Change management theories: Is there an optimal way of implementing change in an organisation, and how can this be seen in an intercultural perspective?

Synnøve Holgersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This text presents the different sciences related to change management – rationalism, functionalism and social constructivism, and with the basis of these three fundamentals, one has tried to identify ways that change can be implemented in an organisation. The aspect of culture has further been brought in to perspective, by looking at how theories of change and organisational development (OD) can be seen and implemented in the different national cultures. Are there some models which are better suited in some cultures, or is it one model that in general could be used in all organisations and / or cultures? First one look at the reasons for change, where this may be due to planned change, as well as change as a coincidence, where one in the text focus on implementing change as a planned change. The basis of the analysis and discussion are functionalism and Kotter’s eight step model, together with the new and not quite finished research area of social constructivism and the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) model. The two different models are compared, and in the social constructivism one say that humans think, feel and see the things they want to see – hence some things are being taken into consideration in a process of change, while others are left out. This contributes to the fact that there is not only one reality, and that in the communities of practices, together one create meaning within the organisation. In a social constructivism approach this means that change does not happen and make sense until the change is negotiated and meaningful within the communities of practice. Functionalism looks at both the classic rational approach and the visionary approach, which emphasise on a more analytic approach; whereas Kotter’s eight step model and a linear approach are the basis for the implementation of change (Guldbrandsen, 2010). The models used for comparison are Organisational Development (OD) and Total Quality Management (TQM), where an OD definition and model is used as material for the analysis and discussion. Further the TQM and quality programmes are themes which may be used as an example and key determinants for implementing change, with focus on quality throughout the change process. These are both models where a common goal is for the organisations to be more competitive, and where a strategic change could benefit the entire company by simple steps, concerning both a quality concept and a definition characteristic which departs substantially from a traditional approach. When relating these different theories of change and culture, one seek to explore if there is a best possible and optimal way for an organisation to handle and implement change at every level of the organisation, both on a short and long term basis. The main models of Kotter and the AI model, together with OD and TQM are reviewed and when looking at the different evaluations in this paper, it is difficult to see and explore which is the most optimal for implementing change, and consequently one may say that there is not only one way of doing it, or one culture that is better suited compared to the others. Suggestions are made when comparing change models and different cultural features, and evaluations are made, both concerning the comparison of the two main models, but also the comparisons related to OD and TQM, as well as involving the cultural aspect. One may presume that there does not exist only one optimal model for change, however,based on the discussion and analysis one have found, that this is something that depends on the entire situation as a whole. Something that works in one situation does not necessarily work in another organisation, and for that matter, another country. The findings of the text suggest that the choice of change model should be situational, where the organisation’s history, management style and what kind of change one has to deal with are important aspects to consider, before starting the process of change (Guldbrandsen, 2010). To have knowledge about this and the existing composition of cultures within the organisation, could be an important advice for the future, because then, one may be able to know and recognise what to do in specific situations involving change.

EducationsMSc in Human Resource Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages79