Academic journal article Management Revue

Understanding Radical Change: An Examination of Management Departments in German-Speaking Universities**

Academic journal article Management Revue

Understanding Radical Change: An Examination of Management Departments in German-Speaking Universities**

Article excerpt

Can radical organizational change be better achieved through planned change measures or through change measures developed as part of an evolutionary process? Based on 20 open interviews as well as recent survey data from 236 junior faculty members and 382 senior faculty members from departments of management at German universities and other academic institutions, this study suggests that the value commitment of the relevant stakeholders is greater to evolutionarily-developed rather than planned change measures, which consequently results in the dominant influence of the evolutionary change measures. Our results support the notion that in contexts that resemble the situation of universities in Germany - namely multi-polar power distribution and demanding preference structures within the affected group - successful radical organizational change management necessitates that the organization develops suitable change measures in an evolutionary way in order to achieve its goals.

Key words: organizational change, intra-organizational change, institutional change, planned change, evolutionary change


Understanding how organizations respond to regulatory, economic, and technological change measures makes the study of organizational change an important research issue in organization science (e.g. Greenwood/Hinings 1996; North 1990; Pettigrew et al. 2001; Tushman/Romanelli 1985). The question whether and how organizational change can be managed has received great attention in both the academic and popular management literature (e.g. D'Aunno et al. 2000; Greenwood/Hinings 1996; Huy 1999, 2002; Mintzberg/Walters 1985; Taylor 1993). Some scholars have argued that organizational change is best achieved in an evolutionary way, i.e. the organizational change is brought about by competing forces in the institutional and market context without deliberately planning change measures for reaching the organizational change aims (e.g. Chakravarthy/Doz 1992; von Hayek 1978; Weeks/Galunic 2003). Others however, such as Douglass North (initially a proponent of this view), later questioned this perspective. Noting the 'lock-in' (sometimes also referred to as path-dependence) that results from transaction cost in combination with bounded rationality and thus imperfect mental representations, he indicates that, under certain circumstances, organizational change can be better achieved through deliberate and actively planned change measures than through evolutionarily-developed ones (North 1981, 1990).

The study of change is particularly interesting and important in the field of higher education, since reforms and changes in this area not only influence university and its members, but also the economy, society and politics as a whole. The current situation within the university systems in Germany offers a unique opportunity to study planned and evolutionarily-developed change measures, and to analyze their effects on radical organizational change, because both types of change measures are currently present in this environment. In response to strong pressure to change and adapt to international standards, in addition to the requirements of the Bologna Treaties (European Ministers of Education 1999), and an ever-increasing competition for students, faculty and resources, the university system in Germany has introduced a number of formally planned change measures, while simultaneously witnessing the rise of several evolutionary and formally unplanned change measures.

The most important planned change measures in Germany have been the introduction of the junior professorship, which is the rough equivalent of an assistant professorship in the U.S., and the corresponding plans for the abolition of the qualification procedure which has been mandatory for junior faculty in Germany thus far: namely, the acquisition of the 'venia legend? (the formal right to teach at a university) obtained by writing a monographic (based on a scholarly book) 'habilitation' (a second Ph. …

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