Philosophies of Organizational Change
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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.
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Chapter 5: The institutional philosophy: 'changing conformity'

Aaron C.T. Smith and Fiona M. Sutherland


5. The institutional philosophy: ‘changing conformity’ INTRODUCTION In this chapter we introduce the institutional philosophy and consider why it has made such a significant impact on organizational change theory. According to Greenwood, Oliver, Sahlin and Suddaby (2008), institutional theory represents ‘the dominant approach’ to understanding organizations. It allows us to study how and why organizations behave in particular ways, and what consequences accompany these behaviours. Institutional theory provides a popular and powerful explanation for both individual and organizational change (Dacin, Goodstein and Scott, 2002). This chapter aims to explore significant transitions and developments in institutional theory and examine the central ideas, questions and concerns that have stimulated debate and shaped the philosophy’s nature and direction. Through our exploration of key institutional debates, we first illuminate the way in which institutions evolve, adapt and respond to various social, political and environmental pressures in their struggle for survival. Second, we illustrate how the interplay between different institutional processes can work to temper the prospect of a bureaucratic ‘iron cage’ and act as a powerful force for institutional change. The next section introduces the varieties of institutionalism. We subsequently explore ‘new’ institutionalism, followed by a section injecting identity, power and culture into the mix. The chapter concludes by reviewing institutional entrepreneurship as a force for innovation and change through disruptions to institutional norms. CONCEPTS OF INSTITUTION The very words ‘institution’ and ‘institutionalism’ suggest strength, endurance and stability: a combination of processes, systems and structures that have withstood the test of time and become...

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