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Critical evaluation of a range of principles and frameworks for managing change

Management and Change: Critical Evaluation of a range of principles and frameworks for managing change


Change is now considered to be the biggest challenge for virtually all organisations public and private, large and small - but especially for large, well established 'complex adaptive' organisations. Change is everywhere and the rate and pace of it is almost universally reckoned to be increasing.

Several 'gurus' (including Tom Peters and Charles Handy) and academics (notably Colin Carnall author of several books on Managing Change) have drawn attention to the 'challenges of change'.

In a changing world the only constant is change.' Carnall C.1995:

The NHS is a very large organisation - the third largest employer in the world after the Chinese Army and The Indian Railways and has over many years and despite many efforts found it difficult to change. Whilst we shall consider change and efforts to manage it generally in organisations we shall look specifically at key issues around change in the NHS.

The meaning of change and the different types of change are discussed further in Appendix 1.

Change and resistance to change

In 1998 Diane Plampling then Co-Director, Urban Health Partnership, Primary Care Group, King's Fund, London wrote in the BMJ (4th July):

'The NHS is 50 years old. Every government since 1948 has re-invoked its founding principles, but there is less agreement about how services based on these principles should be organized. Alongside remarkable stability in the espoused purpose of the NHS there has been almost constant structural change. Health action zones and primary care organizations are the latest offerings. There is a paper mountain of advice on reforms, restructuring and managing change. Yet many behaviours do not change. The puzzle is why the NHS has been so unchanging, given the barrage of attempts to 'reform' it'.

This was a telling paragraph at the beginning of a detailed article about change in the NHS and here we draw attention to what we believe are three fundamental points from the above:

'Alongside remarkable stability in the espoused purpose of the NHS there has been almost constant structural change.'

'There is a paper mountain of advice on reforms, restructuring and managing change.'

'Yet many behaviours do not change.'

'The puzzle is why the NHS has been so unchanging, given the barrage of attempts to reform it.'

The Full Text article is located at:

The article continues:

'Some things have changed, of course in as much as complex systems can be changed from the outside. Bits have been knocked off and elements have been and are continuing to be downsized or re-engineered, but these changes have been resisted by most 'insiders'. These insiders have been successfully self ordering so that much of what happens in the NHS is unchanged in nature. The only changes that can be made in the NHS are those that can be controlled centrally which include reduced numbers of management staff and the way services are provided.'

'Shifting the Balance of Power' (Department of Health, July 2001) introduced major managerial structure changes. More recently (2005) further changes have been announced regarding the reconfiguration of Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts. Practice-Based Commissioning will change the way the services are commissioned and Choose and Book will change the way patients can access acute trust appointments.

Making any change is complex whether it is changing the way a wound is bound, a leg ulcer is treated, a new service is implemented or an organisation is re-configured. Each change needs careful planning.

Change in the NHS
Pollitt (1993) and Dawson (1999) suggest that the NHS is characterised by three defining features:

  • range and diversity of stakeholders

  • complex ownership and resourcing arrangements

  • professional autonomy of many of its staff.

The NHS is a large organisation employing people with a wide range of talents, perspectives and passions. It is a complex organisation, with many different cultures and norms, arising from a number of factors including:

  • different socialisation processes of the professions

  • different needs and expectations of different client groups

  • the different histories of different institutions

  • local priorities, resource allocation, and performance management.

The complexity is a result of the very specialisation that has produced so many advances in health care. This specialisation also leads to a high degree of interdependence between practitioners, and between practitioners and processes.

This interdependence and continuing technical and organisational advances mean that services and organisations within the NHS are dynamic as well as complex.

Meeting organisational change in the NHS, therefore, involves working with:

  • changing pressures in the environment

  • multiple stakeholders within and outside the organisation

  • changing technologies

  • complex organisations in which individuals and teams are interdependent, that is, they can only achieve their objectives by relying on other people

  • seeking to achieve different objectives

  • people who have experience of change interventions which have had

  • unforeseen or unintended consequences.

It is also important to remember that cause and effect relationships may not be easily apparent, and that an intervention in any part of a health care organisation will have outcomes in many others, not all of them anticipated, and not all of them desirable. The fact that change can lead to unanticipated, and indeed dysfunctional, consequences has been highlighted by, for example, Smith's work (1995a; 1995b) on responses to performance indicators in the public sector.

Key tools, techniques and models:

  • Force-Field Analysis: well-known planning/analysis tool

  • SWOT and PEST analyses: generic strategy/assessment tools

  • 7 Factors of Successful Change

  • Endings 'Beginnings via the 'Turbulent Zone' Schematic: Adapted from William Bridges 'Transitions'

  • Five Key Stages in Successful Transition: Bridges

  • Plan : Action : Review : Model : Briner et al

  • The Classic Four Step Approach To Planning Change: origin Price Waterhouse Coopers

  • Types of Change: Chart

  • Change Adopters: Everett Rogers

  • Change 'Types': Binnie & Williams

  • Impacts of Change: Colin Carnall : 'The Coping Cycle'

  • Organisational Culture Matrix - Charles Handy

These are covered in detail in the additional resources on Change Management.

A structured process for professional/organisational planned change, using the 7 Steps to Successful Management of Change

  1. Creating and communicating the vision
    a) Is there a need for change? e.g. new evidence, Government directive, NICE guidelines etc. Undertake a SWOT analysis

    b) Where are we now? Where do we want to get to?

  • Current reality

  • The framework under which we operate

  • Define the mission and milestones

c) How will we get there? Define achievable aims and objectives:
Use 'SMART' method to define objectives:

  • Specific

  • Measurable outcome

  • Agreed

  • Realistic

  • Time specific

d) How will we know when we get there?

  • Establish achievable timetables and milestones - keep reviewing these

  • Measure and monitor against the plan

  • Regular reviews

  • Key performance indicators

  1. Understand the Culture
    Planning change requires a clear understanding of the culture of the organisation (using Charles Handy). This will determine the routes used to implement change.

  2. Understand the Environment
    a) Use a Force field analysis to support the planning process and to start identifying how to manage the resistors to change.

    Force field analysis is a management technique developed by Kurt Lewin, a pioneer in the field of social sciences, for diagnosing situations. It will be useful when looking at the variables involved in planning and implementing a change program and will undoubtedly be of use in team building projects, when attempting to overcome resistance to change.

    Lewin assumes that in any situation there are both driving and restraining forces that influence any change that may occur.


    b) Use a  PEST or PESTELI analysis

    This is a checklist for analysing the environment of an organisation or its subunit. Initially the acronym PEST was devised, which stands for:

    • Political factors - both big and small 'p' political forces and influences that may affect the performance of, or the options open to the organisation
    • Economic influences - the nature of the competition faced by the organisation or its services, and financial resources available within the economy
    • Sociological trends - demographic changes, trends in the way people live, work, and think
    • Technological innovations - new approaches to doing new and old things, and tackling new and old problems; these do not necessarily involve technical equipment - they can be novel ways of thinking or of organising.

    The same checklist can also be applied inside an organisation.

    More recently the list has been expanded to PESTELI, and it now includes:

    • Ecological factors - definition of the wider ecological system of which the organisation is a part and consideration of how the organisation interacts with it
    • Legislative requirements - originally included under 'political', relevant legislation now requires a heading of its own
    • Industry analysis - a review of the attractiveness of the industry of which the organisation forms a part.



  3. Address Attitudes to Change Types
    a) Remember attitudes to change and change types - the 'laggards', or 'hiders and refugees' will need to be dealt with differently from those moving willingly making the change.
    b) Consider Herzberg:

  • motivators give rise to satisfaction e.g. achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility and advancement

  • hygiene factors give rise to dissatisfaction e.g. company policy, technical supervision, salary, human supervision, working conditions

  • Consider also Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: Self actualisation is at the top of the hierarchy - this relates to people being given the opportunity to achieve their potential

  1. Effective implementation
    Consider interventions to effect change: REMEMBER Cochrane Systematic Review No Magic Bullets. Good evidence to support a multi-faceted approach - particularly for improving preventative care, prescribing, and modifying test ordering.

  • opinion leaders

  • outreach visits

  • audit

  • education and training (this might include patients)

  • patient panels

  • guidelines, which are linked to computer support reminder systems

  • consider press coverage if appropriate

  • financial levers

Ongoing leadership remains very important - typically assisted and supported by a core group of committed people who can help drive the changes through.

  1. Effective Communication
    Develop and effective communications strategy. Clear and visible commitment from the top of the organisation is essential in large organisational change programmes, as those at the top can articulate the message to the 'disbelievers' and create momentum for change.

  2. Monitor and Review.
    Planning and monitoring the process is essential to determine progress, problems and consolidation of 'new ways of working.

    'PLAN, DO, REVIEW' is a simple but still very effective way of planning, implementing and monitoring the effectiveness of change on an ongoing basis.

'Sources and potency of forces'

In their book Organisational Transitions: Managing Complex Change (1987) Beckhard and Harris describe and illustrate two techniques for analysing relevant sources of energy. They analyse respectively the 'sources and potency of forces for change', and the 'readiness and capability' of individuals and group to enact change.

First, the nature of the change demanded must be specified, using tools of the sort described in previous sections. Then all forces for change, both inside the organisation and external to it, are listed along one axis of a grid. On the other axis the potency of the forces is indicated, as high, medium or low.

Nature of change demanded
  Owners Legislative Employees Trade unions Social values
Potency of forces High          

Sample grid for analysing the sources and potency of forces for change

The grid is useful for clarifying the underlying forces for change. On occasion, as Beckhard and Harris point out, the energy for change emanates from one particular senior manager, rather than from a variety of environmental sources such as demographic change and new technologies. They observe that this does not invalidate the change objectives but clarifies where the energy will have to come from in the ensuing change programme.

Whereas Lewin's analysis is used to diagnose and plan interventions, this is more useful as a vehicle for discussion among key opinion formers at an early point in the change process, to ensure that everybody is aware of the need for change.

' Readiness and capability'

Early on in the change process, managers need to identify which specific groups and individuals will be required to support change if the change is to be successful. When they have done so they can determine the readiness and capability of these individuals and groups to enact the roles required of them in the change process. Understanding the readiness involves analysing attitudes: willingness, motives and aims. Capability is determined by whether they have the power, the influence and the authority to allocate resources, and the appropriate information and skills. Beckhard and Harris (1987) have developed a Readiness-Capability Assessment Chart which enables the user to list individuals or groups who are critical to the change effort, and to rank them (high, medium, or low) each according to their readiness and capability with respect to change.

In health care organisation's power is derived from a number of different sources and is not easy to identify as in other industries. In any change management process the location of power and the use to which it will be put needs to be known by those attempting to lead the process and this tool is, among other things, a means of finding out its location.

Any change agent or senior manager in a health care setting will intuitively undertake an analysis of this sort. This chart helps bring it into the open, permits assumptions to be tested and information shared and this increases the validity of the information available to the change agent.

Appendix 1

The following extracts are developed from 'Organisational Change: A review for health care managers, professionals and researchers.'

What is meant by 'change'?

This appendix describes and reviews a range of approaches, models and tools which managers and practitioners may be interested to learn more about as part of understanding and managing change. To begin the exploration, readers are introduced to some of the key terms and concepts in the literature. These will demonstrate the diversity of thinking and activity encompassed by the single term 'change'.

Planned versus emergent change

Sometimes change is deliberate, a product of conscious reasoning and actions. This type of change is called planned change. In contrast, change sometimes unfolds in an apparently spontaneous and unplanned way. This type of change is known as emergent change.

Change can be emergent rather than planned in two ways.

  1. Managers make a number of decisions apparently unrelated to the change that emerges. The change is therefore not planned. However, these decisions may be based on unspoken, and sometimes unconscious, assumptions about the organisation, its environment and the future (Mintzberg, 1989) and are, therefore, not as unrelated as they first seem. Such implicit assumptions dictate the direction of the seemingly disparate and unrelated decisions, thereby shaping the change process by 'drift' rather than by design.

  2. External factors (such as the economy, competitors' behaviour, and political climate) or internal features (such as the relative power of different interest groups, distribution of knowledge, and uncertainty) influence the change in directions outside the control of managers. Even the most carefully planned and executed change programme will have some emergent impacts.

This highlights two important aspects of managing change.

  1. The need to identify, explore and if necessary challenge the assumptions that underlie managerial decisions.

  2. Understanding that organisational change is a process that can be facilitated by perceptive and insightful planning and analysis and well crafted, sensitive implementation phases, while acknowledging that it can never be fully isolated from the effects of serendipity, uncertainty and chance (Dawson, 1996).

An important (arguably the central) message of recent high-quality management of change literature is that organisation-level change is not fixed or linear in nature but contains an important emergent element.

Episodic versus continuous change

Another distinction is between episodic and continuous change. Episodic Change (often also referred to as 'Step' change) according to Weick and Quinn (1999), is 'infrequent, discontinuous and intentional'. Sometimes termed 'radical' or 'second order' change, episodic change often involves replacement of one strategy or programme with another.

Continuous change, in contrast, is 'ongoing, evolving and cumulative' (Weick and Quinn, 1999). Also referred to as 'first order' or 'incremental' change, continuous change is characterised by people constantly adapting and editing ideas they acquire from different sources. At a collective level these continuous adjustments made simultaneously across units can create substantial change.

The distinction between episodic (or step) and continuous (incremental) change helps clarify thinking about an organisation's future development and evolution in relation to its long term goals.

Few organisations are in a position to decide unilaterally that they will adopt an exclusively continuous change approach. They can, however, capitalise upon many of the principles of continuous change by engendering the flexibility to accommodate and experiment with everyday contingencies, breakdowns, exceptions, opportunities and unintended consequences that punctuate organisational life (Orlikowski, 1996).

Developmental, transitional and transformational change

Change can also be understood in relation to its extent and scope. Ackerman (1997) has distinguished between three types of change: developmental, transitional and transformational.

  1. Developmental change may be either planned or emergent; it is first order, or incremental. It is change that enhances or corrects existing aspects of an organisation, often focusing on the improvement of a skill or process.

  2. Transitional change seeks to achieve a known desired state that is different from the existing one. It is episodic, planned and second order, or radical. The model of transitional change is the basis of much of the organisational change literature (see for example Kanter, 1983; Beckhard and Harris, 1987; Nadler and Tushman, 1989). It has its foundations in the work of Lewin (1951) who conceptualised change as a three-stage process involving:

  • unfreezing the existing organisational equilibrium

  • moving to a new position

  • refreezing in a new equilibrium position.

Schein in 1987 further explored these three stages. He suggested that unfreezing involves:

  • disconfirmation of expectations

  • creation of guilt or anxiety

  • provision of psychological safety that converts anxiety into motivation to change.

Moving to a new position is achieved through cognitive restructuring, often

  • identifying with a new role model or mentor

  • scanning the environment for new relevant information.

Refreezing occurs when the new point of view is integrated into:

  • the total personality and concept of self

  • significant relationships.

  1. Transformational change is radical or second order in nature. It requires a shift in assumptions made by the organisation and its members.
    Transformation can result in an organisation that differs significantly in terms of structure, processes, culture and strategy. It may, therefore, result in the creation of an organisation that operates in developmental mode - one that continuously learns, adapts and improves.

Systems thinking and change

Many of the approaches to organisational change found in the literature give the impression that change is (or can be) a rational, controlled, and orderly process.

In practice, however, organisational change is chaotic, often involving shifting goals, discontinuous activities, surprising events, and unexpected combinations of changes and outcomes (Cummings et al., 1985; Dawson, 1996).

Accordingly, change can be understood in relation to the complex dynamic systems within which change takes place.

Systems thinking originated in the 1920s within several disciplines, notably biology and engineering, and grew out of the observation that there were many aspects which scientific analysis could not explore. Whereas scientific method - summarised by Popper (1972) as the three Rs: reduction, repeatability and refutation - increases our knowledge and understanding by breaking things.

A system is a set of elements connected together which form a whole, thereby possessing properties of the whole rather than of its component parts (Checkland, 1981). Activity within a system is the result of the influence of one element on another. This influence is called feedback and can be positive (amplifying) or negative (balancing) in nature. Systems are not chains of linear cause-and-effect relationships but complex networks of interrelationships (Senge, 1990). Systems are described as closed or open. Closed systems are completely autonomous and independent of what is going on around them. Open systems exchange materials, energy and information with their environment. The systems of interest in managing change can all be characterised as open systems. In terms of understanding organisations, systems thinking suggests that issues, events, forces and incidents should not be viewed as isolated phenomena but seen as interconnected, interdependent components of a complex entity. Applied to change management, systems theory highlights the following points.

  • A system is made up of related and interdependent parts, so that any system must be viewed as a whole.

  • A system cannot be considered in isolation from its environment.

  • A system which is in equilibrium will change only if some type of energy is applied.

  • Players within a system have a view of that system's function and purpose and players' views may be very different from each other.

Within the NHS the term whole systems thinking is now routinely used by managers and clinicians. This widespread usage reflects an increase in:

  • awareness of the multifactorial issues involved in health care, which mean that complex health and social problems lie beyond the ability of any one practitioner, team or agency to 'fix'

  • interest in designing, planning and managing organisations as living, interdependent systems committed to providing 'seamless care' for patients

  • recognition of the need to develop shared values, purposes and practices within the organisation and between organisations

  • use of large group interventions to bring together the perspectives of a wide range of stakeholders across a wider system.

Largely for these reasons we have drawn on insights from systems thinking - as well as on other concepts discussed in this section - to help organise the groupings of change management models in Part 2 and to highlight the interrelationships between these.

Summary of tools, models & techniques provided in the NHS change booklets


Source: Managing Change in the NHS 2001.


There is today a plethora of books on and about 'managing change' but in our linked PowerPoint modules we have relied on the following:

  1. 'Managing Change in Organisations' Carnall, 1995

  2.  'Managing Transitions', William Bridges, 1992 Nicholas Brealey Publishing. ISBN : 1-85788-112-5

Detailed references are provided at the end of each PowerPoint module

Beyond these we recommend a number of Booklets in a series, 'Managing Change in the NHS' published from May 2001.

'Making Informed Decisions on Change' by Valerie Iles and Kim Sutherland

'Organisational Change: A review for health care managers, professionals and researchers.' by Valerie Iles and Kim Sutherland :
(Winner of the British Association of Medical Managers Book of the Year Award 2002)*

'Developing Change Management Skills' (2003) by Valerie Iles and Steve Cranfield

All these, especially the NHS booklets, include a wide range of tools and techniques.

Here, below, is a summary of the main areas covered and the tools explained in 'Making Informed Decisions on Change'.

and 'Developing Change Management Skills'

Other change management authors have developed models and tools which analyse forces for and against change. (See, for example: Kanter, 1983; Beckhard and Harris, 1987; Nadler and Tushman, 1989; Kanter, Stein and Jick, 1992.) We describe two such tools below: 'sources and potency of forces' and 'readiness and capability'.



© K Enock 2006