Action Research and Organizational Development

By J. Barton Cunningham | Go to book overview

12
Managing the Process of Change

Eighty percent of success is showing up. Woody Allen1

Organizations are not usually purposeful, except as we try to explain their activities after the fact. Rather, organizational systems evolve in response to events and individual interests and values. Effectiveness, as a result, depends on the degree to which organizational members are able to work together within common values and respond cooperatively to emerging threats and opportunities. Otherwise, the organization's purposefulness can be lost in haphazard, seat-of-the-pants management reactions.

Implementation strategies and programs can be designed to respond to people's values and beliefs as well as issues strategic to the organization's development. Such issues are dealt with more effectively when groups and organizational members are pulling together. Thus, rather than expend membership energy on negotiating and manoeuvring to fulfil one's personal self-interest, the energy and common values are directed at common strategies, issues, and problems. 2 Such implementation strategies, it is argued, might be superior because they create longer lasting changes, and receive more employee commitment. Participative plans are more implementable because they respond to what employees can best do.

In this chapter, the major concern is the management of the process of change, or the conscious use of information for modifying practice. It is based on an assumption that no universal strategies exist for introducing, processing, and having change accepted. Rather, strategies are usually developed, either formally or intuitively, to respond to particular needs. A necessary prerequisite of a successful change may involve immobilizing the forces against it. Individuals have their defences to fight off threat, maintain integrity, and protect themselves against unwarranted intrusions of other demands. In addition, they may seek ways to defend themselves against ill-considered and overly prescriptive innovations. 3

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