Organizational Change Theory – Everything You Need to Know

The problem with organizational change theory is that this term confuses people. I understand why, too. But this isn’t an attack of the mutant buzzwords, as it does need a name, and the name does suit it. The thing is, in recent times, people mistake it for an analog to organizational learning, which uses an alternative managerial and teaching style to abate classroom model tedium.

However, organizational change theory isn’t organizational in the same literal sense, but at the same time, it kind of is. Ok, I just made it worse, didn’t I? No, not really.


Change is, of course, obvious in its general definition. But in business, does it have extra meaning? Yeah, in a way it does. See, change is something businesses must contend with endlessly as software, computers, policies and everything else evolve perpetually.

Just as training is ever present as a result of this, so are the other aspects of managing implementing changes to a status quo. It goes beyond training, handling human resistance, adoption of new ideas, and other humanity-related concerns that come with introduction of the new and unknown.

Two Forms:

Technically there are way more than two, but most of the time, people express it as two general categories: individual change and organizational change.

Like organizational change, individual change is a little misleading, too, not always meaning just one individual. It can also mean a group of people working independently to implement changes specific to them as well. It’s the same model multiplied, so not organizational.

What’s Organizational:

Organizational change isn’t about thinking like an organization when implementing, like organizational learning is. It is managing implementation of change to an organization. It can be as literal as changing the shape of the organization itself, but is in no way limited to that nor usually that.

No one individual stands alone nor independently in this model, count of people being irrelevant. Ergo, as change is implemented, and the training along with it, the sum of the parts (the parts being the people) is the entity with which one must interact, measure and teach.

This means it brings on a very more complex set of logistics, calls for a far more robust and thought out change model, and of course, requires a lot more elegance with your social handling of people.

You have to moderately please almost all of the people all of the time, as it were, where with individual change, it’s a bit more binary than that, and the sociodynamic between the individuals there doesn’t matter.

With organizational change, that dynamic among the people, and their identities in the eyes of their peers and vice versa are significant, and have to be maintained through the process.

Also, with organizational change comes the dangers of more easily stalling the organization with poor pacing or overload, so that’s the biggest concern to dance precariously around, where with individual change, it’s all about quotas regardless of general consensus.


As you can see, organizational change theory is more appropriate for certain situations than it is with others, and the same stands for individual change as well.

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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