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Although the pace of organisational change is escalating, the reported success rate of large-scale change efforts remains disappointingly low. This suggests a level of risk that remains largely under acknowledged. The current study explored employee perceptions of risk in organisational change practices. Statements provided by a convenience sample of 111 respondents from seven institutions revealed a distinct awareness of change risk among employees. Identified risk areas align with the planning, involvement and implementation stages of organizational change processes. It is furthermore proposed that an ethical approach to change will minimise resistance to change and substantially reduce change risk.
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The notion of risk and its containment through effect ive
governance structures and practices is a central consideration
of the King II Report on Corporate Governance (IoD, 2002).
Risk management is clearly entrenched as an important
parameter of corporate governance, in particular the careful
and considered engagement of risk in exchange for corporate
rewards and is defined as the identification and e valuation of
potential risk areas as they pertain to the organisation, as well as
the process to remove or minimize the risk (IoD, 2002, p.73). In
this regard the King II report also stipulates that the risk
management process entails the planning, arranging and
controlling of activit ies and resources to minimise the impact
of risk and, in this instance, internal control measures
constitute a central consideration. Yet, despite the clarity with
which the King Report directs the identification and
interpretation of risk to all institutional processes and
practices, risk is by and large taken to refer more narrowly to
financial practices and their management.
If risk in organisations is viewed as conditions or behaviours that
affect a company either beneficially or detrimentally (Rossouw
& Van Vuuren, 2004) it should be clear that financial practices
constitute a very small component of those conditions or
behaviours that could materially impact the organisation’s
functioning. Indeed, Rossouw et al., (2004, p.199) present
organisational risk ty pologies that dif ferentiate between
business risks - typically implicit in competition, efficiency of
production factors, supply and demand considerations and
economic factors; financial risks, which relate to credit, foreign
exchange, cash flow, gearing and liquidity, but then in particular
also operational risks as a specific approach to articulating
business risks. Operational risks for example are often
embedded in issues of technology, compliance, people, the
business communit y, and what the authors term “ethical risk”.
Ethical risk, in turn, is defined as the potentially
detrimental/beneficial outcomes of unethical or ethical
conditions or behaviours (Rossouw & Van Vuuren, 2004, p.200)
and is viewed as part of the expanded responsibilities of boards
of directors - an artefact of the shift towards “triple bottom line
reporting”. Rather than merely accounting for financial and
economic functioning of the organisation, triple bottom line
reporting also requires formal accounting for the social and
environmental performance of the organisation. This expanded
accounting and reporting perspective, which is often referred to
as “sustainability risks” (Rossouw et al., 2004, p.199), together
with the King II report (IoD, 2002) provides the platform
and focus for considering risk and ethics in organisational
change practices.
Organisational change as “risk”
Organisational change is one of the most frequently recurring
organisational phenomena of our times and has truly become a
consistent feature of the organisational landscape. Organisations,
by necessit y, have to adapt to continuously changing
environmental, and in particular, competitive operating
conditions. This they do through a variety of change initiatives and
processes which include transformation, cult ure change,
downsizing, reengineering, mergers and acquisitions, major
refocusing and strategic change. With the majority of
organisational change scholars forecasting continued turbulence
and accelerating organisational change (Burnes, 2003; Cummings
& Worley, 2001; Johnson, 1996; Schabracq & Cooper, 2000; Vakola,
Tsaousis & Nikolaou, 2004), the challenge of organisational
adaptation will increase and intensify, and employees can expect to
be exposed to continuous waves of organisational change.
At the same time however it appears that organisations, despite
the prevalence of change and their presumed competence in
dealing with it, are (still) not succeeding at instituting change
processes effectively and dismal change success rates2are
continuously recorded. Indeed, major change initiatives are
more frequently deemed unsuccessful and approximately 65%
to 75% fail (cf. Applebaum & Wohl, 2000; Beer & Nohria, 2000;
Mariotti, 1998; Mourier & Smith, 2001; Smith, 2002; Van
Tonder, 2005). The latter includes among other reorganisations
(Ross, 1997), downsizings (Henkoff, 1990; Skilling, 1996),
improvement programmes and initiatives (Pascale, Millemann
& Gioya, 1997; Schaffer & Thompson, 1992), mergers and
acquisitions (Balmer & Dinnie, 1999, Gilkey, 1991), and culture
change (Smith, 2002, 2003). It is equally widely acknowledged
that the cost3of institutional transformation or organisational
change (regardless of how it is conceptualised) is exceedingly
high (cf. Offerman & Gowing, 1990; Hattingh, 2004; Korten,
1995; Smith 1995, Van Tonder, 2005a) and, while the financial
consequences of unsuccessful and poorly planned and
executed change initiatives are difficult to calculate, they are
commonly accepted as being substantial. Even in those rare
instances where change initiatives are likely to be considered
more successful, there will st ill be undesirable side effects or
unintended consequences (Applebaum, Henson & Knee, 1999;
Schein, 1985) and consequently an inevitable downside to the
change (Armenakis & Bedeian, 1999). Moreover, major
organisational change initiatives of this nature generally
appear to have an enduring detrimental impact on the
organisation, its workforce and their dependents, and society
at large (Van Tonder, 2004a; 2005a). The catastrophic demise of
high profile cor porate entities such as Barings, Drexel, Enron,
CL VAN TONDER1
clvt@eb.rau.ac.za
Department of Human Resource Management
University of Johannesburg
ABSTRACT
Although the pace of organisational change is escalating, the reported success rate of large-scale change efforts
remains disappointingly low. This suggests a level of risk that remains largely under acknowledged. The current
study explored employee perceptions of risk in organisational change practices. Statements provided by a
convenience sample of 111 respondents from seven institutions revealed a distinct awareness of change risk among
employees. Identified risk areas align with the planning, involvement and implementation stages of organisational
change processes. It is furthermore proposed that an ethical approach to change will minimise resistance to change
and substantially reduce change risk.
Key words
Change management, change risk, ethical change
CHANGE RISK AND IGNORANCE: ATTEMPTING TO CROSS
CHASMS IN SMALL STEPS
1
SA Journal of Human Resource Management, 2006, 4 (3), 1-11
SA Tydskrif vir Menslikehulpbronbestuur, 2006, 4 (3), 1-11
1The constructive comments of two anonymous reviewers are greatfully acknowledged. 2Success (and failure for that matter) are seldom explicitly defined by the authors but are typically stated in terms of the non-
achievement of the objectives posed for the change initiative (Van Tonder, 2004a). In the majorit y of cases these objectives arise from financial reasons and the change init iative consequently has to ensure, for example,
improved return on investment and value add, business growth (improved sales and market share), improved profits, reduced costs and a variety of related objectives. 3Cost in this context for example referes to
financial “spend” or investment in the change, loss of employment opportunit ies, and other adverse ef fects of major change.
Parmalat International, Leisurenet, Regal Bank, Saambou,
Worldcom and others, although extreme examples nonetheless
illuminate the harsh realities of the cost and consequences of
major change (“corporate failure” being a manifestation of
change for the worse and more specifically inappropriate or
inadequate adaptive change). These examples indicate that
organisational change is an area of risk, but as it is a seldom-
recognised facet of major organisational change, it remains
largely undetected at managerial levels. To an extent
disheartening, is the realisation that ineffective change
practices on this scale continue to unfold in a consistent
fashion despite an extensive and prolifically growing
literature base on the subject (Van de ven & Poole, 1995; Van
Tonder, 2004a).
This paradox of intensifying change and a mushrooming
“knowledge” base, yet except ionally poor change success rates is
perplexing and management’s persistence with entrenched
archaic change practices, despite the inefficiency, costs, and risks
that accompany such change (Irvin, 2002), defies logic. In this
regard the ignorance-incompetence thesis (Van Tonder, 2005a)
offers one possible account for this phenomenon. It posits that
those who initiate and lead the change are essentially ignorant of
the fundamental nat ure of change, how employees perceive,
experience and react to change, and the enduring impact /
consequences and ramifications of change over an extended
period. They effect ively underestimate the challenges and
complexities of organisational change. This ignorance in turn
prevents skills building (training”) in relevant change
competencies from attaining a significant priority on
managerial agendas. As a result change “training” seldom
assume a format beyond a superficial three to five-day short
course, and is likely to enjoy a lower ranking for resource
allocation when compared to legal, financial, and general
management education and training.
Change risk and the ignorance-incompetence thesis
Evidence for the ignorance-incompetence argument is
abundant and proceeds from the premise that the extensive
(scholarly) literature on change consistently singles out
management (cf. Applebaum, Henson & Knee, 1999; Buch &
Aldridge, 1990; Christensen & Overdorf, 2000; Jewell & Linard,
1992; Kotter, 1995; Stuart, 1996; Worrall, Cooper & Campbell-
Jamison, 2000) and resistance to change (cf. Martin, 1975;
Maurer, 1997; Reger, Mullane, Gustafson & DeMarie, 1994;
Spiker & Lesser, 1995; Waldersee & Griffiths, 1997) as the most
prominent and influential factors that contribute to “failed”
change. Resistance to change is itself a reaction to, and a
comment on ill-considered managerial at tempts at brokering
organisational change. While several other reasons are
regularly cited as contributing to failed change initiatives
(Beer & Eisenstat, 2000; Covin & Kilmann, 1990; Eales-White,
1994), these recede into the background when compared to the
volume of studies that accentuate these two primary causes.
Apart from this perspective, management by its very nat ure
but also from an organisational theory perspective is centrally
responsible and accountable for change success or otherwise.
In this regard the literature, generally, is consistently
unflattering when it comes to managerial capabilities for
dealing with change. So, for example, management is
considered to be ill-equipped for dealing with change (Buch &
Aldridge, 1990), lacks requisite change knowledge (Applebaum
et al., 1999; Armenakis & Harris, 2002; Church, Siegal, Javitch,
Waclawski & Burke, 1996) and a solid grasp of change
dynamics (Kets de Vries & Balazs, 1998), do not understand
change implementation (Armenakis & Harris, 2002), and are
unable to comprehend and attend to the more psychological
aspects of the change (Dehler & Welsh, 1994). Managerial
perspectives on organisational change have not kept abreast
with contemporary developments and perspectives and appear
to have outlived their practical usefulness (Collins, 1998;
Nortier, 1995; Van Tonder, 2004a). It comes as no surprise then
that scholars have called for the re-education and training of
managers with regard to the implementation and management
of change (Belasen, Benke, Di Padova & Fortunato, 1996;
Francis, Bessant & Hobday, 2003; Worrall et al., 2000).
Given this context, it is not difficult to understand why it is
argued in some quarters that many of the major organisational
change initiatives are uninformed or ill-informed (Cameron,
1994, Doyle, 2002). This view is bolstered by the fact that the
impact and ramifications of change, unlike financials, are not
adequately measured (Burns, 2003) and, as a result, the damage
inflicted by less than optimal change initiatives are not
adequately accounted for in financial audits, financial
statements, and the balance sheet. In a similar vein Hattingh
(2004) expressed the view that mergers and acquisitions
decisions were based on assumption and speculat ion rather than
knowledge and insight, and asserts that historical evidence has
revealed that organisations failed to measure and manage the
risks involved in mergers and acquisitions. Yet despite the
“dismal success rates” and “lacklustre performance of these
costly [change] interventions” management persists in these
unproductive practices (Irvin, 2002). Barker’s (1994) view that
most change initiatives are dealt with in an unreflective manner
provides an eloquent if understated account for this
phenomenon. Irvin (2002, p.360) is substantially more direct
and explicit when she argues that management’s clinging to
outdated and ineffective change practices despite poor results, is
a result of their failure to comprehend the realities of among
other, relentless change, unpredictable occurrences and
increasing complexity of the world. It may well be that these
authors’ accounts of managerial practice may apply to a more
pervasive general management orientation, but for now it is
reasonable to conclude that organisat ional change and
transformat ion are certainly not adequately recognised as areas
of substantial risk to the organisat ion and its stakeholders.
Organisations however do not have to succumb to the
undesirable consequences of poorly managed change risks even
if their management cadres are unable to detect and deal with
the change risk, or so Van Tonder and Van Vuuren (2004) argue.
In keeping with the general parameters of the King II report
(IoD, 2002), they have argued that the implicit risk in
organisational change processes could be mitigated substantially
if an ethical approach towards change is adopted for example the
adoption of ethical principles and practices to guide change
practices. In this regard they suggested specific ethical nodes in
the generic change management process where an ethical
approach in particular would minimise the risks implicit in
change initiatives. This however presupposes knowledge of
moments of greater and lesser risk during change initiatives.
In this regard the bulk of the literature on change management
is not particularly helpful as it is focused predominantly on
pragmat ic considerations – informed largely by management
and change practitioner needs. Understandably the literature
base is exceptionally lean in the areas of change risk and ethical
change and, except for a few more embracing and general
perspectives with regard to the latter (e.g. Calabrese, 2003;
Mayon-White, 1994; Miller, 1998), very little guidance can be
derived from the literature.
Given this setting, and acknowledging that the literat ure is
substantially critical of management’s ability to identif y change
risks, the focus of the current study was concerned with risk
during self-imposed or self-initiated organisational change
initiatives. This delineation is necessary as it can be argued that
organisations, in one sense, are continuously subjected to an
increasingly turbulent and ever evolving operating context and
therefore need to engage in continuous adaptive change. Such
change embodies risk on a constant basis. The current study
more specifically focused on the typical stage-bound change
programmes and aimed to establish where (at what points/
nodes) in organisational change processes employees perceive
VAN TONDER
2
the greatest risk for the organisation, that is, if they perceive risk
at all. The study therefore, and from an employee perspective,
essentially endeavoured to isolate those critical risk nodes in a
generic change process. The remainder of the paper briefly
highlights the methodology that was employed, reports the
results of this study and discusses the implications of the
findings for the management of inst itutional change practices
and the containment of risk implicit in these practices.
RESEARCH DESIGN
Research approach
The st udy was approached from within the interpretive
sociological research paradigm (Burrell & Morgan, 1979) as it
implicitly assumes that risk within change processes is a socially
constructed phenomenon that is enacted through perceptions
and therefore as Morgan (1997) argues, more a result of
members’/employees’ actions than they may recognise. It sought
to explore the perceptions of risk at the level where employees
experience the organisation and organisational change
initiatives in particular. Accordingly, whether change is deemed
to be an issue of risk or otherwise, depends on how it is viewed
by those who are subjected to it, or are involved in the change
process. This “emergent” concept of change risk is the central
focus of this research. Subjectivity in the traditional sense is not
a concern as it is precisely the idiosyncratic meanings that each
employee constructs that ultimately define the collectively
shared meaning structures from which an organisation is
defined and enacted. Given its focus, the study is primarily
concerned with exploration, descript ion and understanding, and
is consequently pursued through qualitative methodologies of
limited scope (cf. Crabtree & Miller, 1992; Mouton, 1996). A field
study was undertaken during which participant perceptions
were sampled through a survey method which in turn employed
open-ended yet focused quest ions to solicit respondent meaning
attribution to the construct change risk.
Research methodology
The methodology employed during the study is brief ly described
in terms of respondents, data gathering methods, procedure, and
data analysis.
Respondents
Respondents from seven institutions participated voluntarily in
the study. Participating companies were representative of the
retail sector (food distribution; office supplies), private health
care, the motor industry, educat ion and training, and public
service. Respondent eligibilit y for participation was based on
two requirements namely; the respondent should have been
exposed to (as opposed to being aware of) an internal
organisational change event and secondly, all respondents from
an organisation should have been exposed to the same specific
change event. It was argued that these criteria would ensure that
respondents were fairly knowledgeable about the change
process or initiative, and would base their responses on a
common change experience. Working with postgraduate
Human Resource Management st udents who were linked to or
associated with the seven instit utions, attempts were made to
secure a minimum of 15 but preferably 20 respondents per
participating organisation. As is evident from Table 1 these
requirements were reasonably met, with variance in the
numbers of representatives per organisation reflecting the final
number that did succeed in submitting a completed
questionnaire within the stated timeframe.
The methodolog y that was followed in the study precludes
accounting (statistically) for the impact of sample
characteristics, but, sample characteristics nonetheless define
the interpretation frame and for this reason the key features of
the sample are profiled (see Table 1). In this regard it is
worthwhile noting that the distribution of the sample revealed a
dominance of male respondents (59,5%), predominantly English
speaking (31,5%) with Afrikaans and Zulu representing 14,4%
and 12,6% of the sample respectively. The remaining portion of
the sample was spread across various indigenous and some non-
indigenous language categories (e.g. German). The majority of
the respondents were between 26 and 35 years of age (50%)
while 32% were between 36 and 45 years of age. In terms of job
tenure the majority had between 2 and 5 years service (38,2%),
followed by those with less than two years service (20%), and
respondents with between 6 and 10 years (17,3%) and 11 and 15
years (17,3%) service respectively. The largest proportion of the
sample (47,7%) possessed either a three year diploma or a B-
degree while 14,4% had an Honours degree. Of the remainder,
10,8% possessed a grade 12 certificate, 9,9% a one-year diploma
and 9,0% a Masters degree. The research sample consequently
constitutes a reasonably balanced, quite diverse and
substantially educated convenience sample.
Methods of data gathering
An exist ing organisational change questionnaire which was
designed to record respondents’ perceptions and experiences of
organisational change processes (cf. Van Tonder, 2004b), was
modified with the addition of t wo open-ended questions that
aimed to elicit respondent perceptions and understanding of risk
within a change management context. Wary of the potential
influence of context and the possibility of an order-effect, the
open-ended questions followed immediately after the first
section which dealt with respondent particulars, and
consequently preceded all other questions in the questionnaire.
The questions that followed, sampled data on change as an
objectively observed phenomenon, and is beyond the scope of
this paper. The focus of this paper is however captured by the
two open-ended quest ions, which dealt with perceived risk
during change initiatives or processes. The questions were
formulated as:
Which areas (stages) of an organisational change process
contain the greatest risk for the organisation?
Why do you regard this as the area of greatest risk?
Procedure
With the assistance of postgraduate st udents in the Human
Resource Management field, change questionnaires were
distributed to respondents who were exposed to the same
(recent) change in their organisation. As part of their formal
postgraduate training in change management these students
were recently exposed to survey-based research and the critical
research objective of securing valid and reliable data – a function
not only of the design properties of the instrument, but a
consequence of the entire research process involving sourcing,
briefing, supporting, and monitoring respondents during the
research process. For postgraduate students to participate in the
administering of the questionnaire, they had to comply with the
provided procedure to secure voluntary yet valid and reliable
research protocols from participants. This procedure entailed
various steps and requirements and had to be open to formal
verification by the researcher. This was clearly stipulated before
students were involved in the research. Respondents of
participating organisations were consequently prepared in
advance for the survey and briefed on its purpose and likely
contribution, its structure and nature, the principles of
anonymity and confidentialit y of data, and the requirements for
completion, after which they were instructed to individually
complete the questionnaire. An open invitation was extended to
participants to contact the administrator should questions crop
up when they completed the quest ionnaire. Upon receipt of the
completed questionnaires comments (descriptions) in response
to the open-ended questions were captured verbatim on the
database, and the consolidated list of descriptive statements was
subjected to content analysis. A few randomly selected
statements nominated by respondents are provided in Table 2 as
examples. They illustrate the nature and format of “risk”
responses received from respondents.
CHANGE RISK AND IGNORANCE 3
Analysis of the data
The selected vehicle for analysing descriptive statements
on perceived risk and areas of greatest risk was basic
content analysis. Consistent with Corbin and Straus’ (1990)
grounded theory approach, an open, axial and selective
coding convention was utilised to surface data categories,
identify relations and linkages bet ween categories, and
construct a tentative cause-and-effect account of perceived
risk during change.
Apart from the customary codebook approach that was used
to structure and organise data during the open coding round
(in particular), observations were later quant ified by counting
frequencies of occurrence (cf. Huberman & Miles, 1994) for
subsequent interpretation. In this study the so-called “editing
style” was used to develop the codebook (cf. Crabtree &
Miller, 1992). The researcher made observations of segments of
text as the material was read, jotting down comments in the
margins of the text from which further abstractions were
made. In order for categories to emerge, an open-ended
approach to analysis was followed, which in this st udy utilised
a single phrase (“short sentence”) as unit of meaning and
analysis. The code list was reviewed and revised with every
subsequent phrase that did not fit the coding categories or
suggested new “unique” categories. The final consolidated
“codebook” was employed to revisit and code all phrases and
to assist with the calculation of frequencies per category.
Frequencies were then converted to proportions of total
responses and expressed as percentages and rank ordered to
enable a considerat ion of the relative salience of the different
categories (and themes or sub themes).
Following this, a generic change process (Van Tonder, 2004a) was
used as a change framework and template for matching
employee response frequencies with regard to risk, to change
stage or node (results reported in Table 3). This change process,
developed from an analysis of 12 popular change models,
views the change management process as consist ing of eight
primary stages:
identifying and articulating the change need;
data-gathering and analysis with regard to the change need;
establishing the change vision;
extensive communication and securing participation;
planning the change initiative;
implementing the change plan;
evaluation and consolidation of change progress; and
institutionalising the change.
A similar framework was used by Van Tonder and Van Vuuren
(2004) to identif y nodes of ethical significance within change
processes, and consequently a comparison of theoretically-
determined ethical change nodes with employee-perceived risk
moments during change (this study) was possible (see Table 5).
During axial coding it was observed that respondents, in
highlighting areas of greatest risk during change, also provided
the rationale for their choice of risk area and, in the vast majorit y
of cases, this rationale clearly encapsulated a cause-effect
argument. This justification by respondents suggested neglect of
the specific risk area would ult imately result in specific
undesirable consequences for the organisation (see Table 4).
RESULTS
Respondents generated a substantial number of responses often
consisting of several phrases, which account for the variation in
the number of phrases used in the various analyses and reported
in the different data tables. Table 1 highlights sample
characteristics while Table 2 presents illustrative statements
provided by participants in response to the open-ended
question on perceived areas of greatest risk during change
initiatives or processes.
TABLE 1
SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS
Dimension PARTICIPATING ORGANISATIONS4Total
(%)
ABCDEFG
Number of 15 15 15 20 20 17 9 111
respondents
Ge nder Male 7 8 13 12 12 8 6 66 (59,5)
Female 8 72889345 (40,5)
Age <25 15----- 6
26-35 10 3 7 10 7 4 9 50 (45)
36-45 3 6 5 6 10 6 - 36 (32 )
46-55 - - 2 4 2 4 - 12
56-59 - 1 1 - 1 1 - 4
60-65 1 - - - - - - 1
66+ - ------ 0
Tenure5< 2 4 45215122 (20,0)
2-5 7 1 7 1 7 11 8 42 (38,2)
6-10 2 5 1 8 3 - - 19 (17,3)
11-15 1 4 2 7 5 - - 19 (17,3)
16+ 1 1 - 2 4 - - 8 (7,2)
Language English 9 8 10 5 3 35 (31,5)
Afrikaans 2 1 3 10 16 (14,4)
N-Sotho 4 1 5
Ndebele 1 1
S-Sotho 6 2 8
Swati 1 1
Tso ng a 3 1 4
Tswana 1 2 1 2 1 7
Ven da 1 1 1 2 5
Xhosa 3 2 5
Zulu 1 1 3 2 3 4 14 (12,6)
Other 2 3 2 2 1 10
Education Gr 11 1 1 2 4
Gr 12 2 5 3 1 1 12 (10,8)
1 yr Dip 2 2 4 2 1 11 (9,9)
3 yr Dip 4 2 3 6 4 5 24 (21,6)
B-degree 3 3 2 5 8 4 4 29 (26,1)
Hons 1 21522316 (14,4)
Masters 2 1 1 5 1 10 (9,0)
Doctorate 0
Other/none 2 3 5
Apart from incorporating the 8-stage change management or
process model and listing the primary elements that
characterise each of the eight stages, Table 3 conveys the
perceived risks that respondents identified. These are
summarised in column three (the gist of the theme is
presented), while the frequency with which a specific risk
theme occurred, expressed as a proportion (percentage) of
overall responses to this question, are indicated in columns
four and five. Respondents were unaware of the theoretical
change management or process model and received no
guidance or direct ion about change whatsoever. It is only after
analysis that the researcher could compare themes and fit
these to the relevant corresponding change categories
(stages/nodes).
Although risk areas are indicated for all but two stages
of the generic change management process (Table 3), the
data essentially indicates that the key risk themes are
poor change implementat ion; employee resistance to
change; inadequate involvement of stakeholders (employees
in particular), and inadequate communication with
stakeholders during the change process. When these
themes are fitted to the change model, the communication
and participation stage emerges as the most critical risk
area (54.6% of the responses), which is followed by poor
implementation (23.7% of responses) and poor planning
(10.1%).
VAN TONDER
4
4Company A: Retail (Food); B: Stationary; C: Health Care; D: Education; E: Motor industry; F: Education & Training; G: P ublic Ser vice.
5As with “age”, tenure is measured in years and reported per category.
TABLE 2
ILLUSTRATIVE RESPONSES: GREATEST RISK IN
ORGANISATIONAL CHANGE INITIATIVES
Respondent Statement provided in response to question on areas of
No. greatest risk in an organisational change process
A1 Lack of openness, lack of communication, lack of employee
participation
B8 Implementation, resistance can occur
C1 Resistance to change by employees as nobody likes to move
outside of their comfort zone…
D20 The management because they have to make the subordinates
accept change
E12 Might take a long time to implement the change, no immediate
gain, …
F12 Full and meaningful engagement of all stakeholders is often
neglected in change processes
G4 A change which is not well communicated
A11 Poor implementation of the necessary changes due to poor
planning, resistance from employees concerned or affected
by the change
B10 Pre-implementation phase, this has to be properly discussed
before implementation
C14 The greatest risk is the unsettling of staff, this could lead to a
mass exodus …
D1 If the process is sabotaged
E17 The initial communication process in making sure there is
100% understanding, the implementation phase when there is
deviation from the plan
F5 Ignoring the bulk of the employees who are act ually doing the
work in the organisation
G5 It is the first stage (planning process and diagnosis of the need
for change)…
Analysis of the reasons advanced by respondents’ in support
of their select ion of change risk areas, without exception
highlighted a clear cause-and-effect logic that links neglect
of specific change stages to specific undesirable consequences
at both the individual and organisational levels and hence
their designation of these stages as “risk”. At the individual
level the impact of poorly conducted change stages or tasks
in those areas that are designated as risk areas, is
predominantly of an emotional nature (93.8%) with tangible
impact (e.g. workload increase or actual job loss) representing
only 6.2% of responses. The most pronounced emotional
experiences are anxiety and fear (29.2% of responses),
followed by declining levels of motivation (18%) and
resistance to change (17.4%). The emotional impact of
poorly conducted change stages (or tasks) in turn facilitates a
variety of undesirable organisation-level outcomes of which
staff turnover (28.3% of responses), delayed and/or
compromised (“failed”) change (14.2%), a decline in all
organisational performance levels (13.4%), and financial
losses (11.8%) are the most prominent. The impact of
unattended risk on the individual employee and the
organisation, during the change stages designated by
respondents as risky, is highlighted in Table 4.
In essence the results of Tables 3 and 4 indicate that the areas
of greatest risk during change processes are that of employee
involvement (communication and participation), planning,
and execution of the change initiative or process. If neglected,
the organisation is bound to encounter substantial emotional
upheaval that typically assumes the form of fear, deteriorating
motivation and resistance, which in t urn will compromise
organisation-level performance in a variety of domains
ranging from staff turnover, to compromised/failed change,
decline in productivity and service levels, and escalating
costs/financial losses.
TABLE 3
DEGREE OF CORRESPONDENCE: GENERIC CHANGE STAGES AND
PARTICIPANT INDICATORS OF RISK DURING CHANGE PROCESSES
No Stage in change management Perceived RISK area ƒ7%
process6
1 The change need - No suggestion of r isk - - -
Compelling (business)
need
Sense of urgency
Powerful & positive
individual to embrace
the change
2 Data gathering
Diagnosis & analysis Inadequate research 6 4,3
Consulting with experts Inadequate or misdiagnosis
Propositions & (& consequently
recommendations misdirect ion)
3 Change vision
Vision of the change Absence of a clear vision 4 2,9
end-state & objectives; shift ing
aligned with vision; failure to
organisation’s culture communicate change
exciting vision
secured through
broad participation
with clear goals &
objectives
4 Communication and participation
Continuous communication Lack of, poor, or 76 54,6
& dissemination of inadequate communi-
information/feedback cation and communi-
Acceptance through cat ion channels; poorly
participation & involvement informed employees,
of employees, which include: distorted messages,
empowerment to act on misinterpretation and
the vision lack of consultation and
care-taking, dealing openness (21 or 15.1%)
with resistance (RC Inadequate/poor
factor) participation; not full
involvement/engagement
of all stakeholders (27 or
19,4%)
Resistance to change
(28 or 20.1%)
5 Planning
Goals & detailed action Poor/bad planning, 14 10,1
plans strategising &
Planning implementat ion/ preparation (14)
“roll-out”
6 Implementat ion (taking action)
Pilot implementation Poor implementation/ 33 23,7
Implementation/ execution (delays,
“rolling out” insufficient commit-
ment, staff unprepared,
practical difficulties, poor
management) (33)
7 Evaluation and consolidation - No suggestion of risk - -
Data gathering &
measurement of progress
i.t.o. goals
Considering gains
8 Institut ionalisation (of the new state)
Entrenching the change Insufficient support and 3 2,2
reinforcing/rewarding ) monitoring of the process
change gains (3)
publicising/celebrat ing)
change successes
refining the change
The overall process Process in general poor, 3 2,2
too many changes and
unknown factors
Total responses 139 100
With clearly designated change risk categories emerging from
respondents’ statements, the question arose as to how these
risk areas compare with the key ethical nodes during change
processes which were identified by Van Tonder and Van
Vuuren (2004)? Table 5, which juxtaposes ethical nodes with
CHANGE RISK AND IGNORANCE 5
6Adapted from Van Tonder (2004a, p. 203).
7Frequency (number of valid responses).
risk areas, reveals that the only obvious area of concurrence
is stage four of the change model, which entails the
involvement (communication and participation) of
stakeholders. This is the most critical change stage from an
employee perspective of change risk and a central ethical
node when viewed from a theoretically-inductive platform. At
first glance the comparison in Table 5 reveals very limited
alignment between theory-informed ethical nodes and
empirically-derived risk moments, but this would be an
inappropriate conclusion as the discrepancy is bound to be an
artefact of vantage point i.e. reflecting the profile of the
respondents that participated in the study (predominantly
employees who were subjected to/ experienced the change
as opposed to driving, facilitating and implementing
the change). This observation is further elaborated in the
ensuing section.
VAN TONDER
6
TABLE 4
RESPONDENT PERCEPTIONS: PERCEIVED IMPACT
Perceived RISK areas8Impact: Individual Impact: Organisation ƒ (%)
1. The change need - No suggestion of risk
2. Data gathering
Inadequate research
Inadequate or misdiagnosis
(& consequently misdirection)
(6)
3. Change vision Uncertainty, insecurity (10), distrust, 14 (8,7) Workplace & atmosphere change,
Absence of a clear vision & suspicion (4) conflict, unrest, disruption (8)
objectives; shifting vision; failure to Disinterest, apathy (3) 14 (8,7) Loss of faith in Management and HR
communicate change vision (4) Difficult y: adjustment/coping (5) 47 (29,2) function (4)
4. Communication and participation Psychological distress, pressure (14) 28 (17,4) Decline: productivity, service levels; 17 (13,4)
Lack of, poor, or inadequate 48 (43,2) Anx iety, fear (of unknown, Job 29 (18,0) increase in absenteeism (17)
communication and communi- 36 (28,3) losses/retrenchments, Loss of Staff Changes: changes in leadership,
cation channels; poorly informed income) (47) management, management style (8)
employees, distorted messages, Resistance to change (28) 10 (6,2) Staff turnover, resignations,
misinterpretation and lack of Anger, discontent (4) retrenchments, loss of skills (36)
consultation and openness (21) Demotivation, low morale (29) Loss of clients, deteriorating
Inadequate/poor participation; Loss of st atus, salaries, career customer relations, loss of market
not full involvement/engagement opportunities, Sense of “loss”; position/competitiveness (11) 11 (8,7)
of all stakeholders (27) increase in responsibility, workload, Escalating costs, financial losses (15) 15 (11,8)
5. Planning pressure (10) Change delayed, benefits not realised,
Poor/bad planning, strategising 14 (12,6) “fails”, change abandoned, prompting
& preparation (14) further change (18)
6. Implementation (taking action) 33 (29,7) Change in character of business, target 18 (14,2)
Poor implementation/execution for takeovers, etc. (4)
(delays, insufficient commitment,
staff unprepared, practical
difficulties, poor management) (33)
7. Evaluation and consolidation No suggestion of risk -
8. Institutionalisation (of the new state)
Insufficient support and
monitoring of the process (3)
The overall process Negative perceptions, Negative impact (2)
Process in general poor, too many emotions, reaction (7) Organisation not coping,
changes and unknown factors (3) ollapses (4)
Total responses: 111 Total responses: 161 Total responses: 127
8Number corresponding with stages of generic change management process (refer to Table 3).
DISCUSSION
Change management as arena of risk
The central thesis of this paper is that organisational change
practices (commonly referred to as “change management”) is a
significant area of risk for any institution (whether private or
public) simply as these change practices embrace a very real
possibility of compromising inst itutional performance, success
and ultimate survivial. Relatively recent high profile corporate
collapses have amply demonstrated the devastating impact of
unanticipated major change combined with an ineffect ual
approach for dealing with and containing the fallout of these
changes. However, as recently argued by Van Tonder (2005a), it is
not only the dramatic and catastrophic change processes that bode
ill for organisational functioning, but most large scale change
processes appear to generate dismal results effectively fail and
consequently these also represent a significant risk. Initially these
change risks may surface as non-financial risk, however, and as
most analyses will reveal, non-financial risk event ually and
inevitably translate into financial risk with its accompanying
consequences if it is inadequately attended to. Indeed, this
relationship between “sustainability risks”, and we will argue
essentially ethical risk (cf. Rossouw & Van Vuuren, 2004), and the
resultant financial consequences, are certainly well entrenched in
the mindset of the respondents engaged in this study (refer table 3).
The relative ease and clarity with which respondents succeed in
identifying risk areas in change and the clarit y and logic with
which they account for the impact of these risk areas (were they
to be neglected) is noteworthy. Once again the results reaffirm
that employees are more perceptive and have a greater insight
into organisational dynamics than they are generally credited
with by management. Moreover, the workforce can anticipate
probable change outcomes with remarkable accuracy, which
stands in shar p contrast to that suggested by the actions most
commonly enacted by management and the change team during
change initiatives (refer earlier discussion of the poor success
rate of change initiatives and the role of management during
change initiatives). Though not the intended aim of the study,
these results (Table 3) provide further intuitive support for the
primary causes of change failure cited in the literature i.e.
management and resistance to change. The key risk areas
identified in this study, namely; the initiative and responsibility
for planning the change (10,1% of responses), communication
during the change (15,1%), employee involvement (19,4%), and
effective change implementation (23,7%), all fall within the
ambit of management responsibility. Although employees need
to be involved in all stages of the change process, it is
management who have to ensure that employees are involved.
Managers cannot delegate this task and hence the results from
this study constitute a comment on management’s role and
contribution in these change processes. Resistance to change
(20.1%) in turn is itself a reflection of how the change initiative
has been approached, introduced, and effected. The observed
convergence of risk areas with primary causes for change failure
cited in the literature, suggests support for the construct and
criterion validit y of the notion of change risk.
Apart from the main risk areas (Table 3), it is noteworthy that stages
1 and 7 (the change need and the evaluation of the change
respectively) were not perceived as stages that entail risk. This
absence of responses however does not suggest that these stages are
in fact risk-free…it may simply indicate that participants have a
limited awareness and/or understanding of these stages (and the
change process in its entiret y). It is no coincidence that the
perceived risk areas are concrete, visible, action stages in the
change process. Employees are seldom consciously involved in the
initial stages when the case for change or the change need is
contemplated, or when the change initiative is evaluated …to them
these stages are technically “invisible” and might as well not exist
…it is essentially a case of the idiomatic “out of sight, out of mind”.
The few comments that suggested risk in stages 2, 3 and 8 (data-
gathering and diagnosis, creating a change vision, and
institutionalising the change) suggest that a few respondents
had a richer and deeper insight into change processes and
although these comments are valid and highly appropriate, they
did not represent the majority sentiment and consequently did
not impact the final list of key risk factors. If the argument for
no response in categories 1 and 7 is accepted and the frequency
of responses in all categories are momentarily discarded,
respondent comments effectively reveal that each stage of the
generic change management model embodies distinct risks,
which, if left unattended, could materially influence the entire
process for the worse. It can be argued that the notion of
change risk is not so much an issue of identifying where the
areas of risk are located (for risk is implicit in the entire change
process) but is essentially an issue of acknowledging (seeing/
detecting) the risk.
The logic of change risk
Reflecting on the observations and “risk areas” highlighted in
Tables 3 and 4 it becomes apparent that these emerge from
failures of process and interaction among different stakeholder
constituencies during the change initiative most notably
management and employees, and to a lesser extent organised
labour, shareholders and those representing the legal and
regulatory framework within which organisations conduct their
business and undertake change initiatives.
Respondent views on the risk areas in change processes suggest
that these processes are more often than not pursued by
CHANGE RISK AND IGNORANCE 7
TABLE 5
DEGREE OF ALIGNMENT: CHANGE STAGE, PRIMARY ETHICAL NODES, AND PERCEIVED AREAS OF GREATEST RISK
Stage in change management process9Primary Ethical nodes10 Perceived areas of greatest risk
1. The change need 1. Decisions relating to the need for and nature
of the change to be initiated.
2. Data gathering
3. Change vision
4. Communication and participation 4. Decisions relating to the involvement and 4. Poor/insufficient communication (within category
participation of stakeholders: who, how and rank: 3) Inadequate involvement/participation
when to engage. (within category rank: 2) Resultant resistance to
change (within category rank: 1) (Overall rank: 1)
5. Planning 5. Poor planning (Overall rank: 3)
6. Implementation (taking action) 6. Poor execution/implementation (Overall rank: 2)
7. Evaluat ion and consolidat ion 7. Decisions relating to the evaluation of the
change: who, how, when, and actions following
from the evaluation (e.g. fut ure change practices)
8. Institut ionalisation (of the new state)
9Adapted from Van Tonder (2004a, p. 203).
10 All stages contain important ethical decision making nodes but “primary” nodes indicate decision making that are irreversible and materially impact on the subsequent nature of the process (cf. Van Tonder &
Van Vuuren, 2004).
management from a predominantly unilateral decision making
stance, which together with resistance to change, are considered
the primary causes of failed organisational change initiatives.
Moreover, as was previously argued (Van Tonder 2004a)
resistance to change is a natural, human response to perceived
threat and as such very high levels of resistance constitutes an
indictment of managements’ capability for creating
circumstances conducive to smooth and effective change.
Management action or, more appropriately, deficiencies in
management action, evoke a “resistance” response, which is
probably one of the most powerful derailing factors at work
during large-scale organisat ional change.
From a respondent perspective, the risk in change is unavoidably
a ”social risk” …people constit ute the main source of change
risk. The emphasis respondents place on transparent
communication during the change, extensive involvement and
consultation of the different stakeholder constituencies, and the
manner in which the change process is executed, convey an
imbalance in the consideration of the interests of the different
stakeholders that are party to the change init iative. This would
constitute an unethical change practice when viewed from the
earlier definition of business ethics and in particular the
definition of ethics in general (as the triangulation of that which
is considered “good” to self and others i.e. a balanced
considerat ion of “own” or self-interest and the interest of
“others” - Rossouw & Van Vuuren, 2004). These authors
emphasise the human interaction dimension of ethics in which
the three concepts “good/right”, “self”, and “other” take centre
stage. This is essentially the subtext of the collective response
obtained from respondents in this st udy.
Moreover, employee perceptions of the cause-and-effect
dynamics during major change (portrayed in Table 4) align
substantially with the prevailing literature on the subject (cf.
Elrod II & Tippet t, 2002; Van Tonder, 2004a). Inspection of Table
4 will indicate that inadequate communication and involvement,
and inconsiderate implementation of change initiatives (viewed
from a respondent perspective) prompt an array of
psychological experiences that fuel resistance to change. The
latter in turn delays and/or derails the change process with
significant organisation-level consequences. These can range
from the loss of valued human capital, to the loss of future
business, a compromised reputation and competitive position,
and the possibility of ultimate institutional collapse – a less
often outcome, but nonetheless one that cannot be excluded.
Ameliorating change risk with change ethics
Business ethics can be viewed as “… identifying and
implementing standards of conduct that will ensure that, at a
minimal level, business does not detrimentally impact on the
interest of its stakeholders. At an optimum level, business ethics
is about standards of behaviour that will enhance the interest of
all who are affected by business.” (Rossouw & Van Vuuren,
2004, p.4). If we then juxtapose the response pattern for areas of
“greatest risk” in change processes (highlighted in Table 2) with
this view of business ethics, we have to conclude that
respondents viewed the reported change practices as essentially
unethical. We arg ue this on the basis that participants provide a
lucid and consistent account of the primary phases of the generic
change management process, the typical areas of failure -
presented as areas of “greatest risk”, but in particular, the impact
this has on employees and stakeholders, and ultimately the
consequences for the instit ution/organisation.
Van Tonder and Van Vuuren (2004) argued that critical ethical
nodes in the change process are the decision to change (stage 1,
Table 5), participation by stakeholders (stage 4), and the
evaluation of the impact of change initiatives (stage 7).
Respondent views partially validate this perspective. We say
“partly” as respondent views on change risk areas converge with
ethical nodes only on the issue of “participation” (involvement)
during change processes. Respondents do not address the
“evaluation” stage and, significantly, the decision to change
(“the need for change” stage). This can be understood from the
perspective that respondents are not fully aware of, or informed
of the change process. They have commented from their vantage
point which is informed by their experience of and exposure to
organisational change. They are seldom (if ever) engaged in the
initial deliberations during which the first inklings for a “case
for change” emerge and from which the change is sanctioned
(stage 1). In a similar vein, employees are infrequently engaged
(if at all) in the evaluation of the change initiative (stage 7) when
successes and failures during the change initiative should be
interrogated and from which key “learnings” should emerge, to
drive future change processes. This stage appears to be a
substantially neglected stage in change practices.
Stages 1 and 7 are however viewed as prominent ethical nodes
(Van Tonder & Van Vuuren, 2004) and entail areas where the
ethical nature or otherwise of the actions / decisions taken may
not necessarily have an immediate visible impact but could
substantially derail the change process further downstream.
Indeed, the case for change (ethical node 1) is often under-
researched (Van Tonder, 2004a) and constit utes the initial
seeds for the perceived credibility or otherwise of the change
process at subsequent stages in its unfolding. To illustrate; the
effective, efficient and considerate implementation of a change
process cannot overrule a “senseless” change (decision).
Moreover, it is submitted that the evaluation stage is
significantly neglected by organisations, which constitute one
reason for the absence of meaningful comments from
respondents and provides a plausible hypothesis for the
continued emphasis on communication, participation and
implementation – common ailments of change management
processes for several decades now.
Not detracting from the aforementioned, it is of course possible
to identif y certain nodes where the weight of the ethical
decision is such that it assumes greater prominence (e.g. stages
1, 4 and 7- see Table 5). These nodes signify moments when the
application or non-application of an ethical frame or perspective
is likely to produce irreversible ramifications downstream in the
change management process. It is here where stakeholder
interests are most at risk of being negated and the consequences
of such action could promote rather than reduce further,
significant risk.
Conclusion and recommendations
Respondent perceptions of risk moments during change
management processes echo the pattern and stages of the generic
change management process and to a reasonable extent align
with the perceived critical ethical nodes during change
processes – as conceived by Van Tonder and Van Vuuren (2004).
For the study to comment more precisely on ethical nodes that
relate to the “participation” stage in the change process, it
should in all probability have invited commentary also from
senior management representatives and independent third
parties who are often involved in change facilitation and
management. Noteworthy, is the clarity and consistency with
which respondents identif y and demarcate risk and cause and
effect in change processes – in a manner that clearly reveals the
pronounced emotional content of experienced change and its
consequences for organisational functioning.
The employees in this study are quite perceptive and able to
sense and identif y risk to a greater extent than they may be
credited with. This perceptiveness is substantially at odds with
the generally reported poor change success rates… if employees
can anticipate change risk to this extent, this in itself should lead
to actions that reduce the risk and hence improve the success
prospects for the change effort. This observation of risk-aware
employees, yet continued poor change results, raises questions
about management’s willingness and/or capabilities for
adequately detecting and acknowledging the implicit risk in
major change processes.
VAN TONDER
8
On the reasonable assumption that managers are at least as
perceptive as their employees, it follows that it is both illogical
and inconceivable to persist with change practices that engender
risk and hold promise of poor results. Yet, the dismal success
rates of reported major change initiatives in general, and the
experience base of employees surveyed in this st udy in
particular, suggest otherwise. This seems to be consistent with
the views (stated earlier) of, among other, Barker (1994),
Hattingh (2004) and Irvin (2002), and indeed the ignorance-
incompetence thesis. If we accept the assumption that managers
should be at least as perceptive as their employees but recognise
that they do not act on this, then a strong argument can be made
for an arrogance-incompetence thesis. This alternate thesis
would posit that management is perceptive enough (has the
capability), and indeed detects the risk in change, but elects to
disregard such risk for a variety of reasons. While managerial
“blindness”, linked to managerial arrogance, have surfaced in
several high profile organisational collapses (Van Tonder,
2005b), this will have to be the subject of further research.
In view of the preceding it is submitted that the adoption of an
inclusive stakeholder approach to change management, as
argued by Van Tonder and Van Vuuren (2004), should
significantly mitigate the risk implicit in major change
processes. This is premised not so much on popular calls for an
inclusive stakeholder approach, but because such an approach
entrenches significant interaction with stakeholders and attends
substantially to stakeholder interests. The dynamics that are part
and parcel of an inclusive stakeholder approach consequently
promote
increasing understanding which stem from intensified
contact and information transmission that could alter
stakeholder beliefs about the change process, management’s
role and the intentions of key functionaries, and
decreasing psychological discomfort and a growing sense of
safety and trust which is an indicator of the quality of the
relationship, and which will emerge over time from
continued exposure of the parties (stakeholders e.g.
management and non-managerial employees) to one another.
An inclusive stakeholder approach, as a result, should
substantially reduce the probability and magnitude of resistance
to change, which is a major source of change risk. In essence an
inclusive stakeholder approach, which is commonly
acknowledged and advocated but unfortunately less commonly
practiced, will direct focus to the balanced consideration of the
interests of all relevant stakeholders during the unfolding of the
change process. The primary concerns (or risk areas) identified
by respondents in this study have emphasised
involvement/participation, being kept informed, and a
considerate engagement of employees during the
implementation of change. These concerns strongly underscore
the importance of “an appropriate manner of conduct” which is
best articulated as an ethical approach to change management.
From a change management perspective it furthermore follows
that adequate guidelines and principles for the conduct of
managers and change agents during change processes, which are
informed by the company’s code of ethics, should substantially
reduce the risk and negative fallout commonly associated with
change processes. It should however be noted that prevailing
knowledge levels and awareness of ethics during change
practices are substantially impoverished. An intensified effort at
education and “training”, and the institutionalisation and
management of ethics is therefore much needed. This in itself
has significant consequences for the tertiary and business
education sector.
Research constraints and suggestions for further research
The objective of this st udy renders the non-probability sample
employed, and the limited representation of the participating
companies, irrelevant in this study. However, as it is only
natural to consider different or broader settings, it must be
stressed that caution has to be exercised when inter preting and
extrapolating to these sett ings. For example, although
substantial effort was invested in securing respondents that
were exposed to the same type of change process within a
specific organisation, these change events differed from
organisation to organisation and consequently the findings
reflect a response pattern that does not allow conclusions about
risk beyond a general conceptualisation of the change
process…specific forms of organisational change may
structurally embody greater or lesser risk.
This constraint argues substantially for cont inued and
intensified research in this area. In addition to much needed
replication st udies, comparative studies and studies of causalit y
that will allow analysis of the impact of strong and weak
institutional ethical orientations on the typical outcomes of
major change processes, in relation to risk awareness and
orientation, are needed. Research of this nature would
substantially advance knowledge and awareness levels and over
time will foster more risk-sensitive and ethically-orientated
change management practices. Indeed, because of the
pervasiveness of institutional change and the increasing pace
with which organisational change is unfolding, organisational
change dynamics offer an excellent and continuous window of
opportunit y to not only assess the organisation’s commitment
to risk management and corporate ethics, but also to examine its
prowess and to test its resolve in this domain.
Finally, it is interesting to note that Fulmer (2004) draws
parallels between the Chinese symbol for change (which
contains elements or symbols for both danger and opport unity)
and contemporary organisational change practices. He
reconfirms that change comprises both the feat ures of danger
(risk) and opportunity. From this vantage point it seems that
those charged with the responsibilit y for effecting
organisational change have long since recognised and acted on
the opportunities presented by change, yet has been unwilling
or blind to the implicit “danger” or risk component of change …
and continues to pay the penalty for this oversight.
The issue, however, is not whether to change. Rather, it is about
acknowledging and dealing effectively with risk when taking up
the opportunities offered by change, and in this regard a
commitment to ethical change could well signif y the axis on
which change success and change failure, i.e. change risk, turns.
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CHANGE RISK AND IGNORANCE 11
... Perceptions and experiences have a significant and profound influence on any change process, particularly when it comes to creating resistance to change (Refferty & Griffin, 2006;Ursiny & Kay, 2007;Vithessonthi, 2007;Van Tonder, 2006. When the organisational change effort is perceived as desirable and necessary, people react positively to the change and as such, change is experienced positively and consequently, resistance is lessened. ...
... Therefore, change perceptions and experiences may contribute to either the effective facilitation of the change implementation process, thereby leading to change implementation success, or the derailment of change implementation, thereby leading to change implementation failure. George and Jones (2001) and Van Tonder (2006 also emphasise that the manner in which change is perceived and experienced at personal level determines whether change implementation will be successful or not. This view is also vindicated by Decker, Wheeler, Johnson and Parsons (2001) who indicates that the employees' perceptions and experiences play a critical role in the success or failure of any organisational change process. ...
... All organisations with visionary and progressive leadership aspire for growth and survival and this aspiration stands at the centre of change taking place on a continuous basis within the modern business organisation, be it profit making-driven or public service delivery-oriented (Imberman, 2009;Kohurt, 2010;Agboola & Salawu, 2011;Turner, 2011). However, despite frequent and continuous changes taking place in organisations, organisations are not making any progress in terms of achieving their organisational change objectives due to an alarmingly high failure rate in change implementation (Balogun & Hope Hailey, 2004;Van Tonder, 2004a, 2006Bregman, 2009). The neglect of the human element, which is regarded as playing a significant role in determining the course of organisational change initiatives in terms of whether they will succeed or not (Armenakis & Harris, 2009;Panao, 2010), is blamed for the low success rate in change implementation. ...
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This paper follows other papers published by the authors whose focus was on the human dimension of transformational change within an offender correctional environment. Transformational change in Correctional Services represents a paradigm shift in the treatment of offenders from a punishment-based philosophy to a rehabilitation-driven approach. The paper seeks to give an account of the relatedness of people’s perceptions and experiences of change to the status of change based on empirical evidence collected from the correctional centres of the Department of Correctional Services in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of the Republic of South Africa. There is currently minimal practical proof and confirmation on the significant role that people issues play in influencing the course of change in terms of whether the change implemented would be successful or not. This gap motivated the authors to undertake an empirical study which investigated and explored the correlation between people’s perceptions and experiences of change to the status of change from the perspective of correctional officials and offenders. This was a meaningful and distinctive study given the fact that organisational change scholars have advanced a plausible argument that the high failure rate in transformational change implementation is attributed to the neglect of the human factor during the planning and implementation phases of the change management process. The study was intended to benefit change strategists and change implementers in both service delivery and profit-making organisations in South Africa and globally. For purposes of contextualising the association between people’s perceptions and experiences of change and the status of change within the Department of Correctional Services and South Africa in general, an extensive literature study was undertaken. The literature study was followed by the empirical study whereby data was collected by means of two survey questionnaires tailor made for correctional officials and offenders. The empirical findings pointed to the fact that there is indeed a causal link between correctional officials’ and offenders’ perceptions and experiences of DCS transformational change and the status of DCS transformational change. DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n10p634
... Going back to the paradigm of an organization as a system made up of inextricably linked parts, it needs to be remembered that employees as human beings form part of this interlinked whole called an organization. The organization, as a system, is made up of two systems, namely the person system and the organization system (Van Tonder, 2006). The person system relates to the human factor, while the organization system refers to the non-human factor, which entails processes, systems, equipment (e.g. ...
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This is a follow up to a previous paper by the authors on transformational change within an offender correctional environment, which focuses on the human dimension of transformational change. The current treatise captures evidence gathered from Correctional Centres of the Department of Correctional Services of South Africa on correctional officials’ and offenders’ reactions to, and experiences of, transformational change, which entails a paradigm shift from a punishment-oriented philosophy to a rehabilitation-oriented philosophy in terms of treatment of incarcerated offenders (herein referred to as the DCS change). Lack of sufficient empirical evidence on the significant role that the human elements play in the success or failure of transformational change interventions motivate the authors to undertake an empirical study that sought to establish how correctional officials and offenders have reacted to and experienced the DCS change. This was an important study given the fact that arguments have been advanced to the effect that the high failure rate experienced in the implementation of transformational change efforts is due to the neglect of the human factor during transformational change planning process and implementation. This study was intended to benefit managers in both the public and private sector organizations globally and particularly in South Africa, where organizations are currently engaged in massive transformational change efforts as a result the government’s programme of reconstruction and development of the South African society. For purposes of contextualizing people’s reactions to and experiences within the Department of Correctional Services and South Africa in general, an extensive literature study was undertaken. The literature study was followed by the empirical study whereby data was collected by means of two survey questionnaires, namely one for correctional officials, and the other for offenders. The empirical findings pointed to the fact that transformational change evoked various emotional reactions and experiences on the part of both correctional officials and offenders, which ranged from positive affect to negative affect through to introspective-anxious affect. DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2013.v4n14p501
... The high failure rate in the implementation of organisational change interventions points to the fact that there is a problem with the current organisational change management approach. Puplampu (2005), Smollan (2006), and Van Tonder (2004b Tonder ( , 2005 Tonder ( , 2006 Tonder ( , 2007 Tonder ( , 2008 Tonder ( , 2009) suggest that the starting point in reversing the trend of high failure rate in the implementation of organisational change interventions lies in the creation of a deeper understanding of organisational change. This new understanding should focus, amongst other things, on how change is perceived and experienced at individual employee level, and how this informs organisation-wide changes in terms of success or failure, that is, the status of organisational change (Judge, Thoresen, Pucik & Welbourne, 1999; George & Jones, 2001; Van Tonder, 2004b). ...
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There is growing recognition globally that the current organisational change management methodologies and practices are ineffective. This admission is based on the fact that change efforts implemented in organisations do not produce the desired results in terms of set change objectives. This assertion is evidenced by the dismal success rate in the implementation of organisational change initiatives. Empirical studies conducted previously by authors such as Hattingh (2004), Balogun and Hope Hailey (2004), Bregman (2009), Lotich (2011), and Choi and Ruona (2011) have confirmed that there is indeed a high failure rate in the implementation of organisational change efforts. The high failure rate that organisations record is attributed to managers’ neglect of the elements and dynamics of change, which constitute the human dimension of change. People’s perceptions of change form part of the dynamics of change which need to be seriously addressed if success in the implementation of organisational change efforts is to be attained. Empirical studies that seek to validate the claim that perceptions play a critical role in shaping people’s attitudes towards change and consequently their responses to change in terms of their reactions and resistance to change, have somehow been very limited. This is what this study sought to do – to investigate, establish, explore and understand the role that perceptions play in influencing people’s attitudes towards change, thereby influencing the status of change in terms of success or failure. The undertaking of the study on perceptions was to ensure that managers understand the influence that perceptions have on people’s attitudes towards change. The researcher conducted a literature study in order to contextualise the role of perceptions in influencing people’s attitudes within the offender correctional environment in the Department of Correctional Services of South Africa. Two survey questionnaires, one for correctional officials and the other for offenders, were utilised for purposes of collecting data. The results of the study revealed that perceptions play a significant role in shaping people’s attitudes towards change and consequently their reactions to and experiences of change. DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n4p111
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The purpose of this study is to know the role of strategic ignorance in developing the organizational readiness of the Ministry of Higher Education and Higher Research and its realization by decision-makers in it. This study used high standards to measure the variables of the study, which were used to treat the strategic side and the organizational readiness, and this measure was used to reinforce and promote this study for the purpose of education. The statistical program (SPSS V.22) was used in the analysis of the higher side. The originality/value, which is important in the field of research, and for a reason, the management of the original organization aims to fix the organizational readiness.
Chapter
Corporate disasters arising from ethical failures have irreversibly eroded the public’s trust in organisations. Predictably, executives’ public commitments to ethical practices are now routinely viewed with scepticism. Although this obscures the identification of organisations’ authentic ethical orientation, organisational change practices can reveal this ethical orientation i.e. function as ‘windows’ on corporate ethics. Extending earlier work by Van Tonder, it is argued that organisational change practices have an implicit propensity for risk and harm, substantially ‘fit’ with ethical frameworks and are consequently amenable to analysis on a range of ethical parameters. Employing ethics heuristics adapted for organisational change, Quaker Oats’ acquisition of Snapple is analysed to reveal how change practices function as ‘windows’ on corporate ethics. The implications for management are briefly considered.
Research Proposal
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مدرس مساعد / ادارة الاعمال / تخطيط الاستراتيجي
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Corporate disasters arising from ethical failures have irreversibly eroded the public's trust in organisations. Predictably, executives' public commitments to ethical practices are now routinely viewed with scepticism. Although this obscures the identification of organisations' authentic ethical orientation, organisational change practices can reveal this ethical orientation i.e. function as 'windows' on corporate ethics. Extending earlier work by Van Tonder, it is argued that organisational change practices have an implicit propensity for risk and harm, substantially 'fit' with ethical frameworks and are consequently amenable to analysis on a range of ethical parameters. Employing ethics heuristics adapted for organisational change, Quaker Oats' acquisition of Snapple is analysed to reveal how change practices function as 'windows' on corporate ethics. The implications for management are briefly considered.
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Full-text available
Change management research has become a critical focus area for change scholars because of the low success rate in change implementation. This exposition of how the transformational change process has been managed at the Department of Correctional Service was meant to show managers, particularly in the said department, that unless managers pay serious attention to certain critical aspects which must form part of the change management process, no real change would be attained. This becomes critical if one considers that there is still a long way to go in the process of transformation to the philosophy of rehabilitation, namely transforming correctional centres to effective institutions of offender rehabilitation. There is currently limited literature on organisational change approaches that are people-oriented. The available literature seems to focus more on the technical aspects (hard issues such as structures, systems and practices) in terms of change management at the expense of people issues (soft issues such as the human factors). It has been argued that the neglect of people issues in the management of organisational change processes is responsible for the high failure rate in change implementation. For purposes of contextualising transformational change management within the setting of the Department of Correctional Services, an extensive literature study was undertaken. This was followed by an empirical analysis of data collected through survey questionnaires from correctional officials and offenders respectively. The research established that there were strong and weak points in the DCS transformational change management process from the perspective of both research participants.
Article
Full-text available
Very few empirical studies have been conducted within the South African and global context on transformational change in an offender correctional environment, particularly on the human dimension of transformational change. The inadequate attention paid to the elements and dynamics of transformational change, which constitute the human dimension of transformational change has contributed tremendously to the high failure rate in the implementation of transformational change interventions. Empirical studies that seek to validate the above claim have somehow been very limited. Any empirical study that seeks to fill the empirical evidence gap mentioned above by investigating the role that people's perceptions, reactions, experiences, resistance, personal impact, and organisational impact of change play in the management of change implementation processes becomes very important. This is what this study sought to do – to investigate, expose, and explore the impact of transformational change as one of the elements and dynamics of transformational change. It was the main objective of the study to expose managers to both the personal and organisational impact of transformational change. This was intended to ensure that managers understand the impact that transformational change initiatives have on both the employees and the organisation. A literature study was conducted in order to contextualise the impact of change within the South African Department of Correctional Services (DCS). For purposes of gathering data two survey questionnaires were utilised, which is, one for correctional officials and the other for offenders. The results of the study revealed that transformational change has a profound negative psychological and emotional impact on employees from both the intrapersonal and interpersonal perspectives.
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Full-text available
Individuals who have participated in large-scale change programs were asked to identify issues that have a highly positive impact or a highly negative impact on the change process. Managers, researchers, internal consultants, and external consultants listed over 900 issues that they believe have an impact on the ultimate success of large-scale change programs. Content analysis was utilized to group responses into meaningful categories. These categories of issues as well as differences in the responses of the four groups of individuals surveyed are discussed. The research provides an overview of key issues for consideration in the management of large-scale change efforts.
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This book offers a critical review of the field of 'change management'
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Change and the management of change have become some of the most urgently discussed topics of our time. Yet despite this, very few change management practices are premised on a thorough understanding of the change phenomenon and its costly impact. Organisational change: theory and practice is based on the philosophy that a deeper understanding of change and its consequences is necessary to constructively manage change in organisations. The book recognises that change at the individual level is inextricable from change at the organisational level. The reader is encouraged to apply insights and principles gained from the book to both personal and work contexts. The book has been developed around the why of change (change as a phenomenon), the what of change (a review of change paradigms; early and contemporary concepts of change; process perspectives; the experience and impact of change) and the how of change engagement and management. It sensitises the reader to the everyday implications of the multifaceted nature of change. In the final chapter, different perspectives on change and transformation are related to change levers and triggers, change management models, formulae and success factors, challenges of implementation, and guidelines for purposefully engaging with change in organisations.
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