Theories of change management in organizations

3 theories are more recognized. They focus on the development of various aspects of the organization in the event of a change:

1. Sensitivity training. Emphasizes individual changes (personality changes). When people change, the organization will change.

2. System 4. Emphasizes the changes in the organizational structures themselves (through the presence of a leader who can implement the change in the structure).

3. Management grille. Emphasizes the interaction that is needed between the change of people working in the organization and the simultaneous change in the structure (most commonly used in the United States).
The three theories do not contradict each other – they are only aspects of this phenomenon (the third unites the first two).

Sensitivity training

Sensitivity training is a method of improving the skills of people in the organization. The presumption is that if more people in an organization have new common values ​​and their behavior corresponds to these values, which is in line with the behavior necessary for the organization, then the structure of the organization must change following what has already been achieved in the individual development of people. Reference: “Company development and problems of change in the organization“,

Sensitive training opposes the bureaucratic model of the organization. According to Warren Bennis, the bureaucratic model cannot exist with an increased size of organizations, with an increased level of education and competence of the people.

The most important tasks, according to Bennis, are how to integrate personal interests with organizational goals, how to distribute power within the organization, how promote cooperation between employees, and how adapt more quickly to changing conditions. These are major problems that the bureaucratic model of organization cannot deal with.

Sensitive training aims to increase the competence of the people in the organization. The goals are:

Increasing one’s insight and self-awareness following the behavior of others in the group (in the sense of the social context);

Increased sensitivity to the behavior of others, to the individual; Reference: “Evolution of the concept of Human Resources Management (HRM)“,

Awareness of the processes that contribute to or hinder the interaction between different groups and individuals and thus hinder development (emphasis on obstacles – analysis);

Improving the skills for diagnosing social, interpersonal, and intergroup relationships;

Improving the skills for action in line with the achievements in the theoretical plan;

Training people in ways of learning for self-improvement

Sensitive training groups are also called T-groups. They focus on the here and now. The participants in the group are encouraged by the referents (referent and co-referent), to discuss their thoughts and experiences, and the relations in the group at the moment. There is no standard method of using the training to implement organizational change for sure!

However, several steps need to be followed in selecting people in T-groups:

Step 1 – no people from one organization (people do not know each other);
Step 2 – the group may have members from the same organization, but in no case leaders;
Step 3 – people from real groups and teams can be included in an organization;
Step 4 – include real groups (and with the leader), dealing with real work situations. Reference: “Development of the Human Resources Management (HRM) concept“,

Everyone has a long way to go before they learn to talk about their problems. The implementation of the steps is a slow process, so the training programs are part of a long-term program for change in the organization. (In the organizations in Europe there is a lack of ability to have a conversation – in front of the boss is either silent or feelings are “poured” emotionally).


Written by Rance Likert. The theory differentiates 4 systems through which companies are organized and managed:

1) exploitative-authoritarian
2) benevolent-authoritarian
3) consultative
4) participatory

Systems are numbering and an organization is considered to evolve if it moves from system 1 to system 4.
The merit of the theory is that the dimensions by which systems are evaluated and differentiated can be quantified. Read more: “Objectives of Human Resources Management (HRM)“,
Likert distinguishes 8 variables by which the organization must be evaluated to know which system it falls into:

– leadership styles used;
– nature of motivation (of managers and staff);
– nature of communication processes;
– nature of the processes of interaction and interaction;
– method of decision making;
– way of defining the general goals;
– method of control;
– method of monitoring the implementation of the objectives, degree of provision of social training, and staff training.

Eg the development from system 1 to system 4 according to the parameter “Method of decision making”:

1 – most decisions are made by the top management of the organization and are based on inaccurate information. Subordinates are never involved in making decisions about their work.

2 – some decisions (less important) are made at lower levels, but are always checked and agreed upon with senior management.

3 – the decisions on the policy of the organization are made from the top, but the more specific decisions are also made from lower levels. Consultations are usually held before important decisions are made.

4 – decision-making is spread throughout the organization using data from all levels. Discussions take place at levels and are decided by a majority at the appropriate level.

System 4, which is the most developed system for the development and management of the organization, uses:

– the principle of support in the relationship;
– principle for expanding responsibilities;
– principle for the analysis of group relationships.

The result of this system is a low level of turnover and absences, higher productivity, and satisfaction of people from their participation in the labor process. To work on the development of this theory, we must be able to analyze the actual state in which the organization is – on which of the 8 parameters the organization is forward or backward. This analysis is performed through surveys, observations, and questionnaires.

Henry Smith and John Wakeley

In their book, Henry Smith and John Wakeley present typical questions that can be asked in a survey, using a 4-point scale to determine which system an organization is in.
Eg: 1) What is the flow of information in your organization? (from 1 – top-down; to 4 – two-way); 2) To what extent does your manager know the staffing problems? (1 – does not realize them, does not care; 4 – knows them very well and is interested).
At a lower level of development of the organization we “work” with the leaders!


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