What Changes in Organizations

Learning Objectives
On completion of this chapter you should be able to:
• Understand the distinction between first-order and second-order change.
• Outline alternative concepts of change.
• Identify a range of common changes that confront organizations such as downsizing,
introducing new technologies, and mergers and acquisitions.
• Be familiar with a variety of issues that emerge at the “front line” for those charged
with managing these changes.
• Appraise your ability to engage with such changes in the future.
Some commentators suggest that, whereas organizational change prior to the mid-late
twentieth century was likely to be incremental and infrequent, by the latter part of the century
such change was likely to be significant and traumatic. 1 A study by Meyer, Brooks,
and Goes 2 provides support to this position. Their study showed how changes in hospitals
in the 1960s were evolutionary and related to a stable environment. During the 1970s and
1980s, the environment changed with mounting concern about health-care costs, which led
to revolutionary strategic and structural changes in health-care corporations.
Other commentators take a different line, arguing that radical or discontinuous change
is not new to the current period but is something that occurred between 1900 and 1950. 3
More generally, others suggest that too much attention has focused solely on large-scale
transformational change without appropriate acknowledgment of the role of other changes
in maintaining organizational survival…



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