Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Profiling Large-Scale Change Efforts

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Profiling Large-Scale Change Efforts

Article excerpt

This paper presents the results of a study designed to determine why organizations are initiating major planned change efforts, what they are changing, and how changes are being made. Individuals with large-scale change program experience provided descriptions of over 300 such efforts. The descriptions provide an over-view of some current practices in the management of large-scale change.

Research in the area of large-scale change has received an increasing amount of attention over the past several years. The increased research activity seems to reflect both a dramatic increase in the number of firms attempting some type of major organizational change and a realization that much of the planned change literature is focused on change at the individual or small-group level.

Case studies and consultant reports seem to be the primary source of information concerning the management of large-scale change efforts. While such reports provide a wealth of information, there are several noteworthy limitations to these sources. For example, conclusions drawn from case studies are often situation-specific and may not be generalizable to the larger population of organizations that have undergone change efforts. In addition, case studies and consultant reports tend to focus on specific sets of issues or techniques and a limited number of change efforts at the expense of the broader picture. Indeed, important issues and trends may become apparent only when many cases or reports are compared.

The research described in this paper is an attempt to provide an empirical perspective on the context and characteristics of a cross-section of largescale planned change programs. Specifically, the following questions were addressed in this study:

Why do organizations initiate large-scale change programs and what are the goals and timeframes for these programs?

2 What types of Organization Development interventions are utilized and which of these are considered to have a positive impact on the program?

3 To what extent are employees throughout the organization involved in the effort and to what extent are external consultancy resources utilized?

What are some characteristics of successful large-scale change programs?

Research Method and Sample

Because there is no widely accepted definition of large-scale change, for the purposes of this research a large-scale change effort was defined as any planned effort designed to improve the long-term performance of an entire organization. These efforts are distinguished from other types of planned change programs in that they are long term in nature and are organization-wide.

Questionnaires were mailed to 1005 individuals who had attended seminars or had requested information on the topic of large-scale change from a university training program. In addition, recent journal articles and books were examined to identify recognized experts in the field and to identify organizations that have been involved in large-scale change efforts. Of the 1005 questionnaires mailed, 67 were undeliverable and 398 were completed and returned, for a response rate of 42.3%.

A total of 336 persons provided descriptions of specific large-scale change programs. Respondents were managers, internal consultants, external consultants, or researchers who had direct knowledge of or direct involvement in a large-scale change program. Of the 336 descriptions, 310 were included in this analysis. Cases were not included in the final analysis if: a) less than 100 individuals were employed by the organization or less than 100 individuals were affected by the change program; (b) the changes described could not be considered large-scale changes; or (c) a description of the same organizational change effort had already been received.

Respondents were asked to respond to structured and open-ended questions regarding characteristics of the largescale improvement program with which they were most familiar. …

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