Academic journal article Journal of Business and Behavior Sciences

The Phenomena of Change: A Qualitative Study

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Behavior Sciences

The Phenomena of Change: A Qualitative Study

Article excerpt


Change in its various forms is a continual process in organizations today. The pace of change and its complexity are also greater than in times past (Bûmes & James, 1994). IBM's Global Study (2004) of over 400 business leaders from around the world indicated that only 10% of change initiatives, from implementing new systems to mergers of major corporations, were successful. Other researchers (Beer & Nohria, 2000; Burke & Biggart, 1997; LaClair & Rao, 2002) stated that, at best, there has been a 30 - 50% success rate for organizational change while Bûmes and James (2011) suggest a 70% failure rate. Estimates show 75% of American organizations will reengineer, achieving substantial improvement in performance "by starting from scratch in designing the core business process" (Attaran, 2000, p.794). The 2006 IBM Global CEO study of 765 CEO's stated that two-thirds of those interviewed were expecting to "be inundated with change over the next two years" (p. 7).

These statistics combine to demonstrate that stakeholders in organizations must find a way to improve the success rate of change initiatives. Hundreds of books and articles have already been published about the importance of leadership during change and the practices that will foster success in such initiatives (Beach, 2006; Bridges & Mitchell, 2002; Carter, Ulrich, & Goldsmith, 2005; Harvey, 1995; Hesselbein (2002); Kotter, 1996, 2002; McGreevy, 2009; Sirkin, Keenan, & Jackson, 2005; Ward, 2003; Williams, Woodward, & Dobson, 2002). It is evident that the focus on change has been directed almost entirely to the leadership of change. The missing element in change literature appears to be in the area of research at the organizational citizen level that contributes to understanding of how the phenomena of change is experienced by those ultimately tasked with incorporating the change into their everyday lives. Consequently, this exploratory study will focus on how organizational citizens perceive and experience the phenomena of change.

Background: As revealed in a search on, well over 50,000 books have been published on the topic. Additionally, there are hundreds of research articles found in journals discussing the issue of organizational change. Why, then, does change continue to meet with little success as revealed in the success rates reported by business executives and researchers? Both the literature and conversations with top consultants revealed the dichotomy of thought regarding the underlying factors in the lack of success in change initiatives.

Beer and Nohria (2000), Marshall and Conner (2000) and J. Kotter (personal communication, August 4, 2006) suggested that part of the problem lies in the focus of change initiatives. Kotter stated that organizations are not good at change because the leaders tend to think in terms of issues such as technology and strategy while Beer and Nohria wrote that "...managers end up immersing themselves in an alphabet soup of initiatives. They lose focus and become mesmerized by all the advice available in print and on-line about why companies should change...and how they should do it" (p. 133). Similarly, Marshall and Conner concluded that a maj or part of the problem lies in the abstract focus on change rather than on helping individuals or groups assimilate the change which raises the specter of feelings. In a study of emotional intelligence and its importance in leadership, Cox (2001) sharpened the need for a focus on feelings stating:

Until relatively recently, any suggestion that emotions are a significant factor in workplace and leadership effectiveness would have met with scorn and the concept discarded as 'touchy-feely'. That attitude is finally being challenged as leaders take a second look at the creative synthesis emerging between business and the behavioral sciences, (p. 36).

Although researchers (Ferres & Connell, 2004; Ivancevich & Matteson, 2002; Jarrett, 2004; Kotter & Cohen, 2002; Quinn, 1996; Vakola, Tsaousis, & Nikolaou, 2004) list many repercussions for organizational citizens encountering change, the listed repercussions are usually found in an overview of change, not actionable advice for dealing with emotions. …

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