Alternative change management perspectives
Sturdy and Grey (2003) pointed to emerging concerns regarding the prevalence of the idea that organizational change management is predictable, controllable, and manageable. They explored the concept of organizational change management (OCM) to identify alternatives that can rise above the hypothesis that change is manageable, should be managed, has to be managed, and must be managed. They then argued that such perspectives have received narrow scholarly attention and has been taken for granted. They further elaborated a case of studies that should provide alternative change management perspectives. To explore the alternatives to the OCM theories, they examined the bias for change and went further to introduce non-managerial perspectives into their analysis. They also questioned the vanity of manageability, which is in many cases fundamental to the concepts of OCM. Therefore, Sturdy and Grey’s perspectives can offer valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of change management frameworks. In fact, it is based on his review of the underlying assumptions that characterize existing OCM model that this paper seeks to review, as well as the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the Oakland and Tanner’s (2006) organizational change framework.
Given the contingency model’s strengths and weaknesses, Oakland and Tanner’s organizational change framework is a suitable alternative approach that can be applied to add force to the successful change management.
As indicated in the figure above, several factors are needed for successful implementation of change: external events, need for change, leadership and direction, planning, behaviors, organization & resources and systems and controls. Oakland and Tanner explain that in the first process, external events drive the agenda for change. This is followed by setting up of clear directing and managing of risks by the leaders. Afterward, the necessity for change is aligned with the issues of organizational operation. A process approach is put at the center followed by measuring of performance and a project-based approach to increase the possibility of successful change. Support from outside is then sought to manage change and ensure transferring of knowledge. Later, organizational cultures are adjusted to support a change in the behavior of members of the organization. In the last stage, continues review has to be performed (Oakland and Tanner, 2007).
An essential factor of Oakland and Tanner’s organizational change framework with the greatest capability to strengthen the contingency model is that it plays a significant function in implementation. In a typical scenario, an organization may have numerous meetings yet make minimal decisions in these meetings. Correspondingly, while discussion on issues for change often takes place, it is possible that change will not, in reality, be implemented. For this reason, Oakland and Tanner’s framework can offer proper directions to implementing change. However, these can be explored more comprehensively using Sturdy and Grey (2003) viewpoints.
Contain Clear Goals and Objectives
Among the fundamental strengths of the Oakland and Tanner’s organizational change framework is that it contains clear goals, which translate change into ideas, practices, or objects. Collectively, this makes change management a planned process. Indeed, among the factors for change implementation suggested by the framework, it appears that the most compelling are setting up of clear directing and managing of risks by the leaders, where clear visions, missions, values, and strategies are identified to trigger off members of an organization to implement change. Clearly, when there are no clear goals, members of an organization are likely to take divergent directions. The idea of planning is recognized by Sturdy and Grey (2003) when they argue that planning in the implementation of change management is crucial, as it reveals the fascinating pointers that articulate the desirability of change. Therefore, it becomes clearer that planned change is good.
This assumption fits into Sturdy and Grey (2003) review of OCM, where they consider clear goals as capable of providing OCM a voice to translate change into ideas or to achieve the conception and realization of ideas into practices, projects, or objects. In their view, such theories draw on Scandinavian institutionalism to make their unequivocal aim to rise above the traditional resistances between change and stability.
The clear goals are also, what in the framework are essential, as they enable change to be planned or adaptive. According to Sturdy and Grey (2003), the change should be viewed to be the outcome of intentions or institutional standards. Additionally, Clear goals enable change to be translatable into meaning at the onset of change management. Sturdy and Grey (2003) argue that in change management, the focus should be on how meaning is constructed, as well as how ideas are translated to fit problems despite their forms.
The fact that Oakland and Tanner’s organizational change framework contains clear goals makes it particularly effective for necessitating shared beliefs regarding change or reconciling differences of opinion regarding the change. The reason for this is that clear goals clarify to members of an organization what they should collectively seek to achieve, regardless of their diverse beliefs, backgrounds, career goals, or understanding. According to Sturdy and Grey (2003), an effective OCM should recognize the fears and irrational nature of employees, as well as enabled them to identify their tasks in leading to change and to accept what they have initially resisted ultimately. They further explained that goals do unify pluralist assumptions, whether they have been documented in management journals.
Advocates for a Centralised Management Approach
Among the compelling factors regarding the Oakland and Tanner’s (2006) organizational change, the framework is centralizing a process approach. In their framework, Oakland and Tanner conceived a space they then dubbed “Processes.” It illustrates a point where managers and members of the organization get to understand change and make significant adjustments to implement change successfully. In brief, the framework tends to emphasize the significance of management in the effective implementation of change.
Sturdy and Grey considered such OCM theories that emphasize the role of management as being awfully authoritarian and prejudiced in nature.
This assumption is consistent with Sturdy and Grey’s (2003) criticism of the OCM in exaggerating the role of management. In their view, if the OCM restates the recognizable discussion on organization behavior, then they should also replicate the same discourse in being structured in the management’s interests. Oakland and Tanner’s (2006) organizational change framework does not seem to challenge managerialism, as it appears to be well established in the significant understanding of the management, which humanism embodies as a modification of managerial control.
Seeks to Manage Organisational Culture
The third compelling factor in Oakland and Tanner’s (2006) organizational change framework is that of adjusting organizational cultures and the behavior of members of the organization to support change. The reason for this is that the behaviors of employees trigger off an emergence of an environment that can lead to the formation of new culture. The theme of organizational change is apparent in Sturdy and Grey’s (2003) review of the OCM and its alternatives. They attempted to situate their analysis of human resource -based change in a bid to identify the changes, criticisms, and ambiguities that distinguish the representation of OCM, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
Sturdy and Grey’s (2003) considered the cultural shifts that characterized a manufacturing company in Australia and revealed comparable complexities with change practice. In other words, management of the diverse cultural perspectives and shifts is essential for an effective OCM, as they contribute to some of the major complexities that characterize change management implementation. According to Sturdy and Grey (2003), organizational development interventions from intricate political landscape, where power struggles and search for identity may complicate change management.
Consider Continuous Change Process
Lastly, the continuous review is also an essential factor of Oakland and Tanner’s (2006) organizational change framework, as it has to be performed to evaluate whether the change should advance or be stopped. This factor is seen to strengthen the framework if viewed within the framework of Sturdy and Grey (2003). In their view, a significant starting point that could be made is that change and continuity should not be considered“alternative objective states.” Among the reasons for this is that they are inherently coexistent and coextensive.
Additionally, they should not be considered objective, as they make up continuity or change. Oakland and Tanner’s consideration of the continuous nature of change show that change is continuous in nature rather than stable. Still, they describe change as an abstract ideal yet extremely uncertain regarding the kinds of change that need to be pursued. Taking this into perspective, it appears that Oakland and Tanner’s (2006) organizational change framework is silent regarding the likelihood of stability and the many change possibilities. This idea is consistent with Sturdy and Grey’s (2003) idea regarding the desirability and inevitability of change management.
While it appears that Oakland and Tanner’s framework is specifically useful, it does have several weak points. Based on Sturdy and Grey’s (2003) concept of organizational change management (OCM), some three weaknesses can be identified.
Overreliance on Management
First, it does rely on the assumption that each member of the organization seeks to achieve similar objectives when directed by the management. This may not always be the case, as change tends to be unpredictable for both employees and the management, as they tend to have diverse views regarding change management and its objectives. Oakland and Tanner seem to have based their framework on the logic that because of employees’ ‘irrationality,’ a significant take off leading them to ultimately accept that at the outset resistance should fall within the management, rather than any leader in the organization. It is perhaps because of such reasoning that Oakland and Tanner also mentioned in their framework that the management should set the direction for all the employees.
Therefore, regarding this weakness, it should be clarified that it is the job of a manager to seek a balance that can work satisfactorily for both parties. However, this argument would still rely on the assumption that the role of management is profound in change management. Sturdy and Grey (2003) mentioned that criticizing OCM for tending to be management-centred is not an insightful contribution. Furthermore, even if the contributions of the management are apparent, they should not form the dominant logic of change management initiative.
Reliance on the Assumption that Change is Manageable, Predictable, and Controllable
Oakland and Tanner’s (2006) organizational change framework also relies on the assumption that most of the processes of change are manageable, predictable, and controllable. However, this is what makes it particularly weak when Sturdy and Grey’s (2003) perspectives on OCM are taken into consideration. According to Sturdy and Grey (2003), the characterization of OCM as being manageable, predictable, and controllable may not resonate with Parker’s (2002) idea of non-managerial mechanisms of coordination, and cooperation. In spite of this, such possibilities may not happen in a vacuum and are, therefore, connected to the challenges of unpredictable or dynamic settings.
While it is proper to argue that OCM seeks to apply universal patterns and frameworks to reinforce the idea that change is manageable, it is unstable and therefore unpredictable. Sturdy and Grey (2003) further showed that in the broad literature on social change, there is a conventional belief in the possibility of predicting the future. They undermined such conceptions and showed that OCM theories have often been contrasted by ‘facts,’ as they have overlooked the dynamic, variable, and complex nature of change and the world. Additionally, Oakland and Tanner’s (2006) organizational change framework relies on the assumption that ‘external’ events interrupt or disrupt organizational processes, and that organizations do exist in a vacuum waiting to be disrupted.
Excludes a ‘No Change’ Alternative
Oakland and Tanner’s (2006) organizational change framework excludes a ‘no change’ alternative into perspective. This may make the framework less practical and prejudiced. In respect to the contingency model, Sturdy and Grey argue that contingency models of change management lack a ‘no change’ option” (p. 655). While they have mentioned less of the contingency model, they tried to determine the alternative approach to the need and existence for change. Among the explanations they provide for the “no change” option is that the contingency model is suitable for situations that require necessary changes. A review of literature illustrates a paucity of research on the issues. In fact, change is considered to be unavoidable desirable as shown in the tendency by change management scholars to demonize and pathologize the OCM concepts they use, particularly when they describe ‘illogical resistance to change.
Sturdy and Grey considered such a tendency to be a terribly prejudiced and authoritarian expression. At this same time, it sets certain fascinating pointers around OCM discussion on the desirability of change. Therefore, it could be reasoned that while there is a lot of credibility in arguing that planned change is good, it is crucial in the present-day globalized marketplace with unparalleled competition and market change. Still, this reasoning is not particularly unique given that change is necessary then it should as well be viewed to be good once it is compared with an option of ‘no change.' In fact, such an option is hard if ever articulated within OCM theories, such as Oakland and Tanner’s (2006) organizational change framework. Being a contingency model of change management that takes into perspective the organization and environment or culture fit does not also consider a ‘no change’ alternative.
Based on Sturdy and Grey (2003) arguments as a frame of reference, among the fundamental strengths of the Oakland and Tanner’s organizational change framework is that it contains clear goals, which translate change into ideas, practices, or objects. Collectively, this makes change management a planned process. Additionally, it centralized a process approach, which enables managers and members of the organization to get to understand change and make significant adjustments to implement change successfully. Also, it also advocates for continuous review, which determines whether the change should advance or be stopped.
On the other hand, although it has been established that Oakland and Tanner’s framework is specifically useful, it does have several weak points. Indeed, Sturdy and Grey’s (2003) concept of OCM help in identifying three weaknesses in the framework. First, it does rely on the assumption that each member of the organization seeks to achieve similar objectives when directed by the management. This may not always be the case, as change tends to be unpredictable for both employees and the management, as they tend to have diverse views regarding change management and its objectives. It also relies on the assumption that most of the processes of change are manageable, predictable, and controllable, although this is not always the case. The framework also excludes a ‘no change’ alternative into perspective. This may make the framework less practical and prejudiced.
Therefore, what can be used to complement Oakland and Tanner’s framework is Lewin’s (1951) freeze-change-unfreeze model because of its planned approach that seems more practical and less prejudiced. The theory suggests that organizational change can be managed in these three key stages. “freeze,” “change” and “refreeze.” The model suggests a planned approach that enables change management to be managed using predictions and through controls.
Oakland J. and Tanner, S (2007). A new framework for managing change. The TQM Magazine, 19(6), 572-589
Parker, M. (2002) Against management. Cambridge: Polity
Stury, A. & Grey, C. (2003). Beneath and Beyond Organizational Change Management: Exploring Alternatives. Organisation, 10(4), 651-662
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