Philosophies of Organizational Change

Philosophies of Organizational Change

Aaron C.T. Smith and Fiona M. Sutherland

Philosophies of Organizational Change explains the assumptions that drive different perspectives on organizational change management. The book describes and examines the myriad philosophical interpretations of change, revealing how and why managers confront change using so many competing methods. Each philosophy introduces the reader to the key theories used to diagnose organizations and prescribe change interventions. The book critically evaluates the arguments underpinning organizational change approaches and shows how they lead to different techniques and tools for practical change.

Chapter 1: Philosophies of organizational change: 'changing context'

Aaron C.T. Smith and Fiona M. Sutherland

Subjects: business and management, organisational behaviour


1. Philosophies of organizational change: ‘changing context’ INTRODUCTION Leaders’ approaches to change are based on assumptions about how change works. Sometimes assumptions come from prominent management concepts and sometimes they are based on experience, or even just the way things have always been done in the past. For example, some schools of thought—or philosophies of organizational change—cling to a logical process pivoting upon a leader’s ability to conceive a new future and plan for it accordingly. Other philosophies focus on particular or distinguishing characteristics of an organization, such as its culture. Others still emphasize the psychological impact of change on individual organizational members. In practice, most change leaders wield numerous philosophies at once, use different approaches depending on the situation, or change their preferred approach over time. We argue that whether conscious or tacit, success depends upon understanding the distinctive but intersecting philosophies of organizational change. In the workshop of change, the leaders’ toolkit bulges with philosophies and their offspring theories. We use the term ‘philosophy of organizational change’ to describe the set of assumptions, tacit beliefs, conscious theories and implementation approaches that govern a change agent’s way of looking at the organizational world and the best approach to introducing change. In each change philosophy, hypotheses and theories about change and its nature guide problem diagnosis and the change interventions prescribed as solutions. We contend that philosophies represent the most rewarding site for studying organizational change. By categorizing, describing, examining and criticizing philosophies of change, we aim to...

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