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Find information about a range of approaches to managing organisational change – from Action Learning Sets, to the 7s model.

Search by the name of the model using the A-Z index

To view more click on the name of the model to expand to view more, including description, use, and strengths and limitations.

  • s Number of entries: 3
  • Self-managed teams (SMT)


    SMTs consist of a group of individuals who undertake interrelated tasks. Typically charged with delivering a complete product or service, they are collectively responsible for making decisions on work tasks (processes) and working methods (practices). They are usually responsible for setting their own goals, act as generalists rather than specialists within their area of responsibility, and are rewarded on the basis of team (as opposed to individual) performance. Team performance and member satisfaction are underpinned by three sets of inputs: task design; process interventions; and organisational support systems.

    1. Team Task Design: – tasks are derived from stated team goals which must be aligned with organisational strategy and objectives. Tightly-defined tasks provide a clear team boundary and area of responsibility. Large enough to accomplish the required set of interrelated tasks yet small enough to allow coordination and face-to-face decision-making, SMTs are typically responsible for specific work processes. Team members need to be trained to perform tasks without reliance on other teams. Similarly, SMTs require the authority to manage resources, information to monitor performance and freedom to make adjustments as necessary.
    2. Team process interventions: – over time, teams may not function effectively due to poor communication between members, unclear roles and responsibilities, and an inability yto resolve conflicts. If such problems emerge then reflection and possibly external support will be required.
    3. Organisational support systems: – in order to function well, there needs to be a good ‘fit’ between SMTs and wider organisational processes. Despite their greater autonomy, external leadership remains important and it requires an understanding by senior managers of group dynamics, the wider external environment and the team’s skills.


    Stages in SMT implementation:

    1. Agreeing the approach: – this involves suspension of existing work rules, provision of time and external facilitation to diagnose current practices and devise new ones. Typically, job and wage security is provided to ensure workers engage fully;
    2. Diagnosis of the work system: – an assessment of the extent to which current practice meets external demands (e.g. customer expectations of quality)
    3. Generating appropriate designs: – if diagnosis identifies interdependent tasks then redesign is undertaken to specify team mission / goals, an ideal workflow, skills required of members, training plans for induction, and the decisions over which the team has autonomy. This is undertaken following two guiding principles:
      1. Compatibility: design processes are consistent with the values underlying the approach i.e. joint communication and boundary management requires a highly participative process involving all stakeholders in order to jointly derive acceptable solutions;
      2. Minimal critical specification: designers should only specify the features critical to implementation; all others left free to vary according to circumstance (e.g. work methods; task allocation; job assignments)
    4. Specifying support systems: – wider organisational systems (pay, measurement) also need to be redesigned to support and incentivise team practice
    5. Implementation: – this generally requires extensive training to enable team members to undertake many tasks, together with opportunities to build the team and its skills in relation to self-management. Evaluation of the work design is also required, together with ongoing adjustment and monitoring in the light of identified difficulties.
    6. Continual improvement: – continuous redesign of processes as required to optimise operation

    (Adapted from Cummings and Worley, 2008: pp. 391-2)

    Strengths and limitations

    Most published evaluations show sustained positive results; increased productivity, efficiency and quality is a common finding, as are marked improvements in staff job satisfaction. It is important to note that for the benefits to be derived interventions need to honour the core principles – no meaningful information or decision-making autonomy, no improvements.

    In relation to social care change the approach will potentially facilitate trust and learning within and between teams and enable staff to have greater autonomy of how they work in practice. There is a danger that teams could become inward looking and therefore it will be important to ensure that the focus remains on the needs and aspirations of the people who access services and their carers.

    Further reading

    1. Perry EE, Karney, DF, and Spencer, DG (2013) Team establishment of self-managed work teams: A model from the field, Team Performance Management, 19, 1, 87 – 108
    2. Elloy, DF (2011) Superleader behaviors and self-managed work teams: Perceptions of supervisory behaviors, satisfaction with growth, and team functions, Journal of Business and Economics Research, 4, 12, 97-102
    3. Druskat, V.U.and Wheller, J.V., (2003) Managing from the boundary: The effective leadership of self-managing work teams, Academy of Management Journal, 46, 4, 435-457
    4. Cohen, S.G. and Bailey, D.E. (1997) What makes teams work: Group effectiveness from the shop floor to the executive suite, Journal of Management, 23, 3, 239-260.
  • Soft systems methodology (SSM)


    SSM assumes that most change processes which involve people will be complex as there will different views about what is important and how the processes can be improved. In order to address such complexity, SSM requires the application of action learning methods in diagnosis of problems and the crafting of solutions. Stakeholder views are explored iteratively, with the intention of identifying feasible changes which can accommodate the range of views (or even to reach consensus).

    The approach places participants at the centre of the process, tailoring the SSM approach to a specific situation – deriving a unique approach in order to ensure learning and change within the specific context. It developed in response to the disappointing real-world application of ‘hard’ approaches to systems design, such as operational research, due to their failure to take account of conflicting worldviews in relation to ‘systems’. In contrast to ‘hard’ systems analysis, which treats systems as objective phenomena, SSM explicitly incorporates the social dimension into the analysis of systems, taking account of the existence of multiple worldviews in relation to the operation of systems and the dynamism at the heart of human systems. Most importantly, it seeks to take account of the generative nature of social action; the way in which the social world is continuously (re) created by people thinking, talking and acting. Systems are present in the very process of inquiry in the world, rather than simply in the world awaiting discovery.


    Stages in SSM:

    1. Exploring a problem, and its causes, from a wide range of stakeholder perspectives. Investigation should proceed with an open mind without giving priority to a particular point of view;
    2. Developing statements (‘root definitions’) which accurately describe the main purpose(s) of the organisation from the perspectives of different stakeholders , as well as its inputs, outputs and dynamics;
    3. Debating the manifest ‘problem’ with stakeholders, drawing on;
      1. Activities required to achieve ‘root definitions’ through diagrammatic depictions of ‘root definitions’ using flow charts;
      2. Comparing idealised service models with current reality through discussion and observation
    4. Considering possible changes in structure(s), process(es), practice(s);
    5. Undertaking a programme of change implementation in the light of agreements

    (Adapted from Iles and Sutherland, 2001: pp. 34)

    Strengths and limitations

    SSM has been criticised for its use in practice to appease stakeholder groups rather than undertake radical system changes. In contrast, Seddon (2005) identifies SSM as a means of forging a single unifying organisational purpose, so that stakeholders’ thinking is influenced during the analysis and discussion of problems in order that they might be addressed. Concerns have also been raised by the time and cost implications of the approach.

    In relation to social care change, its emphasis on valuing different perspective, seeking to shape change through discussion, and organisational learning is in line with the change principles. The facilitators will need to ensure that extended discussions do not lead though to the implementation of change being delayed.

    Further reading

    1. Checkland, P. (1981) Systems thinking, systems practice, New York: Wiley
    2. Checkland, P. and Poulter, J. (2006) Learning for action: A short definitive account of Soft Systems Methodology and its use for practitioners, London: John Wiley and Sons Limited
    3. Checkland, P and Scholes, J (2001) Soft systems methodology in action, Chichester: Wiley
    4. Deming, WE, (1986) Out of the crisis, Cambridge, Mass: MIT
    5. Flood, R. (1999) Rethinking the fifth discipline, learning within the unknown, London: Routledge
    6. Hudson, B (2004) Whole systems working: A discussion paper for the Integrated Care Network, Leeds: Integrated Care Network
    7. Jackson, M. (2003) Systems thinking: creative holism for managers, Chichester: Wiley
    8. Leahy, B., Clarke, S., and Paul, R. (1999) A case of an intervention in an outpatients department, Journal of Operational Research Society, 50, 9, 877-91
    9. Seddon, J. (2005) Freedom from command and control, Buckingham: Vanguard Press
  • SWOT analysis


    SWOT is a tool for identifying priorities for action. The term is an acronym for organisational or service Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and is intended to promote reflection on the extent to which an organisation or service can meet the needs and expectations made of it through encouraging reflection from a wide range of perspectives.


    The technique is used in many settings and sectors, with analysis typically following the steps below:

    Stages in SWOT analysis:

    1. The team writes down its organisational purpose (‘mission’);
    2. Using this frame of reference, they then apply tool(s) to assess internal organisational strengths and weaknesses (e.g. 7S, or Weisbord’s six-box model);
    3. A similar analysis of environmental opportunities and threats is then undertaken, again using an appropriate tool such as PESTELI;
    4. Further questions are then asked of each of the factors listed under the four SWOT headings:
      1. Factors related to strengths or weaknesses (internal)
        1. What are the consequences of this?
        2. Does it help or hinder our mission?
        3. What are the causes of this strength / weakness?
      2. Factors related to opportunities or threats (external environment)
        1. What impact is it likely to have on us?
        2. Will it help or hinder us to achieve our mission?
        3. What must we do to respond to this threat?
    5. Reflection follows on the mission and the four components; specifically the causes of strengths and weaknesses, and response required to the identified opportunities and threats. These are then linked and prioritised, for action by the team.

    (Adapted from Iles and Sutherland, 2001: pp. 40-1)

    Strengths and limitations

    Its key potential strength is the simultaneous analysis of both external environmental context [opportunities and threats] and internal organisational elements [strengths and weaknesses]. The benefit derived from any specific SWOT analysis depends partly upon the extent to which the factors identified are valid, prioritised, and addressed directly via specific change interventions. SWOT has been criticised on the grounds that it often results in an over-long list of factors without prioritising between them, little in the way of verification or supporting evidence, and its results often unused. While the typically subjective, unsystematic and non-quantifiable nature of many SWOT analyses means that in practice they may have little predictive power (), they may still have some practical benefit to the extent that they provide some opportunity for engaging staff in change programmes. The approach has been praised for its combination of ‘oft’ organisational components (staff, style, shared values and skills) as well as ‘hard’ factors (strategy, structure and systems), and its emphasis on the importance of organisational culture in enabling people to agree on what behaviour is acceptable. However, its usefulness has been challenged by others who argue that different viewpoints are important and if managed properly conflict and disagreement can lead to an organisation being stronger.

    In relation to social care change it provides a simple framework that most people can follow and if well facilitated can add to any stage of the change cycle.

    Further reading

    1. Agarwal, R., Grassl, W., and Pahl, J. (2012) Meta-SWOT: Introducing a new strategic planning tool, Journal of Business Strategy, 33, 2, 12-21
    2. Ansoff, HI (1965) Corporate strategy: An analytic approach to business policy for growth and expansion, New York: McGraw-Hill
    3. Gazinoory, S., Adil, M., and Azadegan-Mehr, M. (2011) SWOT methodology: A state of the art review for the past, present and future, Journal of Business and Economic Management, 12, 1, 24-48
    4. Hill, T. And Westbrook, R. (1997) SWOT analysis: It’s time for a product recall, Long Range Planning, 30, 1, 46-52
    5. Weihrich, H. (1982) The TOWS matrix: A tool for situational analysis, Long Range Planning, 15, 2, 54-66