The main objective of this article is to illuminate the reasons and circumstances upon which strategic change initiatives embedded in new public management and managerialism are being justified, communicated, perceived, and implemented in the context of organizational discourses and politics. The author is concerned that such change initiatives are often not successful due to personal and group interests that complicate the ideologies intended to initiate and deliver organizational change. Specifically, the author thinks that materialistic change initiatives do not achieve their intended outcomes because leaders are not motivated to concentrate more on values, philosophies, and interests that form the basis of rational management thought (Diefenbach 2007).
The findings of this qualitative study undertaken at a large Western-European university (public sector) show that the primary characteristics of the materialistic ideology of change management include (1) developing a perception that a new strategy in organisational settings is not a choice but an unavoidable necessity, (2) portraying the environment as hostile, dangerous and threatening to the survival and future existence of the whole group, (3) demonstrating that managerialism is not about a better and promising future but a bad and dangerous present, with the view to putting people in a permanent state of fear and alertness, (4) projecting an orientation that the organisation has external and internal enemies, (5) demonstrating that the organisation can only change as indicated by the proponents of the change process, and that employees have to adapt or leave the organisation, and (6) depicting the conceptions of “business-like” leadership and change management as a very hierarchical and paternalistic understanding of leaders who are knowledgeable, insightful and skilful (Diefenbach 2007).
Other characteristics of the materialistic ideology of change management, according to the author, include having a perception that employees are not willing to adapt to the new order, initiation of fierce leaders to break down the resistance and enforce change, and obsession with the concept that guiding employees is all about overcoming resistance (Diefenbach 2007). In most circumstances, these intended and unintended ramifications of strategic change initiatives in public sector organizations lead to failure.
Undoubtedly, this particular study has insightful findings for managers and change agents in the public sector domain intending to employ the new public management or managerialism ideology to lead strategic change initiatives. Indeed, the author has effectively illuminated why managerialism (materialistic change management) has failed to make an impact in public sector organizations, especially in addressing resistance issues and unintended consequences of change (Diefenbach 2007).
However, it is felt that the author did little to uncover individual and political influences of strategic change initiatives even after conceding that such change initiatives are not always successful due to personal, group, and political interests. An exploration of these influences could have gone a long way in the development of viable solutions and alternatives. Existing literature underscores the political nature of change in organizations, as well as the importance for change agents to develop viable strategies aimed at overcoming resistance to change and encouraging the adoption of new processes and practices to succeed in implementing the premeditated interventions intended to modify the functioning of an organization (Battilana & Casciaro 2012). But upon in-depth analysis, it can be argued that this particular article identifies the weaknesses of materialistic change management initiatives, but fails to provide solutions or recommendations through which resistance issues can be addressed while enhancing adoption behaviors among employees.
Battilana, J & Casciaro, T 2012, ‘Change agents, networks, and institutions. A contingency theory of organisational change’, Academy of Management Journal, vol. 55 no. 2, pp. 381-398.
Diefenbach, T 2007, ‘The managerialistic ideology of organisational change management’, Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 20 no. 1, pp. 126-144.