Reflections: On the Lost Specification of ‘Change’

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The notion of ‘change’ has become pervasive in contemporary organizational discourse. On the one hand, change is represented as an organizational imperative that increasingly appears to trump all other concerns. On the other hand, change is addressed as an abstract, generic entity that can be theorized, categorized, evaluated and acted upon without further specification. In this article, we argue that this combination of absolutism and abstraction has some unfortunate consequences for the precise assessment and practical management of particular organizational changes. Based on re-readings of two classic, but partially forgotten contributions within organization theory – the work of Wilfred R. Bion on group assumptions and the work of Elliott Jaques on ‘requisite organisation’ – we suggest that contemporary discussion of organizational change could benefit considerably from regaining a lost specificity; an empirical grounding in the detailed description of content, purpose and elements of change as a prerequisite for any normative appraisal or critique.
The notion of ‘change’ has become pervasive in contemporary organizational discourse. On the one hand, change is represented as an organizational imperative that increasingly appears to trump all other concerns. On the other hand, change is addressed as an abstract, generic entity that can be theorized, categorized, evaluated and acted upon without further specification. In this article, we argue that this combination of absolutism and abstraction has some unfortunate consequences for the precise assessment and practical management of particular organizational changes. Based on re-readings of two classic, but partially forgotten contributions within organization theory – the work of Wilfred R. Bion on group assumptions and the work of Elliott Jaques on ‘requisite organisation’ – we suggest that contemporary discussion of organizational change could benefit considerably from regaining a lost specificity; an empirical grounding in the detailed description of content, purpose and elements of change as a prerequisite for any normative appraisal or critique.
LanguageEnglish
JournalJournal of Change Management
Volume12
Issue number2
Pages121-143
ISSN1469-7017
DOIs
StatePublished - 29 May 2012

Keywords

  • Abstraction
  • Epochalism
  • Detailed Description
  • Bion
  • Jaques
  • Bureaucracy

Cite this

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title = "Reflections: On the Lost Specification of ‘Change’",
abstract = "The notion of ‘change’ has become pervasive in contemporary organizational discourse. On the one hand, change is represented as an organizational imperative that increasingly appears to trump all other concerns. On the other hand, change is addressed as an abstract, generic entity that can be theorized, categorized, evaluated and acted upon without further specification. In this article, we argue that this combination of absolutism and abstraction has some unfortunate consequences for the precise assessment and practical management of particular organizational changes. Based on re-readings of two classic, but partially forgotten contributions within organization theory – the work of Wilfred R. Bion on group assumptions and the work of Elliott Jaques on ‘requisite organisation’ – we suggest that contemporary discussion of organizational change could benefit considerably from regaining a lost specificity; an empirical grounding in the detailed description of content, purpose and elements of change as a prerequisite for any normative appraisal or critique.",
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Reflections : On the Lost Specification of ‘Change’. / du Gay, Paul; Vikkelsø, Signe.

In: Journal of Change Management, Vol. 12, No. 2, 29.05.2012, p. 121-143.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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