have superseded the planned approach as the most appropriate. However, as this paper will argue, the idea that planned and emergent changes are competing approaches, rather than complementary, is contestable. This paper looks at the case of XYZ construction which, between 1996 and 2000, used both emergent and planned approaches to transform itself. The paper concludes that organizations need to avoid seeking an “one best way” approach to change and instead seek to identify the approach which is best suited to both type of changes they wish to undertake, according to the organization's context.



Burnes, B. (2004), "Emergent change and planned change – competitors or allies? The case of XYZ construction", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 24 No. 9, pp. 886-902.



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Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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