The nature and dynamics of change : a systems approach to exploring organisational change
There has been a significant increase in interest in the area of organisational change over the past thirty years. A multitude of approaches and methodologies have been proposed, developed and applied by organisational and management theorists, as well as systems and social scientists. Business practitioners and consultants have also not been hesitant in devising their own approaches to organisational change - undoubtedly attracted by the lucrative commercial gains they are capable of generating. It is the author's belief that much of this work focuses upon issues of change management: how to initiate, control and implement effective change within organisations. Yet the proliferation of such approaches in recent years belies an acute lack of any clear understanding of the very nature and essence of change itself. This thesis seeks to explore the concept of change, as it is manifested and described across the sciences. Firstly, it surveys the organisational change literature, highlighting the dearth of research devoted to analysing change from a conceptual and theoretical perspective. A cross discipline approach based upon General Systems Theory is proposed, as a means of further investigating the phenomenon and concept of change. The basic premise being that a deeper understanding of what change is, will better inform and guide our attempts to manage it. In applying the approach, a number of views, definitions, paradigms and phenomena of change are examined from across the natural, physical and social sciences. The recurring themes, principles and unifying ideas from this review are used to construct an initial change framework. This framework is not meant to be prescriptive, but rather is proposed as a qualitative analytical and descriptive tool with which to study change within organisations. To this end, two organisational case studies are documented, during which the framework is applied in an attempt to assess its analytical utility. The thesis concludes with some suggestions for further research, including ways in which the framework can be developed conceptually, and further applied practically within an organisational context.