Posted by: A.R. Cherian | December 3, 2009

Advanced Change Theory

I just read an article on ACT (Advanced Change Theory). The title of the article is “Changing others through changing ourselves: The transformation of human systems” by Robert E. Quinn, Gretchen M. Spreitzer, and Matthew V. Brown (Journal of Management Inquiry; Jun 2000; 9, 2; ABI/INFORM Global, pg. 147). Summary in powerpoint here.

It was an interesting and very scholarly article on how effective and lasting organizational change can be made. Some of the new information for me was

  • Changing an organization requires leaders to change themselves first.
  • Change must begin by looking inside. The system and the person must change.
  • Real adaptive change is painful. It involves painful adjustments in their attitudes, work habits, and lives.
  • This process usually requires the
    1. Surrender of personal control
    2. The toleration of uncertainty
    3. The development of a new culture at the collective level
    4. A new self at the individual level.

Chris Argyris’ double-loop learning methodology (shown below) makes a cameo appearance in this article. It’s a great methodology and one that will lead to examining the root causes of problems instead of continually treating the symptoms.

I remember a lot of what I learned in my change management class by reading this article. Namely, that change management is a people issue rather than just a process or technology change issue. If your people are not stakeholders in the change process and understand that they have to change themselves as well as the business processes, then you will be more successful.

In short, this article is a great read on learning how to change even though the application of will be different for different circumstances.


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