Principles of Organization Change -- A Complex System Perspective
Institute of Business and Management, National Chiao Tung Un
Last modified: August 14, 2006
Organization is a living system. Its behavior is governed by both of self-organization and other-organization forces. Conventional organization theories did not distinguish the difference between the behaviors driven by these two forces. The development of complex adaptive system theory allows us to gain insights into the self-organization phenomena in which order emerges out of disorder, and simple structures evolve into more complex ones. These insights provide us a new basis to comprehend the essence of the above two sets of behaviors.
In this article, the change of a human organization is conceived as a collaborative result produced by both the leadership exercises (the other-organization force, i.e., the visible hand) and the spontaneous self-organization force (the invisible hand) generated in the organization. The article begins with a brief review of the organization change related classic theories – including Kurt Lewin’s three-step model, John Kotter’s eight-step model, Warren Bennis leadership theory, Peter Senge’s organization learning theory; follows by a concise introduction to five theories selected from the complex system theory family, i.e., dissipative structure, catastrophe, synergetics, fractal and chaos. Then based on the previous reviews four principles which prescribe the organization change process are synthesized, namely, Principles of Self-Creation, Binary-Mode of Existence, Phase Transformation and Bifurcation. And finally a re-interpretation of the classic theories is provided in light of the four principles, and new insights are drawn from such an application.
Key words：Organization change, complex system, self-organization, dissipative structure, synergetics, catastrophe, leadership, organization learning