Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation

Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation

Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation

Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation


In a world of organizations that are in constant change scholars have long sought to understand and explain how they change. This book introduces research methods that are specifically designed to support the development and evaluation of organizational process theories. The authors are a group of highly regarded experts who have been doing collaborative research on change and development for many years.


Marshall Scott Poole & Andrew H. Van de Ven

Many scholars in many disciplines have sought to explain how and why organizations change and innovate. Change is at the heart of such important organizational phenomena as individual careers, teamwork, organizational strategy making, and the growth and decline of industries. Even apparently stable and fixed phenomena—individual traits, organizational structure, economic institutions—take on a different aspect when considered in terms of the processes that constitute them. William James (1909/1996, p. 263) wrote, “What really exists is not things made but things in the making.” To understand organizational change is to understand organizations as we experience them, and to explain organizational change is to articulate what makes organizations what they are and to suggest how we may shape and reshape them.

Innovation is an important partner to change. It is the wellspring of social and economic progress, and both a product and a facilitator of the free exchange of ideas that is the lifeblood of progress. It is reflected in new products and production processes, advances in communications technology, and novel organizations and services in the public and nonprofit sectors. Contemporary intellectual currents in organizational studies increasingly focus on change and innovation, echoing Heraclitus's maxim that “Nothing is permanent save change.”

We define organizational change as a difference in form, quality, or state over time in an organizational entity. The entity may be an individual's job, a work group, an organizational subunit, the overall organization, or larger communities of organizations, such as industries. Change in any of these entities can be determined by measuring the same entity at two or more points in time on a set of dimensions, and then comparing the differences over time in these dimensions. If the difference is greater than zero (assuming no measurement error), we can say that the organizational entity has changed. Much of the voluminous literature on organizational change focuses on the nature of this difference, what produced it, and its consequences.

Change can take many forms; it can be planned or unplanned, incremental or radical, and recurrent or unprecedented. Trends in the process or sequence of changes can be observed over time. These trends can be accelerating or decelerating in time, and they can move toward equilibrium, oscillation, chaos, or randomness in the behavior of the organizational entity being examined. Thus, the basic concept of organization change involves three ideas: (1) difference . . .

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