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Volume 13 Number 6 1989



by Wolverhampton J. D. Stewart Business School, Wolverhampton Polytechnic

Introduction his article is concerned with describing two theoretical models and their practical application in bringing about organisation change. The relevance of the subject is taken as given since there is an abundance of literature both on reasons for organisations to consider changing themselves; e.g. 1992 [1]; and on methods/strategies/ techniques to utilise [2]. The models discussed here really amount to an overall framework within which the various methods and strategies can be utilised. The purpose of this is to provide a set of guidelines that will help determine which particular method or strategy is likely to be effective in differing circumstances. The content of the article will be most relevant to readers who are responsible for advising or deciding on planned change. In that sense the framework is only applicable in circumstances where a conscious decision has been taken to bring about some desired change. The framework rests on a number of key propositions. These are discussed in the next section.

The Propositions There are three propositions which need to be accepted if the framework is to have any validity. The first is simply this: change even at the level of the organisation, has to be observable or measurable to have any meaning. Organisations may consciously decide to change any of a whole range of their features. An indicative list could include the following: Size Performance Structure Information and control systems Markets Management style Culture

The suggestion that any one of those features could be changed in isolation is in itself debatable given what is known from systems theory. However, it is more often the case in practice that organisations do intend to change one feature in the belief that everything else



can and will stay the same. What is important is that the difference between the pre- and post-change situations can be observed or measured. Without the condition, planned organisation change is simply inconceivable. The implication of this is that organisation change is concerned with organisation behaviour. Some items from the indicative list are easier to observe or measure than others; e.g. size as opposed to management style, performance as opposed to culture. It remains the case, however, that a change in any of the features will produce a change in the way the organisation behaves [3]. It is behaviour which can be observed or measured. Having established that organisation change is about behaviour we can move onto the second and related proposition. It is this: organisation change requires individual change. This may seem an obvious statement but it is a factor which is often overlooked. A change in organisation behaviour cannot be achieved unless some or all of the individuals within the organisation change the way they behave. How can performance, management style, or culture change in an organisation unless people behave differently?

evidence of readers' own experience will be enough to support that point! The need for individual behaviour change leads us to the final proposition. Individual behaviour change requires two conditions to be met. (a) Learning has to occur. (b) Motivation to apply the learning has to exist. Individual behaviour is partly a function of ability; i.e. what a person is able to do; and willingness; i.e. what a person wishes to do [5]. It is quite possible that individuals fail to behave as desired not because they are unwilling but because they are unable. Equally, it may be the case that they have the ability but are unwilling to apply it in practice. What is clear is that both conditions need to be met. It is worth noting here that the meaning attached to learning in this proposition is to do with acquisition of knowledge, skills and abilities. Debate about the wider role of learning in influencing or determining behaviour, including sources of motivation, will be left to psychologists. These then are the three propositions which underpin the rest of this article. A simple case has been made out to support each of them. If they appear unsound then what follows will be invalid. If, however, the propositions are accepted, the models and consequent framework will be useful in informing strategies for bringing about organisation change. The Models The first of two models is taken from a paper written by Hinings [6]. It suggests two critical variables which will affect the likely success of any planned change effort. These are the degree to which those affected accept there is a need for change; i.e. agree there is a problem; and secondly accept the appropriateness of the change being suggested or imposed, i.e. agree with the solution. These two variables can be combined in a simple matrix as in Figure 1 below. This matrix serves two useful purposes. First, it allows for an initial assessment of the potential success of any organisation change. Research can be carried out in the organisation to establish the current degree of agreement and acceptance which can be used either as a basis for decisions on what change to implement or to assess how much effort is likely to be needed to make a given change



The obvious objections to this point will arise from the features of size and structure. It is possible to argue that an expansion or contraction in size will not require individuals to behave differently. The reality is that it will if the change in size is to work and succeed in practice. The size of an organisation is a critical factor influencing how people relate with each other and changes in size will require changes in the behaviour of individuals and their relationships [4]. Organisation structure is a more common example where this second proposition is ignored. Changes in structure are often imposed without attention being paid to the required behaviour changes of individuals. The result is that the new structure does not work in practice, i.e. it does not bring about the desired or expected change in organisation behaviour. The anecdotal

Volume 13 Number 6 1989

Figure 1. Critical Variables Affecting Success of Organisation Change

Acceptance of problem



Acceptance of solution


High success

Moderate success


Low success

Lowest success

successful. Secondly the matrix identifies the conditions that need to exist or be created for organisation change to be successful. These are that those affected agree with both the definition of the problem and the proposed solution. Only under those conditions are they likely to change their individual behaviour. The question that arises from this last point is how to shift the people affected from the bottom left or right of the matrix to the top left quadrant? Our second model can help to answer that question. This second model was devised by the author to conceptualise the contribution of training and development to bringing about change in organisations. There are two key elements in the model. The first is a continuum of behaviour change from minor to major as perceived by individuals affected. The second is a conceptual continuum of training and development. These two elements

are seen to be related and are combined as in Figure 2 below. A few words of explanation are necessary before examining the utility and application of the model. The distinction between training and development is meant to illustrate two important points. First, that HRD interventions to support organisation change are likely to be those associated with personal development at the major behaviour change end of the change continuum, and to the more traditional, training activities at the minor end. Second, while most if not all HRD interventions are concerned with all three elements of knowledge, skills and attitudes, the emphasis is likely to be different at different levels of change as indicated in the model. Some examples may be useful to illustrate the use of the change continuum. Since it is important to classify behaviour change



according to the perception of those affected, the following examples can only be considered as indicative generalisations. Outcome of Performance Appraisal may lead to a requirement for a slight change in behaviour and the person affected needs only the knowledge of this requirement, e.g. performance targets. New Boss/Colleagues is likely to mean individuals need to behave differently but again only need the knowledge of in what ways. Reorganisation/Restructuring of the whole organisation or single department will lead to new ways of behaving in the job which may require additional job related knowledge and skills and, perhaps, attitudes. New Job arising from major reorganisations, is closer to a major behaviour change requiring new knowledge, skills and attitudes on the part of those affected. New, Significant Organisation Policies will require significant changes in the kinds of behaviour which "to a large extent are influenced by personal values and attitudes; e.g. adoption of an equal opportunities policy usually implies major behavioural change. Fundamental Organisational Change such as experienced by privatised public corporations or organisations moving from a production to marketing orientation will require almost a new paradigm of work to be adopted by individuals and related to major behavioural change. Application and Use The two models have several useful applications in the practice of organisation change. The first model usefully illustrates the truism that individuals will be more committed to change if they accept that the need exists

and agree that the proposed new behaviours will be beneficial. It also implicitly supports the notion that individual involvement in change processes is necessary for those conditions to exist. The second model should remind those responsible for bringing about change of the need to provide training and development. It also indicates what kind of HRD interventions will be required. This helps to ensure the first condition of the third proposition identified earlier is met.


Combining and using two models together suggest general principles which can help meet the second condition, i.e. motivation to apply. Minor behaviour change is likely to be associated with low resistance, and strategies to build agreement, i.e. shift those affected to the top left quadrant in Figure 1; will probably need to concentrate on knowledge acquisition through information sharing and communication. Conversely, major behaviour change is likely to meet more resistance and require greater effort to overcome it. Most theories of motivation, whether content or process theories [5], would support the notion that such change is likely to need greater participation and involvement. The normative re-educative approach to bringing about change also focuses on individual involvement in identifying the problem and devising the solution where personal beliefs and values need to be revised [7]. This analysis of the two models provides the basis of the framework for deciding on strategies for bringing about organisation change. This is represented in Figure 3. The framework suggests that methods which emphasise communication will be


Volume 13 Number 6


appropriate and effective for minor behaviour change while those which emphasise genuine involvement are likely to be more effective for major behaviour change. This classification helps to indicate the utility of competing strategies, methods and techniques. We can illustrate the use of the framework with two hypothetical examples, one drawn from commerce and one from the public sector. A large high street retailer plans to introduce its own credit card. The purpose is to encourage customer loyalty and to promote extra sales. This will obviously have implications for sales staff and give rise to training needs. However, the required behaviour change could be either simply accepting a different form of payment or actively seeking to persuade customers to apply for and use the new facility. The first possibility is classified as a minor behaviour change while the second is much closer to a major behaviour change. Strategies to implement the change in staff behaviour, including the nature of training and development interventions, need to be different in each case.

approach. In these cases adjustments to selection, payment, and reward systems may be required. Training and development methods such as problem identification meetings, team development, action learning, self and peer assessment, etc. all of which enable genuine involvement in the identification of the problem and selection of solutions; will be more effective than formal information sessions in influencing the adoption of required new behaviours. Summary and Conclusion The framework is really a representation of a commonsense approach to bringing about change. Given that individuals have the ability to do so, there are only three reasons why they do not behave as organisations wish them to. First, they do not know; i.e. they are not aware of the desired behaviour. Second, they do not believe; i.e. they are aware of required behaviour but do not believe the organisation and its management seriously desire it. Third, they do not agree with it; i.e. they are aware of both the desired behaviour and the high importance attached to it by the organisation and management, but the behaviour is inconsistent with their own personal views, beliefs or values. The message is simple for those responsible for bringing about organisation change. To be successful, the change has to be known, believed and agreed with by those affected. Change strategies adopted need to be capable of creating those conditions if the change itself is to be effective.


The second example concerns a local council which wishes to reorganise a department now subject to competitive tendering. Some staff will only be affected by the introduction of new administrative systems; a change which is classified as minor in the framework. Others, especially operational staff and their managers at all levels, will be required to develop a commercial orientation to their work in order to compete with private sector companies. Such a change is so fundamental as to be classified as major in the framework. Strategies will again need to be different in each case to bring about successful change. In both examples the minor behaviour change is likely to be achieved through written materials, changes in operating manuals and short formal training sessions to explain, demonstrate and give practice in new procedures. The major behavioural changes, however, will not be achieved by the same

References 1. Underwood, R., "1992: New Frontiers, New Horizons", Personnel Management, IPM, March 1989. 2. For example see Peters, J. (Ed.), Action for Change: The Politics of Implementation, MCB University Press, 1987. 3. Lee, R. and Lawrence, P., Organisation Behaviour, Hutchinson, 1985. 4. For a general discussion of this see Argyle, M., Social Psychology of Work, Allen Lane, 1972. 5. Ribeaux, P. and Poppleton, S., Psychology and Work, Macmillan, 1978. 6. Hinings, R., "Planning, Organising and Managing Change", Local Government Training Board, 1983. 7. Bennis, W.G., Benne, K.D., Chin, R., Corey, K.E. (Eds.), The Planning of Change, Holt, Reinhart and Winston, 1976.