Monday, March 25, 2013

Change Management Theory (lack thereof)

After spending the last 6 years in research for my master's and doctoral degrees, I've found that Change Management has very little theory (believe it or not).  Organizational Behavior (OB) and (to some extent) Organizational Psychology (OP) are the two domains that contribute to Change Management theory.  On this page, I'll overview the recent trends first, then historic.

OB = Business school label

OP = All other schools label
OD = No real home in academia

Recent Theory

Trend #1:  Readiness
Nerina Jimmieson from the University of Queensland in Australia has led the way here attempting to tied Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behavior with Readiness for organizational change.   

Trend #2:  Individual perspective
Achilles Armenakis from Auburn has created a theoretical model viewing an individual's reaction to organizational change as the step in between initiation of the change (stimulus) and the consequences (response).

Trend #3: Framework
Several recent texts use the Van de Ven & Poole taxonomy for categorizing organizational change theory into 1 of 4 categories:

Historical Theory
We're all more familiar with these theories.  However, just because they are recognizable does not mean they are correct.  NONE of these are theories, per se.  However, in the absence of theory, they've served as the "base" thinking for  Change Management (OB).

#1 Lewin 3-step 
Below is a screen grab from Lewin's original article.  He was just describing the results from a group he was working with in an experiment on participative approaches to change.  He intended it to be a label for group behavior, not an entire theory of change as it has grown into.

#2 Kubler-Ross 
Speaking of models not intended for organizations, the death and dying model has stood the test of time, in part because of it's parallel to a team model listed below.

#3 Katzenbach
Katzenbach's team model caught on in the 90s.  Several people create hybrids of this model combined with Kubler-Ross.

#4 Nadler-Tushman 
The Nadler-Tushman model was created in the late 80s.  It compares the magnitude of the change with the change relative to the environment/market.

Note:  While this may not be an exhaustive list, it does cover most of the theories of change in OB and OP.


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