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 9: The cultural philosophy: 'changing values'

Aaron C.T. Smith and Fiona M. Sutherland

Subjects: business and management, organisational behaviour


9. The cultural philosophy: ‘changing values’ INTRODUCTION The viewing of organizations as cultural systems began with anthropologists, for whom change reflects what members of a group consider important. The concept of organizational culture emerged in response to an absence of explanations for how certain values and beliefs gain prominence. Just as nations possess cultures that influence their citizens, organizations generate cultures that shape how their members behave (Hayton, George and Zahra, 2002). Although elusive in definition and measurement, organizational culture has become an influential philosophical approach to change. At its heart lies the idea that organizational change transpires when the common beliefs and values held by organizational members change. A key foundation to the culture philosophy, therefore, maintains that change must be preceded by a period of careful cultural diagnosis where common beliefs and values rise to the surface. The cultural philosophy assumes that culture permeates all organizations, varying in strength and exerting a powerful influence on individual behaviour and organizational outcomes (Harris and Mossholder, 1996). Anthropology first set the concept of culture alight, developing it to become the pivotal concept used in the field. Anthropologists set themselves the task of investigating, interpreting and translating the behavioural and social patterns of groups. Their efforts were directed at explaining how groups relate to their environments. One of the earliest accounts of culture was provided by Edward Tylor in 1871, where he described culture as the entire set of knowledge, beliefs and customs held by members of a society. Tylor pointed out...

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