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 7: The psychological philosophy: 'changing minds'

Aaron C.T. Smith and Fiona M. Sutherland

Subjects: business and management, organisational behaviour


7. The psychological philosophy: ‘changing minds’ INTRODUCTION Change management philosophies tend to ignore how individuals respond to change. While the rational and cultural philosophies acknowledge both change acceptance and change avoidance, they do not consider the psychology of traumatic change. Consider Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ (1969) renowned fivestage model describing how people come to terms with serious loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Although an oversimplification of change responses, particularly when traumatic, the stages exemplify the dynamic nature of change psychology. For example, initially an employee foresees no need for any change at all, or believes that the proposed changes will never be implemented. Once change becomes inevitable, employees direct their dissatisfaction towards management over the trauma and discomfort caused. Next, through bargaining, the employee hopes that a compromise can be found, abbreviating the full change programme. Depression follows after implementation as the employee questions whether the change was worth the sacrifice. Eventually, acceptance arrives to make the best of the change. Bridges (1995) similarly described three stages in the transition process: endings, the neutral zone and new beginnings. A detailed analysis of each stage helps diagnose employees’ stress and health. The psychological philosophy of organizational change treats the impact of change as complex, powerful and potentially severe. People become accustomed to performing tasks in certain ways that make them feel comfortable and proficient. Changing tasks or priorities undermines their sense of mastery and replaces it with fears about inadequate performance, escalating workloads, ridicule and termination. The psychological philosophy assumes that...

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