Managing change is an episodic activity


Organizational changes is an episodic activity. That is, it starts at some point, proceeds through a series of steps, and culminates in some outcome that those involved hope is an improvement over the starting point. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Lewin’s three-step model represents a classic illustration of this perspective. Change is seen as a break in the organization’s equilibrium. The status quo has been disturbed, and change is necessary to establish a new equilibrium state. The objective of refreezing is to stabilize the new situation by balancing the driving and restraining forces.

Some experts have argued that organizational change should be thought of as balancing a system made up of five interacting variables within the organization-people, tasks, technology, structure, and strategy. A change in any one variable has repercussions on one or more of the others. This perspective is episodic in that it treats organizational change as essentially an effort to sustain an equilibrium. A change in one variable begins a chain of events that, if properly managed, requires adjustments in the other variables to achieve a new state of equilibrium.

Another way to conceptualize the episodic view of looking at change is to think of managing change as analogous to captaining a ship. The organization is like a large ship traveling across the calm Mediterranean Sea to a specific port. The ship’s captain has made this exact trip hundreds of times before with the same crew. If a storm will appear the crew has to respond. The captain will make the appropriate adjustments. After manipulating through the storm the ship will return to calm waters.

Managing an organization is like the ship voyage. It should be seen as journey with a beginning and an end. Changes have to be managed as a response to a break in the status quo as and when required.

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