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Change Management

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Change Management ­MGMT625
VU
LESSON #10
DIALECTICAL THEORIES OF CHANGE
Dialectical theories of change
Perhaps the oldest learning philosophy as Aristotle and Plato used the dialectical philosophy some 2000
years ago. Hegel and Marx, in modern era used this method to describe movements towards truth and
change. This method is considered very powerful method of approaching objectivity and truth. To Van
de Ven , "Dialectical theory rests on the assumption that the organisational entity exist in a pluralistic
world of colliding events, forces, or contradictory values that compete with each other for domination
and control"
Here three things stand significant:
1. Pluralistic world of colliding forces
2. Values that compete, opposing and are contradictory to each other
3. Domination and control is the purpose
In other words "Every phenomenon contains within it a contradiction. This contradiction itself becomes
a phenomenon over a period of time". Opposing and balancing forces are internal to an organisational
entity
Entity may have several conflicting goals or interests groups competing for priority. In a dialectical
process ­ stability and change are explained by reference to the balance of power between opposing
entities. Struggles and accommodations that maintain the status quo between oppositions produces
stability. Change occurs when these opposing values, forces, or events gain sufficient power to confront
and engage the status quo.
The dialectical process is identified here as Thesis - Antithesis - Synthesis (New Thesis). This is also
known as dialectical cycle. The relative power of an anti-thesis may mobilise an organisational entity to
a sufficient degree to challenge the current thesis and set the stage for producing a synthesis. The
synthesis or new thesis is different from both thesis and anti-thesis. However there is no assurance that
dialectical conflicts produce creative synthesis. At time anti-thesis is powerful enough to replace the
thesis. Or many organisation (thesis) persists by maintaining sufficient power to suppress and control
the opposition (or anti-thesis)
Unit of Change
Dialectical theories operate on multiple entities while OLC and teleological operate within a single
entity. The theory requires at least two entities to fill the role of thesis and anti-thesis. For e.g. individual
and its environment or organisation and its environment engaged in dialectic. Here four forces operate,
two within individual and two with in environment.
Mode of Change
Dialectical theory incorporates constructive mode of change (2nd ­ order). Since by its very nature there
is a struggle and confrontation between thesis and anti-thesis which may be resolved by diverging or
breaking away from the current or existing system, hence the type of change is second order.
Application
Famous scholar Karl Marx applied on history of economics, came forth with the concept dialectical
materialism, and showed how agrarian society owing to its inherent conflicts transformed to a
capitalistic society and visualised that in future will be synthesised to a socialistic society. For Hegel
dialectics means the process of change, logic and a method. But we are more interested in knowing its
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Change Management ­MGMT625
VU
application in context of organisation or corporation.
First question is, how can this be applied to corporate decision making? One such application is known
as Strategic Assumptions Analysis (SAA), and the technique is utilized for effective planning and
generating strategies before a final strategy is opted. For example e.g. in creative problem solving
organization use plan (affirmative) & counter plan (negative proposition - to play devil's advocate) to
look for solutions and counter solutions quite analogous to thesis ­ anti thesis ­ synthesis. The purpose
is to deliberate the surfacing of assumptions and counter-assumption especially under complex, dynamic
and ambiguous phenomenon and situation.
Second, this can be used as a tool for group decision-making, particularly to know the reaction of group
members. Organization is generally composed of various groups ­ two common types are ruling group
and being ruled (opposition) just like that of a state system where one is government and other is
opposition party. Similarly there are other formal and informal groups and pressure groups in
organization. So it is important for managers to know how do various groups think of a given policy
matter
Strategic planning
Man lives by his imagination and so is the case with organisation. The success or failure depends upon a
particular set of belief or assumptions about the world, and in the fact how our belief or assumption is
closer to the real world. And planning is nothing but systemic allocation of words and numbers to such
assumptions. There are three components of planning:
1) Concerned with future state of the world and hence to predict about it.
2) Preferred future status underlying value system
3) A choice among two or three behaviour pattern (plans) for the firm's activity (means)
Each of these items involves' management basic assumption about the planning problem it faces.
Therefore we see that management and management science focus on well-structured problem but the
concern of strategic planning/management is to deal with ill-structured problem and issues. Hence the
role planning in organization should be the followings:
1) To expose the assumptions underlying a proposed plan
2) To develop relevant assumptions upon which the planning process can proceed
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