Senior manager perceptions of organizational change: the relevance of (dis)continuity in change trajectories and self-initiated versus imposed change

Mr. Bjorn Kleizen

Rates of organizational change are increasing in the public sector, with senior managers increasingly being required to both develop internal changes and to implement change devised on the political level. Although these senior managers are arguably the most important actors in the implementation of such changes, little research has been done on their appraisal of and attitudes towards of different forms of organizational change. Using narrative interviews with 15 senior managers to inductively address this gap, our evidence suggests the importance of the degree to which changes are unilaterally imposed by the political level versus being self-initiated, as well as the degree to which changes exhibit (dis)continuity with the organization’s earlier change trajectory. When change is discontinuous and externally imposed, senior managers are likely to evaluate that change negatively, while continuity and/or self-initiated change is relatively likely to be associated with a sense of accomplishment and benefits for the organization. These results suggest that unilateral political reform insensitive to organizational involvement and organizational histories may result in strained relationships and increased negative side-effects and should thus be implemented with caution.