Eighteen shades of grey? A literature review into the theoretical flavours of change research
Publication typeConference Proceeding
BookAcademy of Management Proceedings
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractOrganizational change appears as an intriguing stimulus for business success as much as change protagonists appear as eroticizing manipulators. The ’sexiness’ of concepts for organizational change is that its stimulus is not driven by variation in terms of manipulating contexts, of tools, partners, or of overall preferences. It obviously fascinates by pure simplicity and repetition. Organizational change management concepts seems to thrill by boredom and by permanently postponing the climax of ‘really being better’. This is not only the case regarding the well-known plethora of similarly trivial change concepts. Boredom is also the case in, and probably caused by, organizational change research (OCR), since an increasingly loud voice of criticism diagnoses general partiality and apathy in the field. For us, this diagnosis conflicts dramatically with an existing tremendous variety and richness in the indispensable background of organizational change research - organization theory (OT). Particularly since organization theory has developed radically new perspectives on organizations over the last decades, an up-to-date theoretical foundation of OCR is key for the future impact of change management efforts. The purpose of this paper is to explore, how organization theoretically diverse research on OCR is actually grounded, since insights into the organization theoretical foundations of OCR are completely lacking. For this reason, a selection of 85 articles on organizational change was made, published in top tier journals in 2010. We conducted a reference analysis based on 18 prominent organization theories and their main contributing authors. The findings show firstly a very strong theoretical selectivity in OCR, focussing on cognitive, learning, discursive and neo-institutional theories. Other theories are almost fully neglected. Secondly, our analysis indicate this practice as being a sign that current OCR struggles hard with transforming the cognitive frames of topical OT into own fruitful accesses to its object. The resulting ‘vanilla practice’ of theory application appears as a dissatisfying escape strategy performed to cover theoretical antagonisms and to avoid a deeper confrontation with the underlying assumptions of the identity and conditions of OCR.
Knowledge Domain/IndustryPeople Management & Leadership