Organizational Change Theory

by Kat Consador; Updated September 26, 2017
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An organization may have no other choice but to change. There are many reasons for an organization to change, such as a sudden change of the economic climate or the arising threat of competition. Through understanding the process and theory of organizational change, you and your organization can handle change in the best possible way.

Organizational Change

In Gareth R. Jones and Jennifer M. George's book, Contemporary Management, organizational change is defined as "the movement of an organization away from its present state and toward some desired future state to increase its efficiency and effectiveness." During organizational change, managers must balance the need to improve current operations with the need to respond to new and unpredictable events.

Lewin's Force-Field Theory of Change

Kurt Lewin developed a theory about organizational change called the force-field theory. George and Jones describe the force-field theory as follows: a "wide variety of forces arise from the way an organization operates, from its structure, culture and control systems that make it resistant to change. At the same time, a wide variety of forces arise from changing task and general environments that push organizations toward change. These two sets of forces are always in opposition in an organization." For an organization to change, managers must find ways to increase the forces for change, decrease the resistance of change, or do both at the same time.

Evolutionary Change

Evolutionary change is described by George and Jones as "gradual, incremental, and narrowly focused." It is not drastic or sudden, but a constant attempt to improve. An example of evolutionary change is total quality management that is consistently applied and shows improvement over the long term.

Revolutionary Change

Some organizations need change--fast. When faced with drastic and unexpected change, an organization may have no other choice but to implement revolutionary change. George and Jones describe this as "change that is rapid, dramatic, and broadly focused. This bold shift may be due to a change in the economic climate or a new technological advancement that is integral to the function of the organization."

Managing Change

Four steps exist in organizational change. First, assess the need for change through recognizing that a problem exists and identifying the problem's source. Secondly, decide on the change needed to be made by deciding what is the organization's ideal future state, as well as the obstacles that may occur during change. Thirdly, apply the change and decide whether change will occur from the top down or bottom up, then introduce and manage change. Lastly, evaluate the change by comparing the situation before and after the change or using benchmarking.

About the Author

Kat Consador is a freelance writer and professional competitive Latin dancer. Her work has appeared in eHow and various online publications. She also writes for clients in small businesses, primarily specializing in SEO. She earned a Bachelor's of Arts in Psychology from Arizona State University.

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