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Journal article

All changes great and small: Exploring approaches to change and its leadership

Higgs M, Rowland D ...see all

Journal of Change Management, vol. 5, issue December (2005) pp. 121-151

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Although the growing need for change in organizations it is widely acknowledged it is asserted that up to 70% of change initiatives fail. While there have been attempts to understand the reasons for failure these have been seen as inconclusive, and a need for further empirical work has been identified. Within the growing literature on change leadership there are assertions that the root cause of many change problems is leadership behaviour. This article begins by exploring the change literature and, in particular the broadening of this literature with the inclusion of complexity and evolutionary theories. From the literature the authors propose a typology of change approach is proposed. In examining change the authors also examine emerging thoughts from the change leadership literature. Combining these different streams of literature leads to three core research questions, which are: (1)What approach to change management is likely to be most effective in today's business environment? (2)What leadership behaviours tend to be associated with effective change management? And (3)Are leadership behaviours related to the underlying assumptions within different approaches to change? These questions are explored using a case study methodology. The study involved seven organizations and 40 informants who provided 70 change stories. The data was initially analysed as qualitative data and subsequently (following participant lines of inquiry) quantitatively. Both qualitative and quantitative data indicated that change approaches that were based on assumptions of linearity, were unsuccessful, whereas those built on assumptions of complexity were more successful. Approaches classified as emergent change were found to be the most successful. In examining leadership behaviours three broad categories emerged: (1) shaping behaviour; (2) framing change; and (3) creating capacity. Analyses of the data indicated that leader-centric behaviours (shaping behaviour) impaired change implementation.

Author-supplied keywords

  • BF Psychology
  • HD28 Management. Industrial Management

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  • M. Higgs

  • D. Rowland

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