Organizational change is one of the most researched issues in management and leadership. Change is generally viewed as necessary, with positive outcomes for all stakeholders. Resistance is consequently seen as a surprising outcome. However, much of the management literature focuses on change as organizational dynamics-driven, especially by those at the top, in the interests of those at the top, often with scant attention to the role of employees. The purpose of this paper is to take a different perspective, grounded in the systems theory.
This is a conceptual paper. The authors critically examine theoretical explanations of resistance to change in organizations and offer an alternative perspective.
Systems theorists have addressed change, and its necessity in organizational survival, using an open systems model. The open systems theory posits that organizations are social systems that have purposes of their own and is made of parts (employees) that are purposeful and operate within a purposeful larger system – the environment (stakeholders). Change that ignores a key part – employees – will be resisted.
Using the systems theory, the authors propose several suggestions for organizational leaders and managers to implement sustainable change. These include, among others, recommendations on circular organizational designs, the need for more democratic organizations, purposeful leadership styles and how to include employees in proactive organizational change processes.
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