Research in Organizational Change and Development: Volume 12


Table of contents

(12 chapters)

In the network of conversations that constitute the realities called organizations, the focus and unit of work in producing and managing change is conversation. This means that change agents work with, through, and on conversations to generate, sustain, and complete new conversations in order to bring about an altered network of conversations that results in the accomplishment of specific commitments. This chapter proposes that bringing about this alteration is an infective process in which change agents “infect” organizations with new conversations. Drawing on the field of epidemiology, it explores the nature of that infective process and the roles infective agents, susceptible hosts, and environmental factors play in it. These factors are then put into a conversational context and their implications for organizational change explored.

This chapter employs an emerging theoretical perspective—social rules theory—to reframe and redefine organizational change and development in ways potentially overcoming some of their conceptual inadequacies. After elaborating social rules theory, it is first utilized to reframe organizational change, and second, to redefine OD as a special type of project system in organizations which facilitates change by surfacing, assessing, and modifying as needed, the rules and rule systems within or linking organizational components.

Organizational change no longer can be thought of as a process limited to individual agencies or firms. Change has become interorganizational in nature and carries important cultural implications for participating groups. However, organization theory fails to consider the cultural, mostly symbolic aspects of the shared-change experience. To broaden the understanding of culture and change, we use the literary device, allegory, as an approach to interpreting the diverse narratives emanating from change among multiple organizations. We illustrate the allegorical perspective by discussing our experience with a network of public organizations in the State of Delaware. We show how allegory offers a new way of thinking about culture and interorganizational collaboration, as well as how the device informs an intervention strategy that enables us to more effectively inform change across networks.

Increasing global competition has accelerated the rate of organizational changes, such as reengineering, restructuring, and downsizing. As a result, organizational leaders find themselves faced with growing cynicism among employees that the current wave of changes is nothing more than the program of the month that will pass as those that preceded it. We address the issue of how to make changes permanent by providing a model developed from theory and research on organizational change and from successful practices implemented in numerous organizations worldwide. The model can serve at least three purposes. First, the model can assist change agents in planning for and assessing progress toward institutionalizing organizational change. Second, the model can help focus efforts of organizational scholars to study the change process. Third, the model offers the basis for hypothesis testing regarding the success or failure of change efforts.

The embryonic stage of total quality management (TQM) theory and the significant lag of academic investigations leave many gaps in our understanding of this current organizational practice. Longitudinal studies examining the effects of TQM are conspicuous by their absence. This case study examines the process, content, and consequences of a TQM change intervention using quantitative and qualitative data. The data suggest that the intervention had a limited effect on employee work attitudes. The reasons for this effect are explored. Among the contributing factors identified was the absence of supporting changes introduced to reinforce a TQM philosophy. A key challenge facing TQM is the incorporation of a systemic view of change into a TQM process thereby increasing the likelihood of generating effective organizational change. In the process, this may dilute the core ideas of the movement's founders.

The implementation of cross-functional teams (CFTs) is a significant organizational change. Using a multilevel perspective as a lens, we develop a conceptual framework for CFT implementation that analyzes contextual requirements, the role of interventions, and the effects on organizations. Our analysis suggests that using CFTs should be viewed as a double-edged sword: Certain management interventions are needed to unleash benefits to organizations, groups, and individuals involved in CFTs, but these interventions can produce counterproductive effects that in turn require remedial solutions. Additionally, interventions that focus on one level of CFT effectiveness can produce unintended multilevel outcomes.

Signs of increased collaboration within and between organizations are readily apparent. An emerging “new paradigm” literature suggests that this trend is part of a fundamental transformation toward a more collaborative global culture. In this chapter, I first outline the key premises of an alternative “theory of reality” articulated by this literature, which integrates evidence and ideas from a variety of fields of human knowledge and experience. Next, I contrast the basic assumptions of the current “competition paradigm” with those of the new, emerging “collaboration paradigm.” Based on the foundation provided by these new paradigm ideas, I then provide a description of “collaborative organizing.” This new model of organization is described in terms of three categories of features pertaining to the purpose, design, and functioning of these organizational systems. While most of these characteristics are currently receiving considerable attention in both theory and practice of organizations, the collaborative organizing model reflects an initial attempt to integrate these features into a coherent whole that constitutes a new “ideal type” of organization. As an ideal type, I argue that this model provides a better fit with contemporary environmental conditions than the Weberian bureaucratic hierarchy. As such, it can serve as a “desired future state” to guide organizations as they undertake the transformation to a more collaborative mode of operating. The chapter concludes with additional comments regarding the possibility of a global transformation to the collaborative paradigm.

This chapter offers a relationally based organizational development (OD) model for understanding the crisis period that characterizes an organization in transition between life-cycle stages. In this model, organizations are viewed as holographically comprising relationships at multiple levels—among people, groups, functions, and other organizations in the environment. During transition crises, relations at all of these levels tend to become polarized, threatening the organization, its people, and the mission it serves. By embracing these powerful “creative tensions” through a process we call “relational healing,” stakeholders come to see their organization more holistically as a set of interwoven relationships evolving toward a new life stage of their choosing. Drawing upon OD approaches such as appreciative inquiry and dialogue, relational healing guides the organization to greater integrity via a five-stage “wholing” model: splitting, engagement, appreciation, release, and reintegration. The model is grounded in our research and consulting work with JAZZ, a not-for-profit arts organization that worked through a life-transition crisis over a two-year period. In-depth case stories from this work illustrate the fragmentation and subsequent healing of relationship at multiple levels, leading to a radically transformed and reenergized organization.

The chapter asks whether organization development (OD) should be professionalized and submits for consideration several ideas relating to professionalism, professionalization, and organization development. First, we provide an overview of the issues related to professionalization and organization development. Next, we examine three meanings attributed to professionalism and the process of professionalization. We also explore the advantages of professionalism for individual practitioners, clients, organizations, and society, and the relationship between professions, the state, and capitalism. We use the medical profession as an illustration of each of the foregoing concepts. In the second portion of the chapter, we explore the changing focus of organization development practice toward strategic thinking and whole-system change, and discuss the current status of organization development in terms of its identity, professionalization, and professionalism. We examine potential action steps for the future of organization development, including clarification of its body of knowledge, and the use of professional liability insurance as a means to increase professionalism.

Publication date
Book series
Research in Organizational Change and Development
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
Book series ISSN