Breakdowns in implementing models of organization change

Breakdowns in implementing models of organization change

Organizations choose to implement change in order to move towards its ideal state, and to do so is a difficult task to be successful on its first try. Some leaders it comes to naturally, while others may repeatedly fail before they succeed. Breakdowns occur when there is lack of communication in an organization about why change is needed, or when not everyone participates fully in the transition. Often time change agents are hired to consult and manage change due to its complexity. Organizations however should not change just for the sake of change they should evaluate and modify themselves as it becomes necessary to their surroundings.

Who wrote the article?

Andrew Van De Ven and Kangyoung Sun

What was the aim of the article?

Change agents are people who use different strategies in order to help organizations implement change as smoothly as possible. They do this by using two basic strategies: action and reflection. Action requires a change agent to concentrate on correction people or processes that prevent change from ‘unfolding’ like it should. Reflection demands that the change agent to revise the model of change as it occurs based on the unique structure of each organization. When looking at organizational change it is important for change agents to consider the following things:
· Expanding their repertoire of conceptual models
· Having a framework for diagnosing weakness and typical breakdown in models of change and to be able to suggest suitable remedies
· Being able to recognize when process breakdown may have gone beyond repair or when the remedies create bigger organizational problems than they solve. The authors identify four models of change, why breakdowns occur in each and what organizations can due to counteract them.

Teleology (Planned change)
Applies when the organization moves towards change with a shared goal, and fails when consensus on the goal is not reached. A dissatisfaction with current situation and realization of change.
Typical Breakdowns occur because of a failure to:
-Not everyone recognize when change is needed
-Reach a consensus on goals
-Make mistakes in the actions

-Make small changes over time to allow for individuals to unconsciously adapt
-Communicate and emphasize strengthen relationships
-Everyone plays a role in action plans to share responsibility

Life Cycle (Regulated Change)
Best for regularly predicted change, and fails when the rules for change are followed incorrectly or do not fit the change appropriately.

Typical Breakdowns occur because of a failure to:
-Different consequences between “planners” and “doers”
-Lack of implementation

-Provide justifications for each change implemented for better understanding of those carrying out the change
-Socialization between individuals in the organization in order for better compliance with changes

Dialectic (Conflictive Change)
Refers to separate organizations conflict with one another on an issue, and fail to resolve and move forward.
Typical Breakdowns occur because of a failure to:
-Conflict that remains static
-Unequal power

-Negotiations between people
-Rights based conflict resolution (not recommended)

Evolution (Competitive Change)
The last of the four applies to multiple organizations developing unique products for the same market and fails when variations become too similar or competition is scarce.
Typical Breakdowns occur because of a failure to:
-Similar competition
-Small demand
-Continued to develop variation

Why are these findings important?

This is important in order to identify the best change agent for your organization based on the type of change you are going through. The different mental models exist based on the perspective of each individual agent, but it is important to note that the best change agents are the ones who are open to ideas and different perspectives. Variability in opinion makes it more likely that they will be able to provide a positive outcome based on cross-understandings.
Openness change agents must take into account that organization changes the complexities that the models do not cover. Van De Ven and Poole propose a hypothesis that there are actually 16 models of change but are limited by three basic ideas. From this the authors are attempting to make overall is that the strength of one model is often the weakness of another and vice versa thus being open to different perspectives of change models is important to be able to transition smoothly.

1. Each change process is limited and incomplete.
2. The usefulness of a model depends on the stage of organizational change that is occurring.
3. Each model requires balance of opposing views that are often trying to solve ambiguous and unprecedented change.

A huge component that this interconnectedness brings is that an organization’s change may benefit from all of the models, but in different stages of the change itself. They are proposed as: emergence, development, implementation, and diffusion.

The emergence stage falls parallel to the changes that occur in the teleological stage as a result of recognition by the organizational that there is a need for change. While Developmental stage is synonymous with the dialectical stage because competing designs of change implementation that requires a synthesis of all ideas. Both the implementation stage and the diffusion stage integrate themselves throughout the previous two as evolutionary and life cycles.

Overall, each process of organizational change rarely unfolds the way they should, so it is important to be able to remedy the issues as arise.

Where can these results be applied?

Nokia – Life cycle model

It’s no surprise that Nokia mobile phones are no longer as popular as they once were when cell phones became the standard form of communication. The rules of the technology game were quickly changing and nokia found itself at a loss. However, in 2014 the Finnish company reinvented themselves and currently has a steadily growing share price. Instead of focusing on mobile phones, they broadened their tech world by buying out Siemens and acquiring Alcatel-Lucent and completely turned around their corporate structure.

Apple – Dialectic model
Another company that almost failed before it started, apple began to focus on making technology elegant and functional for the everyday person. Then conflicting views of the company’s future between Steve Jobs and the rest of the executive board caused the company to choose a side and move forward aggressively without resolving the conflict. Only once the squabble was resolved in a compromise by inviting Jobs back to the company were they able to regain the popularity that was apple branding.


Ven, A. H., & Sun, K. (2011). Breakdowns in Implementing Models of Organization Change. Academy of Management Perspectives, 25(3), 58-74.

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