Evidence-Based Organizational Change and Development: Role of Professional Partnership and Replication Research

Evidence-Based Organizational Change and Development: Role of Professional Partnership and Replication Research

Robert G. Hamlin (University of Wolverhampton, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9998-4.ch007


This chapter is targeted mainly toward HRD practitioners and line managers who are actively involved in bringing about effective and beneficial organizational change and development (OCD) within their own respective organizations and/or within host organizations. Its purpose is to help them to appreciate more fully the complexities of the process issues of managing change, and the value of using theory and results of rigorous internal research in a very conscious and focused way to inform, shape, and evaluate their own change agency practice. After discussing why so many OCD programs fail, the author argues that ‘evidence-based management' and ‘evidence-based HRD', coupled with HRD's understanding of and alignment with the strategic thrust of the business, will likely lead to more effective OCD initiatives and programs. Several case examples of evidence-based OCD from the United Kingdom are presented, and the merits of ‘design science', ‘professional partnership research' and ‘replication research' are discussed.
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Over the past 20 years or more organizations both large and small have been subjected to enormous environmental pressures, the main drivers of which have been: Technology, particularly IT; Governments, which on a worldwide basis have initiated deregulation, privatization and increasing free trade; and Globalization, where private sector companies have had to compete more aggressively and public sector organizations have had to deliver more value for money services (or products) (see Barkema, Baum & Mannix, 2002; Champy & Nohria, 1996; Dess & Picken, 2000; Yukl, 2006). These pressures have resulted in mergers, acquisitions, amalgamations, decentralization, flatter structures, downsizing, multidimensional restructuring, increased flexible work practices, drives on quality and value, greater emphasis on customer orientation and care, and increasing stress levels at work (see, for example, Hamlin, 2001a; Gunnigle, Lavelle & Monaghan, 2013; Shook & Roth, 2011). In light of these trends of change most executives in the 21st century recognize that their respective organizations need to adapt continuously to constantly changing environments. But they tend to struggle with the transformational changes required to ensure the survival of their respective organizations, or to raise their game to substantially higher levels of performance (Rogers, Shannon & Gent, 2003). Furthermore, when they initiate required programs of organizational change and development (OCD) and look to navigating them, they rely on lower level managers to facilitate and implement the change processes. Thus, in a very real sense, most managers in most organizations are agents of change (Axley, 2000).

Stewart (2015) argues that HRD professionals are also agents of change, who operate either within their own or other organizations to help and partner with managers in the facilitation of OCD programs. Stewart claims that HRD is of itself a strategic function that has a significant impact on the long term survival and business success of organizations (see Stewart & McGoldrick, 1996; Fredericks & Stewart, 1996). Gold, Holden, Iles, Stewart and Beardwell (2009) have argued, HRD in theory and practice has a major influence on the interplay of culture, leadership, and the commitment of employees through: (i) shaping organizational culture; (ii) developing current and future leaders; (iii) building commitment among organization members; and (iv) anticipating and managing responses to changed conditions. This view is consistent with McKenzie, Garavan and Carbery’s (2012) observation that “the shift from operational and tactical HRD to strategic HRD has witnessed a metamorphosis for HRD practitioners increasingly becoming partners in the business tasked with aligning people, strategy and performance rather than simply promoting learning and development” (p. 354). It also chimes with Kohut and Roth’s (2015) view that “HRD practitioners and scholars need to enter the fray of the discussion on change management” (p. 231).

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