Change Management Framework

I was reading over parts of my Master’s thesis recently. I decided that I would publish parts of it online. This part of my thesis describes a change management framework that leaders use. This section is important because I used Nadler and Tushman’s (1993) change management framework to describe the types of changes interviewees provided as an example. That is, I interviewed several leaders about changes that they implemented and used the framework to quantify those changes.

The next blog post titled Leaders Initiate Change from my thesis will provide more proof that leaders tend to initiate change early in their tenure and then taper off.

My thesis is titled: The Relationship Between Leadership and Change Management.

Change Management Framework

In a 1993 article, Nadler and Tushman provide a framework to understand organizational change.  The framework is based on their observations of approximately 25 organizations.  Nadler and Tushman argue that:

  • Changes are either anticipated or reactive.
  • Leaders can plan for anticipated changes in advance.
  • However, reactive changes require a response from leaders after they have occurred.
  • Incremental changes focus on tweaking components of the current paradigm.
  • Changes that require a fundamental shift in the organization’s paradigm are strategic changes (p.227).

They also wrote that organizational changes can be categorized into four types: tuning, reorientation, adaptation, and re-creation (p.228).  Figure 1 below shows how the four types of organizational change relate to each other.

Table 2: Types of Organizational Change (p.228)

  Incremental Strategic
Anticipatory Tuning Reorientation
Reactive Adaptation Re-creation

Tuning is an incremental change that anticipates a future change.  Tuning modifies the current paradigm to ensure that the organization remains efficient.  Adaptation is an incremental change that responds to external events.  Leaders make small modifications to the current paradigm in response to events outside of their control.  However, the current paradigm remains in place.  Reorientation is a strategic change made when leaders determine that the current paradigm will no longer be effective in the future.  The changes will not necessarily involve a sharp break from the past.  However, there will be widespread organizational changes.  Re-creation is a strategic change brought about by external events.  A change in the current paradigm occurs in response to the external events.  Leaders bring about a major break from the past and changes in senior leadership.

Using the change management framework defined above, we can qualify the types of changes leaders make.  Early in a leader’s tenure, he or she may attempt to make strategic changes.  The leader determines if the current paradigm is effective in the current environment.  If not, the leader may initiate a reorientation.  If the hiring of the leader is in response to changes in the current environment, the leader may initiate a re-creation.  The implementation of either strategic change takes place over a one to two year period.  The leader uses an additional two to three year to converge the organization into the paradigm.  Thereafter, the leader maintains the new paradigm and makes only incremental changes in the form of tuning or adapting.

Nadler, D.A. & Tushman, M.L. (1993). “Organizational Frame Bending: Principles for Managing Reorientation” In Jick, T.D. Managing Change: Cases and Concepts (pp. 225-241). Boston, MA: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


One thought on “Change Management Framework

  1. Pingback: Leaders Initiate Change | Randy's Migration Blog

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