Navigating Organizational Change: From Resistance to Acceptance, Learning, and Growth

Navigating Organizational Change: From Resistance to Acceptance, Learning, and Growth

Nancy Kymn Harvin Rutigliano, Nadine V. Wedderburn, John M. Beckem II
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch070
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Organizational change is a critical process for the survival of any organization in the 21st century. Resistance to change, oftentimes presented by stakeholders within an organization, is a major impediment to the process and can lead to chaos. While being a driver of change, chaos complicates and often impedes transformation. Thus, while chaos necessitates highly dynamic change, resistance stands in the way of mobility. The goal of thriving through chaos and change poses challenges to leaders, managers, and an organization's many stakeholders, while also providing opportunities for learning and growth within the organization. Hence, a sophisticated approach aimed at eliminating, weakening, adapting or transforming different aspects of resistance serves the organization and its stakeholders with the benefits of acceptance, learning and growth. This chapter discusses factors that spark resistance to organizational change and presents opportunities to generate collective acceptance and promote learning among stakeholders.
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Adaptation to external as well as internal forces is known as organizational change. Lunenburg (2010) defines organizational change as the shift of an organization from its present state towards a desired future state in order to maintain or increase its efficiency, in recognition of a constantly changing environment of operation. Organizational change is most successful when it is driven by linear strategic dynamics (those that are easily predictable in the long term) (Burgelman & Grove, 2008). Non-linear strategic dynamics are sudden and unpredictable, which make fast-shifting organizational change an absolute necessity for the survival of the firm (Burgelman & Grove, 2008; Chih, Yang, & Chang, 2012). Glor (2015) divides the premise of an organization’s health into two: fitness and survival, both of which are dependent on the firm’s capacity for dealing with dynamic and timely change. Arguably, sudden change tests the ability of an organization and its constituents to remain relevant and be responsive during inconstant periods.

Figure 1.



Modern day organizations are faced with more uncertainty about the future outlook of the global business environment than at any time in the past (Burgelman & Grove, 2008). This reality is reflected by Radu, Liviu and Christian (2014) in their description of chaos as a “frightening word, heard more and more nowadays” (p. 1550). Consensus among business experts is that the world continues to grow more turbulent, and organizations that are unable to adapt are at a competitive disadvantage (Tung, 2014; Will, 2015). The most glaring aspect of change, Will (2015) asserts, is the widespread adoption of technology in different aspects of business operations. The expanding use of social media, the growth of economic power in developing countries, and the generational evolution of the workforce are some of the prominent factors behind the expanding agitations within the business environment (Will, 2015). A look at the evolution of global companies over recent decades reveals that the longevity of an enterprise is dependent on its ability to cope with linear and non-linear strategic dynamics (Burgelman & Grove, 2008). Organizational change inevitably presents opportunities for growth and learning and provides space for organizational members to become involved in shaping a reconstituted corporate entity. Leaders and managers serve their stakeholders and organizations well to present this context for organizational change. As this perspective becomes more widely accepted, and more fully explained later in this chapter, resistance to change can be expected to decline.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Resistance: Attempt to prevent something by action or argument.

Acceptance: A willingness to tolerate and embrace a situation or reality.

Change Management: The process and task of moving from a current state to a desired state in an organization.

Organizational Change: An organization’s adaptation to internal and external forces.

Organizational learning: The process of creating, retaining and transferring knowledge.

Culture: The attitudes and behavior characteristic of an organization or group.

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