Change Management Theories

Do Change Management Theories Really Work?
Will change management theories work for you?

change management theories

Change management theories are prevalent - and not surprising... change is a constant and given force in our world, so change management has become a necessary tool.

"For family businesses, dealing with change and change management, can be far greater challenge than non-family businesses," according to top family business expert Don Schwerzler. "Given the far-reaching impact of the current economic crisis, the success of a family business will be defined by how quickly it can react to change," says Schwerzler. "For family business owners, understanding change management theories and how to adapt those practices to your family business could be critical to the survival of your business."

Schwerzler has been studying and advising family business entrepreneurs for more than 40 years and he is the founder of the Family Business Institute. We're not going to catalog all the chain management theories or do a comparative analysis. We'll mention two major ones and show why they are inadequate.

Then, we'll concentrate on the most promising of the change management theories that we have found - and show why it is so powerful.

Your Business Will Succeed...


You have The Roadmap for Success

That's What
The Practitioner's Guide for Organizing an Organization
Is All About

  • PGOO shows how to identify the most pressing problems to solve
  • PGOO introduces the ODS-OL Assessment Process - an electronic assessment tool that is highly effective, easy to use, systematic and data-based
  • PGOO explains how to produce a better-organized organization

Business Process Reengineering

BPR is one of the change management theories that concentrates on the processes by which organizations get things done. In theory, if better processes were implemented, the organization would be more efficient. But, BPR generally didn't take into account the people aspect of organizations - processes are people doing things! So, their attitudes towards what they were doing, and towards change, needed to be considered more.

Total Quality Management

TQM is another of the change management theories - focused on people and their importance to processes and the organization. But it still lacked the ability to measure or evaluate people because it is focused on the existing or planned processes.

So, both these major change management theories, and their many variations, are deficient in that they lack the ability to look at the organization as a whole... they study parts. And they lacked the ability to project the impact of the management changes that were being implemented - small wonder they caused so many problems and nasty surprises!

The Holonomic Organization Model

When it comes to change management theories, Professor Ken Mackenzie is our internationally-recognized leadership and organizational expert. Over 30 years of research, teaching, studying and working with organizations undergoing change have enabled what we consider to be the most workable of the change management theories or models that we have seen. We'll let Dr. Mackenzie tell the story, from the summary of his Practitioners Guide to Organizing Organizations...

Generic Organizational Problems

All organizations face the continuing problem of becoming and remaining well–organized. Most organizations are not well–organized and need to become better organized in order to compete successfully. It is no longer sufficient to organize in order to be productive or efficient. In an era of rapid technological and social change, it is also necessary to become and remain efficiently adaptable. The change management practitioner needs new ideas for meeting this growing challenge.

The discrepancy or gap between the well–organized organization that you need and the one you have is a serious organizational problem. Problems get solved when the discrepancy between the desired and the actual state of affairs is reduced. The task of improving an organization, by making it better organized, involves high–level problem solving.

Early on, Dr. Mackenzie noticed that the problems that organizations set out to solve are rarely the actual problems that they face. (That certainly is consistent with our own family business consulting experience!) So Organizational Problem Solving identifies 5 interrelated stages. Great care needs to be taken to ensure that one is working on the right problem. There is a natural tendency to work on the problems one knows how to solve rather than to work on problems that need to be solved. Locating the appropriate level is a detective game... Levels of Organizational Problems identifies ways and means to uncover not only visible, but also hidden, problems.

Organizational Learning identifies several related issues that are fundamental to understanding the theory - the concepts of process, structure and their interdependencies. These concepts allow one to discuss why, for many organizations, there appear to be serious learning impairments. That is, some organizations appear to be seriously learning impaired while others act more intelligently.

Finally, the idea of Combined Congruency has to be considered to see how the technical and social aspects of the organization are interdependent.

Now we can look at the main ideas themselves...

The Holonomic Organization

There are ten organizational properties that characterize a holonomic organization:

  1. Has essential characteristics as a whole which are also present in every unit. [That's where holonomic comes from.]
  2. Requires the minimum of effort to direct, control, and coordinate its units
  3. Is efficient at storing and recalling information about itself
  4. Is resistant to the impact of uncertainty and "noise"
  5. Is flexible and responsive when it adapts to change
  6. Can lose units and still be capable of maintaining its essential characteristics
  7. Is highly responsive to strong leadership which is based on principles
  8. Is intolerant of leaders whose actions are not based on the consistent application of basic principles
  9. Is efficiently adaptable
  10. Is maximally productive

In a hologram the parts contain the whole, and this is very different from our usual view of organizations that the whole is the sum of the parts. So, in a holonomic organization, wherever you go, the same fundamental processes of change and adaptation are all present and all operating.

There are 12 main enabling process, referred to here as 12 Holonomic Processes [HP].

When these 12 enabling processes are present and operating, the holonomic organization will have 6 Desired Organizational Characteristics [DOC].

Processes are really people... doing things.

There are 29 Leadership Practices [LPs] that are really the foundation upon which the 12 enabling processes are built, and which, in turn, produce the organizational characteristics.

The Practitioner's Guide to Organizing Organizations sets out and fully explains the interrelationships - which particular Leadership Practice[s] support and enable which Holonomic Processes [HP]. And the very precise relationship by which each of the 12 HP affects exactly 2 of the Desired Organization Characteristics, and how each of the 6 DOC results from the presence and operation of 4 of the 12HP.

If we use the analogy of navigation, the Model is the roadmap.


Whether you are an owner, manager or director in a larger organization that needs a full diagnostic evaluation and who wants to get a better understanding of the underlying theory...

or an owner in a smaller one who simply needs ideas and help with how to cope with change management...

The Model, a Holonomic Cube and some helpful worksheets are set out in The Practitioner's Guide to Organizing an Organization. Don't let the title fool you... this is a clearly presented and very practical and useful tool for owners and managers of all sized businesses.

A very extensive online survey process has evolved from the original ODS - Organizational Diagnostic Survey to the present ODS-OL Process (Organizational diagnostic Survey OnLine). Gathering information readily from various organization levels and processing it quickly enables an extensive array of analytical reports that both pinpoint areas where the leadership process is not functioning, but also relate and enable projection to assess the impact of various solutions.

Continuing our navigation analogy, the ODS-OL Process is the
GPS system with which extremely accurate fixes are made to determine exact position.

Professor Ken Mackenzie’s Holonomic Theory is considered to be one of the major breakthroughs in academic thinking concerning leadership practices and organizational theory.

ODS-OL (Organizational Diagnostic Survey On-Line) is the “cutting edge” technology for doing online assessments to “measure leadership practices” and to gain a better understanding of “how best to better organize your organization”.

There is nothing better available in the market place – we recommend ODS-OL to family business owners, to directors serving on advisory boards or boards of directors and to leaders of profit and non-profit organizations. ODS-OL really works! As a change management tool, it produces significant results.

Please note - the full extent of the ODS-OL assessment process is beyond our scope here but it is fully described in PGOO - The Practitioner's Guide to Organizing an Organization.

Your Business Will Succeed...


You have The Roadmap for Success

That's What

The Practitioner's Guide for Organizing an Organization
Is All About

  • PGOO shows how to identify the most pressing problems to solve
  • PGOO introduces the ODS-OL (Organizational Diagnostic Survey –Online) - an electronic assessment tool that is highly effective, easy to use, systematic and data-based
  • PGOO explains how to produce a better-organized organization

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