Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Exploring a Model for Finding Meaning in the Changing World of Work (Part 3: Meaning as Framing Context)

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Exploring a Model for Finding Meaning in the Changing World of Work (Part 3: Meaning as Framing Context)

Article excerpt

Introduction

The need for continuous organisational change in contemporary environments has become common rhetoric in both management and academic literature - an omnipresent topic in 'books, practitioner or academic journals' (Washington & Hacker, 2005, p. 400). Burnes (2003) maintained that in current turbulent environments, organisational change is one of the most critical and pertinent challenges organisations need to address. Research has shown that, whilst in 1978 organisations needed 'major change every four or five years', 'change has become a way of life in today's organizations' (Hacker & Washington, 2004, p. 52). As business environments become more competitive and complex, sustaining a competitive advantage demands increased organisational flexibility, which is essential for the adaptation to factors such as increased competition, globalisation and continuous technological developments (Carbery & Garavan, 2005; Gil, Rico, Alcover & Barrasa, 2005; Jime'nez-Jime'nez & Sanz-Valle, 2005; Tetenbaum, 1998).

Therefore, it is suggested that in order to secure survival, organisations 'need to decide not whether to change, but when and how to make it occur more successfully' [emphasis in original] (Newstrom & Davis, 1997, p. 398). Change is so pervasive that it has become part of normal organisational life, rather than an exceptional phenomenon (McGuinness & Morgan, 2005), whereas the management of change is regarded as a core organisational and leadership skill (Ahn, Adamson & Dornbusch, 2004; Burnes, 1996; 2003; Counsell, Tennant & Neailey, 2005). Furthermore, it is often argued that incremental efforts are frequently not sufficient - survival increasingly depends upon transformational changes (Francis, Bessant & Hobday, 2003; Johnson, 2004). Change needs to be undertaken continuously (McGuinness & Morgan, 2005) and with ever-improving effectiveness (Pfeifer, Schmitt & Voigt, 2005).

Organisational change can be defined as the significant alteration of any number of elements in the organisation, including behaviour, structures, technology, processes and/or strategy (Burger, 2007). Examples of large-scale organisational changes include downsizing (Fiorito, Bozeman, Young & Meurs, 2007; Hellgren, Näswall & Sverker, 2005; McGreevy, 2003a), restructuring (Ambrose, 1996; Carbery & Garavan, 2005; Watson, 2003), business process reengineering (Hammer, 1996; Hammer & Champy, 1993), mergers and acquisitions (M&As) (Cartwright & Cooper, 1994, 1995).

Washington and Hacker (2005) argue that much of the literature relating to organisational change focuses particularly on reasons for the failure of change initiatives. In this regard, research shows that the capacity of the organisation's people to accommodate change, may significantly constrain transformation (Ghoshal & Bartlett, 1996; Karp, 2004). Whereas the field of organisation development has made significant contributions in assisting organisations to develop the change capacity of their employees (e.g. Cummings & Worley, 2001; French & Bell, 1999), it can be argued that most popular change frameworks have not adequately addressed a fundamental human question - the individual search for meaning in life (see Burger, 2007; Burger, Crous & Roodt, 2008). The question of meaning in life, which Frankl (1978, 1984) calls the 'noölogical' (or spiritual) dimension of human existence, will be shown in this article to have a potentially fundamental impact on the effectiveness of organisational change efforts. This focus differs substantially from traditional approaches where the emphasis is on aspects like organisational processes to manage individual behaviours in order to achieve a desired outcome.

This apparent oversight on the part of change perspectives then warrants, or calls for, the exploration of promising novel approaches for contextualising and managing organisational change. …

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