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“Organizational Change as a Process of Death, Dying, and Rebirth” by Zell

In the article “Organizational Change as a Process of Death, Dying, and Rebirth” (2003) by Deone Zell, the author presents and discusses the results of a study on the resistance to organizational change in professional bureaucracies. The study was conducted in the physics department of a public research university, in which a qualitative approach was taken to verify the resemblance of organizational change to death and dying, identified by Kubler –Ross (Zell, 2003, p. 75). This paper summarizes the aforementioned article, paralleling its main points to established concepts in organizational change and development.

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The article refers to the process of adaptation as organizational change, rather than organizational development. In that regard, it can be stated that the main concept of the study perfectly illustrates the main reason for substituting organizational development with change management, i.e. the incorporation of both business and human needs (Gerard, Homer, Nicolay, Keith, & Karl, 2000). The author cited the peculiarity of resisting to changes in professional bureaucracy, i.e. organizations such as hospitals and universities with highly trained autonomous professionals, as slow, messy, chaotic, and, often, unsuccessful” (Zell, 2003, p. 75).

The stated research problem can be seen in that the models of changes in organizations are too shallow to include the actual process of resistance to change. In that regard, the author outlined a gap in the literature, which was also identified by Tannenbaum and Hanna, showing the lack of attention to “working through … to hold on to the existing order” (Zell, 2003, p. 74).

The article provided an overview of the specific resistance stages that resemble the dying process, including such stages as denial, anger, bargaining stage, depression stage, and acceptance stage. Paralleling these stages with Lewin’s stages, i.e. unfreeze, movement, refreeze” (Levasseur, 2001), it can be stated that all the first “mourning stages” described in the article can resemble the process of unfreezing, while the final stage of acceptance can be seen as the refreezing stage. In general, it can be stated that the peculiarity of expanding the process of unfreezing into four stages is related to the type of organization covered in the article, i.e. professional bureaucracy. The significance of the individual factor, in which the employees, i.e. physicists, in this case, are highly autonomous, did not affect the susceptibility of such organizations to environmental changes.

In that regard, the purpose of the study is to explain resistance to change in professional bureaucracies, in the context of the model of terminally ill patients proposed by Kubler –Ross. The design of the study is qualitative, in which the method of collecting data was through interviews. The choice of qualitative design can be justified, due to its interpretive and naturalistic characteristics, i.e. real-world settings, which allow for observed and examined aspects to happen naturally (Merriam, 2009). The interviews were semi-structured, and the participants – 40 ladder faculty in the department of physics, were selected through purposeful sampling. The data was analyzed through specific software for qualitative data analysis, called NUD*IST.

The author explained the qualitative aspects of the study, where interviews focused on the personal perceptions of changes in the organization, and in that regard, it can be stated that the timing of the interviews was a significant factor in the study, rather than a confounding variable. The results of the interviews outlined a specific progression in the perceptions of the interviewees, which, as explained by the author, confirm the movement through the stages of mourning for both, individuals and groups.

Although the article corresponded to its initial intent of confirming Kubler-Ross’ theory, it nevertheless, pointed to the limitedness of the study, in terms of generalizability (Zell, 2003, p. 87). However, it can be assumed that despite potential differences within the results of other professional bureaucracies, organizations with similar levels of autonomy might be seen going through the same stages with a similar pattern. Such levels of autonomy can be seen the closest to the model of terminally ill patients proposed by Kubler-Ross.

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The article concluded with an indication of the practical implications of such findings, in which the author stated that professionals should be able to manage change through “engaging in actions that “mitigate denial” and by confronting organizational members with the reality of change” ” (Zell, 2003, p. 91). It can be stated that such implications conform to the general suggestions in managing change, which includes involving people in the process and active communication (Levasseur, 2001, p. 72).

In that regard, it can be concluded that the study presented in the article contributed to the field of change management. Nevertheless, it can be stated that the implications of the results do not fall out of the general change management practices. In that regard, the main aspect that can be learned from the findings of the article is that organizational development, specifically in the context of professional bureaucracies, should focus on the human factor in managing the changes in the organization.

References

Gerard, F., Homer, J., Nicolay, W., Keith, R., & Karl, M. (2000). Organizational development and change management: Setting the record straight / Response to Farias and Johnson’s commentary. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 36(3), 376.

Levasseur, R. E. (2001). People Skills: Change Management Tools – Lewin’s Change Model. INTERFACES, 31(4), 71-73. Web.

Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research : a guide to design and implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Zell, D. (2003). Organizational Change as a Process of Death, Dying, and Rebirth. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 39(1), 73-96.

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StudyCorgi. "“Organizational Change as a Process of Death, Dying, and Rebirth” by Zell." November 19, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/organizational-change-as-a-process-of-death-dying-and-rebirth-by-zell/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "“Organizational Change as a Process of Death, Dying, and Rebirth” by Zell." November 19, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/organizational-change-as-a-process-of-death-dying-and-rebirth-by-zell/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) '“Organizational Change as a Process of Death, Dying, and Rebirth” by Zell'. 19 November.

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