Organizational Change Models & Theories

Updated February 21, 2017

Leaders view their organisations at a macro level, and change theories reveal why and how change occurs and what changes will transpire. The ability to manage organizational change distinguishes a successful manager. When you are seeking organizational change, you must identify your goals and the potential effects of the change. Organizational change models represent different aspects of organisations and humans, and they vary considerably from each other.

Lewin's Model

Lewin's model illustrates three stages of organizational change management. In order to successfully change an organisation, the current organizational must be entirely dismantled. Now, this does not mean you destroy the company, but that you destroy the organizational culture. You must move seamlessly to the new culture and then measure the speed of that change. The changes must then be frozen, so they will remain permanent. There must be a gap, signifying dramatic change, between the former and current organisation. This model is only used for planned change and cannot be used to respond to changes that are not planned.

Neoclassical Organizational Change

Neoclassical organisation theory explores change as a result of authoritarian structure. When change is rigid, individuals are not motivated, do not grow and do not share their creativity with the organisation. This theory places importance on individual needs. Employees are treated with respect and friendliness, and respond with higher productivity and positive environments. Workers should not be manipulated or controlled. It is the executives' responsibility to develop an atmosphere of creativity, value, cohesiveness and purpose.

Action Research Model

Action Research combines changing individual attitudes and behaviours. The purpose of the model is to force change to happen by first identifying the need for change. Needed changes are then discussed and put into place. Finally, the rate and stability of the change is evaluated. Training can be utilised to express the need for and process of the changes you want to see in your organisation.

Systems Theory

Systems theory sees all components of an organisation as interconnected. All the parts of the organisation work at an equilibrium. They adapt to changes in other areas to achieve a new equilibrium. All changes affect those around you, and they shape your reality. Even small changes you make in one area can affect major changes in others. Systems theory identifies the complexity of organisations. It is difficult to identify the effect one area has on another, and you cannot understand the relationships that are shared across different organizational variables.

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About the Author

Rebekah Smith is a writer and editor from Montana and the owner of several businesses. Smith has consulted and worked with businesses in the fields of commercial greenhouses, ecommerce, technology and home improvement. She holds a Master of Business Administration and is working on a Ph.D. in business.