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date: 07 December 2019

Summary and Keywords

A “change” is a difference in an entity’s state, condition, or property that occurs across an interval of time and can take place in multiple ways. The scope and variety of organization changes make evident that organization change is a familiar and crucial feature of society’s ecosystem. In this chapter we explore multiple types of changes that occur in and among organizations.

To appreciate organizational change, it is necessary to understand organizations per se. Thus, we begin by summarizing pertinent literature that defines central characteristics of organizations. Following conventional usage, the term “organization” refers to a purposeful hierarchical human system whose members contribute their efforts or other resources to the system in order to acquire valued resources, such as their livelihood. Organizations are created for multiple types of purposes. Our emphasis is primarily on business organizations, which are created for the purpose of generating wealth for their creators and owners.

After discussing organizations, we then turn to our main focus, organizational change. This refers, not only to changes at the organization level of analysis but also at other levels of analysis, ranging from individuals such as the organization’s chief executive officer to populations of organizations. We present topics that address contemporary understandings of organizational change.

That is, we discuss sources of change in external organizational environments and organizational responses to such change. We then discuss varieties of organizational change, including population level changes, and changes within individual organizations, including changes initiated by middle managers, organizational learning and unlearning and top management change. Next we move to planned organizational change. This includes changes in culture as well as forms of organization development and forms of whole systems changes, as well as multiple dimensions, of these types of changes.

Finally, we describe emerging topics in organizational change, including temporal dimensions, radical and continuous change, dialectical and paradoxical change, emergence, and decline, death and rebirth. Taken together, these topics suggest what organizational change research has explored up to the present. The topics also suggest agendas for new exploration.

Keywords: organization, organization change, top management, leadership, decision-making, organization development, temporal dimensions

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