Building, sustaining and dissolving large scale change proposal coalitions in top management teams
Recent studies into the political aspects of large scale change in organisations have highlighted the need for a deeper understanding of managerial elites in the change context. The extant literature is guilty of conflating large scale change into a single process, and commentators describe and prescribe political processes and behaviours without differentiating between the proposal and implementation stages of change. The research presented in this thesis provides insights into the nature and characteristics of large scale change proposal coalitions and the behaviours and tactics of coalition leaders in top management teams across a range of organisational settings in the UK private sector. Data was collected and analysed using a qualitative methodology. An elite style semistructured interview schedule was used with a research sample of fifty members of top management teams drawn from across fourteen organisations in thirteen industries. The findings suggest that large scale change proposal coalitions follow a five phase lifecycle: initiate, build, sustain, dissolve, and capture and transfer. Within these phases coalition leaders tend to perform three primary roles: builder, sustainer and dissolver. The sequence of gathering support to build a coalition is heavily influenced by the hierarchical position of the builder, and the behaviours and tactics used are contingent upon whether an individual is engaged in an upward inter-tier, intra-tier, or downward inter-tier support gathering exercise. Once a large scale change proposal coalition had been established the leadership role changes from building to sustaining. Four principal types of coalition are identified: aligned coalitions, unaligned coalitions, unfocused coalitions and fragmented coalitions. Different leadership skills are required for each. Once a proposal has been approved or rejected the evidence suggests that coalitions should be dissolved as rapidly as practically possible using one or a combination of three dissolution techniques. These findings have important implications for academic enquiry and practitioners.