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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.

  • o Number of entries: 3
  • Open-space method


    The approach brings together groups of people to identify and address issues connected with a shared matter of interest. Its basis is that shared understandings built through participation will yield co-ordinated action. The purpose of the event is to surface differences in understanding, work through them, and build a new response. Successful events require a compelling theme; attendance of all those with a stake in change; and relevant tasks to complete within subgroups during the event. The approach seeks to addresses four dilemmas facing facilitators:

    • Voice: – need for participation tempered by possibility of being overwhelmed
    • Structure: – needing structure to complete task, but freedom to explore nuances
    • Egocentricity: – participants holding tightly to their personal view will foreclose options
    • Emotional contagion: – participants feed off the frustrations / excitement of others (‘groupthink’) resulting in solutions people cannot accept in reality

    Open-space responds by imposing a minimal formal structure, allowing participants to self-organise around topics associated with the overarching conference theme.


    Stages in an open-space event:

    1. Set conditions for self-organising: – The stage is set by announcing the conference theme. Participants are instructed that there will be small group discussions run by participants themselves, addressing any topic they believe critical to the theme. Two sets of norms are established:
      1. ‘law of two feet’ – moving between groups is encourged, participants stay only if they are interested, learning or contributing; and
      2. ‘four principles’ – the people who attend are the right people(the contribution counts, not who said it); whatever happens is the only thing that could have (responsibility for what happens); whenever it starts is the right time (creativity); and when it’s over, it’s over (freedom to move on)
    2. Create an agenda: – participants suggest topics related to the conference theme. This process continues until all topics have been identified. All topics are collected and displayed along with locations – times to meet and discuss. Participants sign up to as many topics as they wish. The person announcing the topic convenes as agreed
    3. Co-ordinate activity: – as events happen, convenors summarise discussions / recommendations / actions proposed and make these available in a central ‘newsroom’ to encourage further reflection

    (Adapted from Cummings and Worley, 2008): pp. 289-93)

    Strengths and limitations

    The approach is designed to focus the attention and energy of participants who make up a whole system to developing shared changes in vision, strategy and culture. It is well suited to large scale system-wide change, or in addressing a major change in the operating environment. Practical difficulties include the need to suspend service delivery for the time required to stage the event, especially where services are provided to vulnerable clients.

    In relation to social care change, open space events can be a good way to bring together people accessing services, carers, staff and other stakeholders and generating constructive discussions. If facilitated well they can lead to better understanding of other’s positions and be an opportunity to strengthen collaboration and trust.

    Further reading

    1. Elenum, T. (2012) Open space as a knowledge metaphor and a knowledge sharing intervention, Knowledge Management Research and Practice, 10, 1 , 55-63
  • Organisational congruence model


    The organisational congruence model is designed to capture the dynamics of change management. Organisations are characterised as sets of interacting sub-systems which scan changes in the external environment. The political dimensions of organisational life are incorporated within the model in the ‘informal organisation’ dimension. The organisation is viewed organically as a system that takes inputs from strategy, resources and the external environment, transforming them into outputs (activities, behaviours and performance) at individual, team and organisational levels:

    Nadler and Tushman


    Designed as a tool to aid analysis of the change process, the model does not provide set answers about what to do, but what might be required in a specific organisational context. It is based on the idea that the social, managerial and technical aspects of organisations are interdependent, and that these different elements need to be aligned (i.e. congruent) in order to optimise performance.

    The four interdependent organisation components in the model are:

    • Work – the daily activities of individuals, and the processes, pressures and rewards available to them
    • People – the skills and expectations of the workforce
    • The formal organisation – the policies, systems and structures which organise the work; and
    • The informal organisation – the unwritten practices which emerge over time, including influence and norms

    The model assumes the interdependence of each of these components, and the underlying expectation of congruence means that an organisational change in any of the subsystems requires complementary change within the others. Thus a change in the nature of the work undertaken may require realignment with the skills of employees (the people), the way work is organised (the formal organisation) and the alliances between employees (the informal organisation). Failure to undertake alignment work results in problems of resistance, control and power – from a fear of the unknown, flux in formal systems and the threat of removal of power from currently powerful interests. These may be reduced by engagement activities in change, transition management structures and building powerful coalitions for change.

    Strengths and limitations

    A flexible tool designed to encourage exploration of organisational dynamics in context, rather than specify detailed configurations regardless of time and place. Its concern social, in addition to technical, components is also helpful in considering the warp and weft of organisational life. However, the very flexibility and absence of a ‘template’ of proven solutions to common problems may limit its appeal.

    In relation to social care change it can be criticised through its focus on internal stakeholders but the contribution of people accessing services and other external stakeholders can be integrated within the transformation process. Its emphasis on the interconnection of different components of a change process will support the planning and coordination of activities, and through exploring the formal and informal it encourages discussion of different political influences.

    Further reading

    1. Nadler, D. (1987). The effective management of organisational change. In Jay W. Lorsch (Ed.), Handbook of organisational behavior (pp. 358–369). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
    2. Nadler, D. A., and Tushman, M. L. (1977). A diagnostic model for organisational behavior. In J. R. Hackman, E. E. Lawler, and L. W. Porter (Eds.), Perspectives in behavior inorganisations (pp. 85–100). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Organisational learning


    Organisational learning approaches emphasise the organisational structures and social processes which enable individual employees and teams to learn and to share their knowledge. Learning is organisational to the extent that it:

    • Aims to achieve organisational goals;
    • Is distributed among organisational members; and
    • Outcomes are embedded in systems, structures and culture(s)

    Much of the organisational learning literature offers concrete advice on how organisations should be designed and managed to promote organisational learning. Most agree on five key characteristics:

    1. Structure: – flat hierarchies with few organisational layers, good relationships between different services and functions, and networking across internal and external organisational boundaries. These features promote information sharing, system thinking and involvement in decision-making
    2. Information systems: – these are required to provide an infrastructure for the collection, processing and rapid sharing of complex information
    3. Human resources practices: – appraisal, training and rewards are designed to encourage the acquisition and dissemination of skills and knowledge
    4. Organisational culture: – the values of the organisation promote creativity and openness, nurture innovation, encourage staff to risk failure, seek to learn from mistakes and to share information
    5. Leadership: - leaders are required to model the openness and risk taking required of employees and so provide the required empathy and support

    Organisational learning is seen as a transformational process, and the characteristics above enable members to carry out organisational learning processes related to discovery, invention, production and generalisation.


    The intervention process is designed to help shift organisational members’ thinking from Mode I to Mode II learning. Mode I is concerned with defending self and others from hurtful information, and results in defensive behaviours such as withholding evidence, rivalry and blaming others. It is strongly related to single-loop learning, in which existing understandings are uncritically reinforced. In contrast Mode II learning is based on continuous assessment, resulting in low defensiveness, personal mastery and collaboration with others, and the public testing of understandings. It is related to double-loop, or ‘generative’, learning in which theories in use are changed openly, and ‘deuterolearning’, in which learning processes are themselves challenged and improved routinely.

    Stages in organisational learning interventions:

    1. Discover theories in use and their consequences: – this initial phase involves establishing the mental models (‘theories in use’) of organisational members, and the consequences which follow from their application. As such models are usually not clearly articulated or understood, members need to infer them by generating and analysing data in open dialogue, inquiring into their own beliefs and those of colleagues and reflecting on the assumptions on which they are based. This enables faulty assumptions which lead to ineffective behaviours being uncovered. Alternatively, theories in use may be explored by constructing an ‘action map’ out of interviews with members concerning recurrent problems, actions taken to resolve them, and the results of such actions. These are fed back to members for them to identify functional and dysfunctional learning within the organisation.
    2. Invent more effective theories in use: – drawing on the results above, members produce alternative theories in use associates with model II learning, involving double-loop learning to create and enact new theories (‘learning by doing’). Practitioners support this though facilitation of open disclosure about the effects of habitual approaches on development of more efficient processes, and exposure to insights from systems thinking (inter-relatedness, holistic processes; processes of change), with the result of supporting efforts to change.
    3. Continually monitor and improve learning processes: – this is the ‘deuterolearning’ element – learning how to learn. This involves periodic assessment of the structures and processes which support single- and double-loop learning, and is reliant upon members’ skills in Model II learning.

    Strengths and limitations

    Increasingly popular as a means of enabling organisations to be more adaptable and innovative, reported operational benefits are commonplace Any details on these tim?. However, full implementation of Model II systems appears difficult if not impossible to achieve in practice.

    In relation to social care change. Organisational learning presents a framework through which individual and organisational learning can be encouraged in a supportive and collaborative culture. Support from senior management and their willingness to also learn are vital if the process is going to engage the whole organisation and so enable learning to be put into practice.

    Further reading

    1. Argyris, C. and Schon, D., (1978) Organisational learning: A theory of action perspective, Reading: Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley
    2. Argyris, C. and Schon, D. (1996) Organisational learning II: Theory, method and practice, Reading: Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley
    3. McGill, M., Slocum, J. and Lei, D. (1993) Management practices in learning organisations, Organisational Dynamics, 5-17
    4. Nevis, E., DiBella, A. and Gould, J. (1995) Understanding organisations as learning systems, Sloan Management Review, 73-85
    5. Thomas K., and Allen, S. (2009) The learning organisation: A meta-analysis of themes in literature, The Learning Organisation, 13, 2, 123-39