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The managerialistic ideology of organisational change management

Thomas Diefenbach (Open University Business School, Milton Keynes, UK)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 20 February 2007




The purpose of this paper is to shed some light on the reasons and circumstances why strategic change initiatives based on new public management and managerialism go wrong. In particular, how such change initiatives are being justified, communicated, perceived, and implemented within organisational discourses and politics. It reveals personal and group interests behind ideologies, and what change management of this type is really about.


A strategic change initiative at a large Western‐European university (“International University” – IU) had been investigated between 2004 and 2005 based on qualitative empirical research. Data were gained primarily through semi‐structured in‐depths interviews with IU's senior managers. The findings were triangulated by referring to internal documents and academic literature.


The case study reveals a whole set of typical characteristics of managerialistic change management approach and how it is communicated. The paper provides insights into the narratives, organisational politics and ideology of change management processes. It draws the attention to the downsides of top‐down change management approaches, to ideologies and interests behind such initiatives as well as intended and unintended consequences.

Research limitations/implications

Academics and practitioners might be motivated to concentrate (more) on the values, ideologies, and interests which are behind “rational” management recipes, to see management and organisational behaviour more differentiated and from a critical perspective.


Organisational change management is usually described on the basis of traditional strategy approaches and concentrates on “technical issues”. By drawing the attention to senior managers' perceptions and interests, and how they pursuit change management objectives on the basis of ideologies, it becomes clearer that allegedly “rational” and “objective” strategic solutions are contested terrain and objects of organisational politics.



Diefenbach, T. (2007), "The managerialistic ideology of organisational change management", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 126-144.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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