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A theoretical framework of organizational change

Gabriele Jacobs (Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
Arjen van Witteloostuijn (University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands, and Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands)
Jochen Christe‐Zeyse (Fachhochschule der Polizei Brandenburg, Brandenburg, Germany)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 23 August 2013




Organizational change is a risky endeavour. Most change initiatives fall short on their goals and produce high opportunity and process costs, which at times outweigh the content benefits of organizational change. This paper seeks to develop a framework, offering a theoretical toolbox to analyze context‐dependent barriers and enablers of organizational change. Starting from an organizational identity perspective, it aims to link contingency‐based approaches, such as environmental scan, SWOT and stakeholder analysis, with insights from organizational behaviour research, such as knowledge sharing and leadership.


The framework is informed by long‐lasting field research into organizational change in an international policing environment. The theories in the framework are selected from the perspective of field validity in two ways; they were chosen because the topics covered by these theories emerged as relevant during the field research and therefore it can be expected they have applicability to the field. The authors' insights and suggestions are summarised in 13 propositions throughout the text.


The analysis provides a clear warning that organizational change is more risky and multifaceted than change initiators typically assume. It is stressed that the external environment and the internal dynamics of organizations co‐determine the meaning of managerial practices. This implies that cure‐all recipes to organizational change are bound to fail.


This paper makes an ambitious attempt to cross disciplinary boundaries in the field of organizational change research to contribute to a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of change processes by integrating perspectives that focus on the internal context and the external environment of organizations.



Jacobs, G., van Witteloostuijn, A. and Christe‐Zeyse, J. (2013), "A theoretical framework of organizational change", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 26 No. 5, pp. 772-792.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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