Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version



Long before Johnson's 1998 celebrated story Who Moved My Cheese? a best-selling text on change was published, Charles Darwin in the Origin of Species (1859), documented compelling scientific evidence on species that became extinct because of mal-adaptation or resistance to change. It is intriguing to discover in today's business world, that most businesses that are making waves never existed beyond few decades. In the same vein, most organizations in the past, that roamed their environments like dinosaurs, are today extinct or too flaccid to make earth-breaking impact. Change has caused all these. Organizations that have realized the inevitability of change have accepted the onerous tasks of managing it. Others that believed otherwise, have unwittingly surrendered themselves to change, to tweak the way it deems fit.

Change is so fundamental to all things in the world that it is the most important obstacle to overcome in a game of survival of the fittest. It is constant for all times. This immutable principle may have been the raison d'etre behind the craving by many to understand change, as a phenomenon from wider and deeper perspectives. Consequently, this perhaps, has attracted to the field of management and indeed the entire sciences, as well as humanity, avalanche of change theories, postulations and practices.

Nowhere in the world economy has change made such unimaginable impacts as it has done in the information and communication technology (ICT) world in the past few decades, especially in the last two decades when the ICT wind has blown across every continent of the world.

Contemporary Issues in Change Management

Change by definition requires creating a new system. Managing change therefore requires managers to think about the organization from a new perspective. Duck (1998) argues that this demands from the manager, something beyond mere breaking change into small pieces – total quality management, process reengineering, employee empowerment and managing each as operating machine, akin to treating the human body of one ailment at a time. Change management appears to be influenced by three paradigms viz: deeply held, unconscious set of assumptions and values, things taken for granted, and expectations

Zohar (1997), in his own view, identified two broad influences which managers of change are susceptible to. These are Newtonian and Quantum constructs. Under the Newtonian perspective, change management sees an organization from the perspective of atomicity, with emphasis on separate working parts. This leads to a tendency toward fragmentation. Second, the Newtonian believes that change management is determinate and thus is governed by iron laws. This is why some of their proponents are taken aback when results of change programme are way off from prediction.

The third underlying assumptions of the Newtonian construct on change management is the view that, all answers on change, must be "either, or". That is why those who subscribe to it give premium to change leaders, who 'keep their eyes on the ball' and 'see clearly a particular vision to pursue'. It is from these people that we hear frequent arguments that, there is one best way to do things or the best software package to drive information and communication technology.

The fourth is actuality, which concerns 'here and now'. This anchors on immediate results that can be touched and measured. The fifth concerns 'subject-object split'. Managers influenced by this movement divide the world into the organization and its environment, as well as the organization and its market. According to Zohar (1997), these managers believe that change programme and management, should empower them to manage that environment and to exploit the market. Quite often we hear these managers shouting to their subordinates "Customers are out there and they are to be managed. Their tastes are to be manipulated, their dissatisfactions stoked up, their expectations set".

Sixth change management, under the Newtonian influence, regards the organization, both political and corporate as existing in a constant and seemingly unresolved tension between the individual and the group. That the thrust of change management is to foster the initiative and creative qualities of the individual, while at the same time developing the co-operation and team qualities of the group. It is based on this that we have many change managers stressing the crucial importance of the individual, at the same time, being suspicious of the group. Leadership under this context cultivates own inner light and individual potential, while feeling that there is nothing or little lesson to draw from the great insight and inspiration of the unexpressed qualities of the group being led.

Seventh, Newtonian managers on change management are under the influence of 'focus, certainty, and control'. A story is told of a famous physicist, Lord Kelvin, who often advised his best students to avoid making a career in physics, because they had solved all the problems that required solutions. In other words, there was nothing exciting or new that a newcomer would discover in the subject. Change management under this influence, creates a situation that makes the leader see others and their ways of doing things, as the source of the problems of the organization, while nothing is wrong the way he administers his job.