Prerequisites for Healthy Organizational Change

Studying Organizational Change from a Multilevel Perspective

Author(s): Aslaug Rennesund

Pp: 92-102 (11)

DOI: 10.2174/978160805011610901010092

* (Excluding Mailing and Handling)


During the last ten years, there has been a slow, but promising, increase in the number of studies that apply a multilevel, or cross-level, perspective when aiming to explain significant variations in employee behavior, such as job satisfaction and organizational commitment. These studies typically investigate their outcome variables by focusing on antecedents at both the individual and the organizational levels in the same methodological framework or research model. Within the subfield of organizational change studies, the picture seems to be somewhat less promising, and multilevel, or crosslevel, organizational change studies seem to be outnumbered by equivalent studies that are being conducted within subfields like leadership and occupational health. When addressing organizational change, researchers seem to agree that prerequisites for managing healthy or successful change initiatives may reside both in the employees and in the organization, but still they tend to limit their research to just one conceptual and analytical level, and do not often explore how phenomena may work together across these levels in order to ensure healthy change. The aim of this chapter is to demonstrate why and how organizational change should be studied within a methodological framework that takes into account the multilevel nature of organizational change. The chapter is structured around two main questions: a) why should organizational change be studied within a multilevel perspective?, and b) drawing on some of the most recent studies within organizational change, what issues related to organizational change could be studied within this methodological framework? The first part of the chapter discusses conceptual and methodological reasons why organizational change should be studied from a multilevel perspective, by providing a brief and easily accessible introduction to the philosophical and methodological literature that exists on the topic. The second part of the chapter presents change topics that might be particularly interesting to explore by means of a multilevel framework. The presentation is based on several empirical studies that have been published in the period from 1999 to 2008, and focuses on the relationship that may exist between the characteristics of the change effort, the individual or collective change capabilities in the organization, and two individual outcome variables that have been associated with successful change initiatives, namely job satisfaction and organizational commitment. The categories developed by Armenakis and Bedeian (1999) are used as an important framework in this discussion.

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