• Home
  • Management
  • research essay (Essay topic: Contrast the planned and processual approaches to organizational change. Illustrate using examples from case studies in the textbook.)

Research essay (Essay topic: Contrast the planned and processual approaches to organizational change. Illustrate using examples from case studies in the textbook.)

  • Category:
  • Document type:
  • Level:
  • Page:
  • Words:

TOPIC: Contrast the Planned and Processual Approaches to Organizational Change.


For a very long time, researchers and professionals in the field of management agreed that change is inevitable in the organization and that it is best for managers to understand the forces behind change and how to ensure successful transitions. From the time of the industrial revolution in Britain between 1730 and 1850, the philosophical theories of change and its economic relevance grow and grow as philosophers study and observe employee behavior in companies. Adam Smith came up with the pin-making method of distributing tasks and structuring factories so that they supported the survival of workplace culture. The contributions later made by Frederick Taylor, Max Weber, and Henri Fayol into the field of organization management built the Classical School of management.

Today, managers face the challenge of using traditional planned models of change and still cater to the need for agility and flexibility so that workers can survive the change process. The greatest difficulty that the 21st Century manager faces is the unpredictability and complexity of the global environment that is a crucial instigator for change and the biggest obstacle for the same. Since change is a continuous process, there is a proposal that companies consider implementing processual models of change and do away with the original planned ones. However, company directors also want to feel in control of everything that happens in their firms which make them consider using planned theories of change management.

This paper compares planned change management models against processual patterns in all aspects. It will analyze all possible aspects including the advantages and disadvantages of each, their appropriate applications, and their relevance to the existing organization. There will also be a review of case studies where the paper will evaluate different situations through the various perspectives so that in the end, there will be a recommendation about which method to use in what situation, and with what expectations.

Planned and Processual Approaches

With the introduction of new models of leadership and work structuring, companies found themselves trying to conform to these ways of thinking so that they could maintain relevance in the industry and increase efficiency for their workers. They included methods of employee motivation, task allocation, job design, worker behavior, and organizational structuring (Liebhart and Garcia-Lorenzo, 2010, p.215). More recent theories of management reveal that internal factors have a significant effect on the motivation of company workers, just like external factors can determine how efficient people will finish their assigned duties. Examples of such theories are the Contingency Theories and Human Relations Approaches. Current researchers found a way to incorporate management principles into studies about change situations, change management and change implementation (Hodges and Gill, 2014, p.21). They divide existing and upcoming schools of thought into three broad categories of organizational change:

Planned approach — it is intentional, and the outcome of conscious interpretation and actions (Hodges and Gill, 2014, p.21). The change process will, therefore, unfold in a step-by-step, predictable process that will bring about incremental change. Examples of this approach are the Lewin’s 3-step model and the matrix guide for planning change.

Processual Approach — Supporters of this theory hold that change is a complex process that leaders cannot manage through detailed planning (Dawson, 2003, p.13). They believe this because change initiatives are normally complex systems since they can take place at the same time. Change is dynamic and at times messy, and, hence, it will not be able to follow a detailed process. Examples of this approach are the political and entrepreneurial change perspective by Buchanan and Badham, Dawson’s procedural approach, and the kaleidoscope change method for supervising change.

Emergent change — introduces the concept of spontaneous or unplanned change which follows no distinct or predetermined process. Instead, it is an open-ended process that happens without the deliberate intervention of people, and the management of these situations is reactive instead of being proactive like in the previous approaches.

Comparing Planned and Processual Change Perspectives

In both processual and planned methods, company managers can view change in two ways as either incremental (small-scale) or transformational (large-scale) (Hodges and Gill, 2014, p.22). Incremental change results in organizational improvements and transformational change redefines the business’s strategic form, identity, cultural assumptions, and direction. The Processual view of change posits that companies develop through phases of incremental change and others of transformational change so that at the end of the process, the deeply-rooted forms of a business undergo fundamental alterations. In a firm, change can take place at the organization, team, or individual levels, depending on the change model and procedure that management chooses to implement.

They encourage the participation of organizational managers in the process of managing change (Feldman, 2000, p.615). They result in incremental change over the short-run. Their success depends heavily on the perceptions of the people implementing the process (Orlikowski, 1996, p.64). If their views are positive, they will support the change, and if they are negative, they will oppose it. The two perspectives identify the need and importance of leadership in the change process, and they advocate for proper hierarchical structures that facilitate decision-making and guidance. Both practices require adequate planning since unanticipated technology, and social troubles can demoralize the relevance of the change scheme in its goal to replace traditional processes or work cultures (Dawson, 2005, p.398). It has the potential of causing misunderstandings and confusion among employees who may choose to modify their adaptation methods under the newly introduced working relationships and operating procedures.

Advantages of Planned Change over Processual Change

  • Managers have enough time to communicate to employees about proposed plans to change so that they can earn their support for the process before it begins. Both parties will, therefore, be aware of the upcoming events before they take place.

  • Since the affected individuals know about the alterations that would take place, they have time to evaluate the impact of such situations before they occur.

  • With prior planning, it is possible for employers and employees to influence the nature of the changing situation through procedures such as exerting market influence.

  • Affected parties can plan ahead for anticipated changes by considering the alternatives they have as responses to the change (Orlikowski, 1996, p.65).

  • Where a change situation will profit an organization, implementers have the time to structure responses that will give forth actions that maximize on the advantages that the company will enjoy.

  • With planned processes, crisis management stays at a minimum, and employees learn to appreciate their leaders after a change management process is successful (Van De Walle and Groeneveld, 2011, p.83).

  • Where leaders play a task in defining the course of action for the alteration, they exercise vast amounts of control over the business’s destiny.

  • Under adequate planning, it is easy to identify the potential advantages of a change process, and these future rewards serve as current sources of motivation for employers and workers to collaborate.

Benefits of Processual Change over Planned Change

  • The processual approach does not reject planning for change, and for that reason, its recognition of underlying forces makes it useful when dealing with employee perceptions, resistance, and collaborative efforts.

  • It encourages managers to be flexible enough in the planning so that they can quickly adapt to unexpected and sudden changes in their operational contexts (Hodges and Gill, 2014, p.25).

  • The processual model focuses on developing contingencies which react to certain circumstances instead of centering on long-term arrangements.

  • It promotes internal (within the company) bargaining or negotiation so that managers implement ample communication channels that support small-scale experimental methods and gradual changes. These are more successful in the long-run because Todnem By (2005, p.372) stated that incremental change always leads to transformational change over time when leaders execute the processes the right way.

Applicability of Processual and Planned Models of Change – Case Study Analysis

Chapter Six Case Study — When the Plant Manager at General Motors South Australia decided on changing the performance rating of the factory he recently started working at, he sat down and planned. He then communicated his ideas to the employees under his leadership, and informed them that there was a threat to their jobs, and they could mitigate it if they worked with him. It gave the workers an end-goal that they felt they had to achieve because like Cutcher (2009, p.278) observes, the common reason employees resist change is because they feel that it threatens their employment. The most influential tactic that the Plant Manager (PM) used to instill the positivity of change was that he worked towards gaining the trust and support of his workers, their unions, and other stakeholders. He also ensured that there were active and open communication channels that facilitated information sharing among low-level employees, and between himself and his subordinates.

One of the tactics that ensure employees supports management’s plan for change is to remove the cause of conflicting interests (Adams and McNicholas, 2007, p.385). The PM was able to do this by summing up the overall objective of his superiors (significant improvements in production) into a goal that workers could embrace, which was to revive the factory and keep it in business. However, the five-year change program was not without its challenges and consequences since some employees lost their jobs as the company was trying to manage costs. The opinion if the union representatives on the matter only proved that even among the bodies that ought to protect employee interests, there was the general knowledge that change processes were not without their casualties.

There were several setbacks to the implementation of the change process, and one of the main ones was the failure of the cell philosophy implementation. The PM assumed that it would work because people resented working at a boring position, but he realized that they not only liked it, they were also more afraid of changing their roles than they were about staying in the same place for years. Dawson (2014, p.65) rightfully notes that change materializes from the decisions and actions of individuals in the organization, and, therefore, change can take any direction depending on the opinions of the people implementing it.

The Cuban Government Case Study The government of Cuba planned changes that would upgrade the country’s economic models (Liebhart and Garcia-Lorenzo, 2010, p.220). Currently, it operates in a dual system which comprises of a socialist peso economy and a free-market dollarized economy that work side by side. A few years back the ruling body planned a dictatorial change that would affect the socialist side of the economy. The people implementing it combined the planned process with emergent entrepreneurial endeavors which include management techniques adapted from Western nations. With such a technique, it would facilitate the interaction of the structure and agents of change so that there would be social innovations that are essential to the changing environment (both internal and external).

There is a common belief that planned change always results in incremental transformations while radical changes take place in a rapid and discontinuous process (Orlikowski, (1996, p.66). Successful change interventions focus more on structures than on processes because the former are the foundation for workplace culture. The change plan that the Cuban government implemented on their economic system was a slow process that showed signs of success over the years. Like Weick and Quinn (1999, p.367) opine, there are always external driving forces for change. In this case, President Raul Castro was an eager advocate for the change, and he oversaw several proposed processes even though the whole intervention faced the challenge of an economic crisis that affected Cuba. (Liebhart and Garcia-Lorenzo, 2010, p.220) observe that a planned change process failed due to the setback of turbulent external conditions and the change implementers are relying on the emergent change to fulfill their goals.

Chapter Seven Case Study — The case study highlights the differences in attitudes between the employees who were engaging in destructive practices and those who were not. However, despite their annoyance at the bad habits of their colleagues, the day shift employees felt like they could not inform the management about what went on at night. They waited for years until the leadership team took matters into their hands and they caught and punished the culprits. In this company, therefore, some employees wanted to change, and there were those who did not. Even though all workers who were part of the night shift group there were some of them who did not approve of the culture that was developing, but as their day shift employees, they did not do anything about it, and they went along with the routine. When management came to know about the problem and its source, they were quick to implement a planned program, of change which they used to do away with the non-complying employees.

It is important to note that when management was executing the new change agenda, they were not certain what the response of day shift employees would be, and what they could do in case it was negative. It was a slight surprise when it turned out to be positive, and the uncertainty of human reaction is one indicator of the complexity of change procedures (Dawson, 2003, p.3). The perspectives of employees have the potential of changing organizational routines, since, like Feldman (2000, p.612) states, change happens as the result of individual, environmental and organizational factors. In the case study, a few people felt that they needed some time to rest before they left work and that they could not stay awake all night. Organizational structures (lack of proper monitoring and communication methods) allowed the change because they did not promote or enforce existing routines.

Cutcher, (2009, p.276) conducts studies that showed how workers drew motivation from spatial and temporal narratives found in the workplace so that they can resist change. She also discovered that there was an influence of the external environment that caused employees to react in a way that proved they desired to protect their threatened workplace identities. Change that takes place without the intervention or even the knowledge of management (Chapter Seven) is a form of emergent change, and its adaptation makes use of the processual approach. The model also manifests itself in the behavior of the workers who were part of the day shift. Without the input of company leaders, the action that management took to punish the individuals who were misusing the organization’s property motivated people working on the day shift to work in their posts.

Burnes (2004, p.978) observes that critics of planned theories of change believed that the models were only applicable in situations where internal and external conditions were stable, and the case of implementation was in small-scale. Dawson (2005, p.387) opines that shaping and reshaping workplace arrangements and technology is a technical issue, and also a social problem. Therefore, it would be difficult to separate the technical aspects of change and identify them as discrete elements. Weick and Quinn (1999, p.377) identify organizations as fluid units that have several personalities such that there are phases that interpenetrate one another and overlap each other in meaningful ways. With such an opinion, they, and other researchers like Burnes (2004, p.998) do away with the common beliefs of change supported by theories like Kurt Lewis’s 3-stage model.

Since organizations in the 21st Century are facing numerous occasions that necessitate change, theorists are drawing the attention of managers to the inadequacy of using one approach and seeing it as the best option that fits an individual context. Liebhart and Garcia-Lorenzo (2010, p.218) give an example of a volunteer group that people formed after the World Trade Center became dysfunctional after 9/11. They observe that there was a general acceptance and recognition for the development of a new pattern for coordinating actions by the volunteers. People readily accepted this change without much discussion, and the duties of the volunteers ran smoothly. It was not to say that there was not planning. On the contrary, Tsoukas and Chia (2002, p.570) state that it would be almost impossible for a change intervention to work without proper planning.


The planned approach to change management assumes that an organization is open to manipulation just like a block of ice (from the Lewis 3-stages of change). It also reasons that individuals are automotive, and they will participate in the change process by following laid-down rules. The processual approach, on the other hand, reasons that there is a possibility of integrating the views of the various company stakeholders so that leaders can incorporate the active participation of workers. With the planned and processual methods, it is customary for firms to use one model when they make plans to execute change programs. However, it may be possible to use both procedures and draw from the benefits of the two in a way that will bring out optimal results.

Under the planned change system, leaders are the sole initiators of the change process, and they are the people who implement the pre-planned company change. Processual change systems view leaders as the reactive driving forces for change. There is a way to merge the two views so that they can create a balanced synergy of collaboration where managers in a business guide employees through the change process and encourage their participation at the same time. Rather than control the whole change system, organization supervisors adopt a view where they support and facilitate the process, creating initiatives that help them engage their workers through each phase.

It is without a doubt that instigating a change intervention and managing it to success is a complex process that is full of several unknowns. The schools of thought discussed here for the execution of change do not work in isolation for a 21st Century institution. From the case studies, one can rightfully note that there was the primary system that leaders adapted in every change process implemented, but there was also input from the other model because both planning and the human factor are crucial to the success of a change process. With increased globalization, exposure, and a dynamic environment, firms will find it easier to gain the support of employees and other stakeholders when they customize their change management models to fit their situation and resource composition.


Adams, C.A. and McNicholas, P. (2007). Making a Difference: Sustainability Reporting, Accountability and Organisational Change. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal20(3), p.382-402.

Burnes, B. (2004). Kurt Lewin and the Planned Approach to Change: A Re‐Appraisal. Journal of Management studies41(6), p.977-1002.

Cutcher, L. (2009). Resisting Change from within and without the Organization. Journal of Organizational Change Management22(3), p.275-289.

Chapter Six — Classroom Readings.

Chapter Seven — Classroom Readings.

Dawson, P. (2003). Reshaping Change: A Processual Perspective. Psychology Press.

Dawson, P. (2005). Changing Manufacturing Practices: An Appraisal of the Processual Approach. Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing & Service Industries15(4), p.385-402.

Dawson, P. (2014). The Processual Perspective: Studying Change in Organizations. In H. Hasan (Eds.), Being Practical with Theory: A Window into Business Research (p. 64-66). Wollongong, Australia.

Feldman, M.S. (2000). Organizational Routines as a Source of Continuous Change. Organization Science11(6), p.611-629.

Hodges, J. and Gill, R. (2014). Sustaining Change in Organizations — Theoretical Approaches to Change and Transformation. Sage.

Liebhart, M. and Garcia-Lorenzo, L. (2010). Between Planned and Emergent Change: Decision Maker’s Perceptions of Managing Change in Organizations. International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management10(5), p.214-225.

Orlikowski, W.J. (1996). Improvising Organizational Transformation Over Time: A Situated Change Perspective. Information Systems Research7(1), p.63-92.

Todnem By, R. (2005). Organizational Change Management: A Critical Review. Journal of Change Management5(4), p.369-380.

Tsoukas, H. and Chia, R. (2002). On Organizational Becoming: Rethinking Organizational Change. Organization Science13(5), p.567-582.

Van De Walle, S. and Groeneveld, S. (2011). New Steering Concepts in Public Management (Vol. 21). Emerald Group Publishing.

Weick, K.E. and Quinn, R.E. (1999). Organizational Change and Development. Annual Review of Psychology50(1), p.361-386.