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A design‐oriented approach to organizational change: insights from a military case study

Pierre Barbaroux (Defense Organizations Management Team (EMOD), French Air Force Research Center (CReA), French Air Force Academy (EOAA), Salon de Provence, France)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 30 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the principles supporting organizational change management.


The paper develops a qualitative study from a single case which focuses on how the military (NATO) transformed their functionally integrated organizational form to gain additional flexibility and responsiveness.


The findings indicate that the transformation of military organizations has led to reshaping and aligning communication artifacts and organizational structures. In addition, it also entailed significant adaptations of the way knowledge is divided, allocated and coordinated among units, with a particular emphasis on standardization processes.

Research limitations/implications

The implications of this study for scholars and practitioners are twofold. First, it shows that the conditions for success in organizational transformation reside in the consistency of the design strategy adopted by the organization. In particular, the findings provide evidence that the alignment of the structural and cognitive designs is critical but hard to achieve. Second, organizations and managers should devote time and effort to support the codification and standardization of both component and architectural knowledge. This contribution is limited by looking at a single case. On the premise that model generalization depends upon extensive empirical data, the current paper should be considered as a preliminary/exploratory research that aims at identifying the principles supporting organizational change management.


The originality of this paper is to look at military organizations to elaborate on a theoretical model of organization design which links together the structural and cognitive views and discuss its main implications for organizational change management.



Barbaroux, P. (2011), "A design‐oriented approach to organizational change: insights from a military case study", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 626-639.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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