Informal Coalitions: Mastering the Hidden Dynamics of Organizational Change

Human Resource Management International Digest

ISSN: 0967-0734

Article publication date: 21 March 2008




Rodgers, C. (2008), "Informal Coalitions: Mastering the Hidden Dynamics of Organizational Change", Human Resource Management International Digest, Vol. 16 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Informal Coalitions: Mastering the Hidden Dynamics of Organizational Change

Article Type: Suggested reading From: Human Resource Management International Digest, Volume 16, Issue 2.

Informal Coalitions: Mastering the Hidden Dynamics of Organizational Change

Chris Rodgers, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007

Keywords: Organizational change, Organizational dynamics, Change management, Leadership

This book aims to provide managers and leaders with practical tools to understand the underlying dynamics of organizations before planning or implementing any program for change. Rodgers argues that current models of organizational change are inadequate in how they conceptualize the formal and structural elements of organizations. He contends that current models ignore the real world, the underlying cultural dynamics of organizations in general and the shadow-side dynamics of power-politics cultures in particular.

The book targets line mangers in all types of organization, as well as external consultants and human-resource specialists. In particular it is aimed at managers in leadership roles who really need to understand the complex dynamics of the a-rational dynamics within their own organizations. It recommends that change leaders think and talk before taking action on the basis of standard paradigms and offers analytical tools, or sense-making frameworks, to enable the complexities of organizational dynamics to be articulated.

The first chapter presents variations on three conventional ideas about how change happens in organizations management edict, education and training, and joint problem solving. It argues that these frameworks are inadequate to capture the range of informal coalitions that create particular cultures and power blocks within organizations, where political accommodations and social networks are often more influential than management edicts. Rodgers supports his arguments with diagrams and illustrations that indicate how the paradigm of informal coalitions needs to be added to the three standard views, not to create four discrete paradigms, but to indicate the complexity of relationships between them as they uncover the overlaps in the messy dynamics of any particular organizational context.

The second chapter offers more in-depth analysis of the ideas presented in the first chapter. The remaining six chapters explore six aspects of what is presented as a new change-leadership agenda based on an informal-coalitions view of organizational dynamics. The six elements are presented as reframing communications, thinking culturally, acting politically, building coalitions, embracing paradox and providing vision.

The postscript summarizes the six aspects of organizational change and reinforces the central argument that change programs always depend on local interpretations and personal commitment, and that leaders need to engage with the dynamics of coalition formation if they are to understand the paradoxes within organizations.

The final message is that managers and leaders should stop using the dead-end traditional rational and structural model of organizational change and, instead, actively engage with the hidden and messy aspects of informal leadership dynamics.

Generally, the book is written in an accessible style. The challenge of representing complexity in flat images is obvious, but good use is made of lists, arrows and overlapping sets. The notes at the end are useful to clarify the meanings of terms such as “metaphor”, “paradox”, “patterns”, “mission-making” and “meaning-making” in relation to how organizations function. The bibliography is useful for readers who wish to pursue the theoretical underpinnings of the book’s argument.

This is a worthwhile book for people who prefer complexity theory to simplistic reductionism. It will appeal to the leader reluctant to accept the assumptions of traditional change-management practice.

Reviewed by Dr Anne Murphy, Learning Development Officer, Dublin Institute of Technology.

A longer version of this review was originally published in Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 28 No. 5, 2007.

Related articles