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Posted on February 7, 2020
Updated on October 13, 2021


Organisational Change

Organisations go through change processes through the influence of the market place, global pressures and through the natural interplay of one force against another. These natural forces can be part of the internal processes which occur within an organisation.

Organisations are social networks of people brought together in order to work toward a common goal or goals. Whilst they are made up of individuals organisations develop a life of their own. Organisations form rules about behaviours, ways of being, cultural norms and structures which new employees are expected to fit into.

In this fast changing world organisations need to keep on top of these global changes in order for them to survive and grow. Doing nothing is not an option. However, there is a plethora of models, approaches, and techniques making it rather like a supermarket shopping spree, where leaders can hop from one brand to another leaving a wake of debris behind them in terms of the workforce and their motivation. Once a choice has been made, it is important to follow it through rather than discard it and try something else. This will also lead to demotivation.

Levels of Change

Chaudron outlines four levels of change:

Level 1:

Anticipate the future – without which the organisation will be surprised and not ready to reinvent itself nor can it shape the future it it is not prepared for it. Scenario planning is effective here, assessing strengths and weaknesses and redefine mission, set out how changes will be measured etc.

Level 2:

Define the business and develop core competencies. When change interventions start here, which many do, they can go wrong because they do not do the ground work necessary before starting.

Level 3:

Re-engineering process takes place here to ensure fundamental change. It will need to be decided on what basis the changes are based and how that will be achieved.

Level 4:

Once re-engineered processes need to reflect the outcomes required. Some organisations use a step-by-step approach and some go for major change all at once. This will depend upon the company.  

Also to be taken into account is whether the company is risk avoidant or risk tolerant and different types of business will be different. Risk avoidant will tend to have in-the-box thinking.

Some companies say they want change but then their actions are not congruent with this. They send people on training courses so that they use the latest buzz word and creating a resistant workforce.  Instead change only really happens if you take people with you. In this way it becomes “development” rather than “change”.

The bottom line with all of this is that development only really happens when management are able to structure and re-structure within a foundation of integrity and compassion. The aims of the business need to be aligned with the interests of the workforce. Selling out to venture capitalists leaving the workforce at the mercy of the new owners shows a lack of concern for others. People do not align themselves with bad aims and false promises are noticed, leaving them people demotivated and unwilling to be involved in “change”.

TA offers a framework through which to explore the inter-relationship between the organisation and the individual. There are always subtleties which interfere with strategic outcomes and TA offers the ability to focus on how the social systems impact on the individual and collective behaviours.

Krausz (1996) highlights the need to develop synergetic support systems in order to maintain continuity with respect to change processes. Without these systems it is easy for the organisation to return to the status quo. This occurs for example, when top management are not involved in re-engineering processes or with the introduction of total quality. Therefore, organisations need to encourage and foster the development of the Integrating Adult ego state or the Mindful Process in our OK Modes model (2011). 

When an organisation is itself being mindful they are being responsive to global fluctuations and market forces and taking into account the future.

The Cycle of Development

Pam Levin's model The Cycle of Development (1988) is one way in which Organisational processes can be considered. Levin designed this model for individual processes but this can be extended to organisations. Resistance to these changes leads to games and these are outlined for each stage.

1. Being - At this stage the organisation needs affirmations about its presence. There are such questions as: Who are we? Who shall we align with? Some organisations take time out to form first before getting straight into work. Games played at this stage: "Indispensable", where dependency is created; "Addict", where it is not okay to ask straight for needs to be met and caring is exhorted. Therefore, the only way to obtain caring is through being on the brink of destruction.

2.  Doing - At this stage the organisation will skip from one project to another.  It is about the need to experiment and be curious. Games at this stage include: "Harried" where the people are rewarded for doing; "Gee, You're Wonderful Professor", the insistence of the following blindly of the latest management guru; "Cavalier", the need to please the parents and to keep them close and not wean.  

3. Thinking - This is the breaking out of dependency stage, where the organisation will be ready to learn new information and be willing to renegotiate agreements. Games at this stage are: "Look What You Made Me Do", Maxwell's embezzlement of pensions and the family responses; "Stupid" and the refusal to think going into passivity; "Sunny Side Up" when organisations mask the difficulties with smiles and denials of difficulties - many governments; "I'll show them" when organisations invite control then rebel against it to show that the controllers are, after all, impotent.

4.  Identity - This stage is identified by conflicts and struggles.  Old identities are no longer appropriate but they may be being maintained as employees do not know how to be in the present changed organisation. The games at this stage include:  "Mine's Bigger Than Yours", with the aim of making another organisation feel inadequate. This is rife between computer companies.  "Let's You and Them Fight", when the organisation set's up others to fight and then becomes indispensable in helping them patch it up. "Let's Pull A Fast One On Joey", this happens with mergers when there may an alliance between two merged companies to seduce another but then the switch is pulled and the third organisation is abandoned after promises and expectations have been created.

5.   Skilfulness - This is the trial and error stage and learning what the organisation can do differently or even better. Where the organisation needs to trust their processes to do things their way. Games at this stage include: "Ain't it awful", the organisation tends to disapprove of others products, processes etc. rather than develop their own alternatives; "Blemish", which is an attempt to distance others and avoid the internal victimisation by judging others; and "Now I've Got You", when the organisation uses their skills to put responsibility for failure onto others, waiting until others make a mistake and then taking delight in pointing this out to them and/or others.

6.  Regeneration - This is the integration of the other stages. This can occur after establishing new skills and when preparing to complete something. Failure to achieve this stage will result in fragmentation. This is about the application and use of new skills and how to use them wisely within a framework of values and beliefs. At this stage organisations are able to bridge the old with the new and develop appropriate support systems. Games at this stage include:  "Hurry Up" as a means to control behaviour and "Stay Little" using nurturing as a way of maintaining dependency and also as a control.

7. Recycling - This stage is about painting a picture of how the organisation wants life to be, what stands in its way and  explores what the unresolved issues are. Any Games are this stage are short-lived and are not intense. For example, "Ain't it Awful" may be played for 15 minutes and then there is a move out of this into problem solving.

Complexity and Change

Complexity Theory offers ways of understanding how and where change does or does not occur. There are four possible “states” representing four levels of change:

Stasis - In this state nothing changes, and there is no communication. In terms of an organisation this would represent a defunct one.


Order - Whilst there is a high level of predictability here, order is maintained by communication. Therefore whilst things may not change, a high level of energy is expended into keeping structures and systems in order.

Chaos - There is no predictability or discernible pattern here. It is impossible to exchange information as there is no structure to support sending messages!

Complexity - Between these last two, states of order and chaos, is an intermediate state – complexity. Here there are elements of order and chaos, predictability and unpredictability.

These four states also reflect the two opposite processes in all living organisms – but also organisations – the urge to maintain identity, resist change and focus inwards (known in complexity as autopoiesis) and the urge to change, grow explore the limit and focus outwards:

Autopoietic Urge

Autopoietic Urge

Vital Urge

Vital Urge

Whilst the ordered state can be seen as the “zone of predictability”, where things stay stereotypical and unchanging, the complexity state can be termed the “zone of possibility” where there is enough predictability for there still to be some structure, but enough flexibility to allow for change to occur.

Given the extensive degree of change that some companies experience, a period of “retrenchment” – or in complexity terms autopoiesis sometimes occurs.

The vital urge can be likened in TA terms to physis – the aspiration arrow.

Change and the Discounting Process 

Most organisations are in a state of change a lot of the time. Discounting is a common response to the stress caused by change.

Existence of Change going on in the Organisation (Taken from Working Together, p. 117/118)

Existence of Change

Significance of Change going on in the Organisation

Significance of Change

Specific Relevance of Change going on in the Organization

Specific Relevance of Change

Personal Abilities to deal with Change going on in the Organisation

Personal Abilities to deal with Change

Your Attitude is Catching – The Change Process (Mountain & Davidson, 2011, p. 173)

During any period of change, the primary task for leaders is to decide on their attitude. Beliefs about change being problematic and detrimental promote the development of hostile pessimistic attitudes to the process. Hostile attitudes will pass throughout the team, department and organization where others will reinforce this negativity, creating fragmentation, games and conflicts. In contrast, seeing change as an opportunity for growth and development will develop an attitude of optimism which is more likely to be enabling.

Change is part of life and you need to grow with it rather than fight against it. As a leader, it is important to develop resilience (see Chapter 2) so that the workforce can be encouraged and supported when they are struggling.

During the 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition Sir Ernest Shackleton showed great resilience. The ship he and his crew were on became trapped in the ice and remained for 634 days in Antarctica at sub-zero temperatures. (Perkins, 2000)  Shackleton faced extraordinary demands on his mental and physical endurance while at the same time he was determined to get the crew home safely.  During this time he made personal sacrifices for his crew, giving up such important items as his boots, gloves and biscuits to those in greater need. He also took the longest watch as he was concerned about the physical and psychological health of the men. He inspired unswerving loyalty and his attitude kept everyone going. Had his attitude been one of defeat and negativity the expedition would not have reached safety. Of course, there are lessons to be learnt by the failure of the expedition to reach its goal, but in this instance, we are making the focus Shackelton’s positive attitude. Whilst today’s organizational difficulties cannot be likened to the life and death situations faced by Shackelton and his crew there is learning here regarding issues of resilience and leadership. 

In today’s computerized world it appears that many over-exaggerate risk and have developed low-frustration tolerance. For example, how many people do you see sitting in a traffic jam and hitting the steering wheel because they are frustrated? Does it get them through the traffic any faster? No. Does it get them hyper-aroused, agitated and therefore stressed? Yes. Good leadership is about remaining calm, acknowledging the difficulty, creating options and taking the appropriate action.

Panicking about a situation leads to less thinking which might even delay a process. Staying calm within the situation promotes clear thinking and accounting. Taking the traffic jam example the following questions may be helpful:

  • are you able to change the situation?
  • is it something you can influence?
  • can you call someone and let them know you are going to be late?
  • is there something that can be learnt from this situation – e.g. the road is notorious for hold-ups and you had previously considered using a different route. You could have looked up to see if there were any road works on that stretch of the motorway and any warnings about long delays.
  • did you leave sufficient time for the journey in case there were any hold-ups?

Whatever the learning, right at that moment you are still in the traffic jam and, as you are not in control of the difficulty, then you may as well relax and wait for the problem to be resolved – and, if it is an accident, be concerned for the victims and relieved that you were not involved.

Whilst this example concerns traffic the same is true at work. Very often you can become stressed about things you have no control or even influence over. At work you might like to consider the following questions:

  • where it is possible to control or influence are you expressing your opinion in an OK/OK way?
  • what ways are you using to get yourself heard?
  • are you being open in discussions?
  • are you listening to other's perspectives and considering them and updating your beliefs and opinions?
  • are you keeping your sights on where you want to go and then deciding on how you are going to get there?
  • when there are obstacles in your way how do you deal with them in general and then specifically for a particular situation?
  • do you see difficulties as challenges or problems that overwhelm you?

Someone who sees challenges rather than problems is likely to be more resilient. The person who says “This always happens to me” or “They never listen” is less likely to be effective than someone who acknowledges the situation, considers it, decides what they are responsible for and takes action.

When there are long term objectives – for example when planning a journey from Brighton on the south coast of Britain to the Outer Hebrides off the North West coast of Scotland – you may also need to focus on some shorter-term objectives and take several breaks and celebrate when you get to those. Resting and celebrating are important and often get lost in times of change. You are usually so busy dealing with the day to day issues that celebrating achievements often gets overlooked. When this happens stress will increase and morale will decrease, thereby causing friction and game playing.

As managers and leaders, you have an important role to play in everyday working relationships as well as during change. However, during times of change, recognition and support need to be maintained and, in some cases, increased. Information needs to be shared regularly and as fully as possible. When organizational restructuring has taken place, account also needs to be taken of the need for inter-team building. In addition, those whose behaviour is oppositional and/or hostile need to be engaged rather than ignored.

You also need to be a role model for how to manage change. You need to instil optimism and confidence based on the reality of the situation. You also need to consider what different individuals need as the change process continues as this is likely to vary depending on their position on the competence curve (see curve and chart below).

The Competence Curve

The Change Curve

           (Hay, J. (1993), Working It Out At Work, Sherwood Publishing)

Change Grid 6

Evaluation of Developmental Aims and Outcomes

In order to evaluate clear outcomes need to be outlined at the beginning of the process.  The strategy needs to be evaluated at different stages.

Criteria 1:

Ø  Overall financial performance, profit margin, market share, earnings per share

Ø  Time of implementation v. planned time

Ø  Increase in productivity, quality, number of employees

Criteria 2 (from S Tilles, 1963):

1.     Is the strategy internally consistent?

2.     Is the strategy consistent with the environment?

3.     Does the strategy involve an acceptable degree of risk?

4.     Is the strategy workable?

Criteria 3:

What is missing from the above lists? For example, levels of morale.  Consider other areas for evaluation. How would you measure these?  What would be different? If these are behaviours how would the individual, team, department, organisation know that the development had been effective? What behaviours had changed and who works out which behaviours need to change and if these are congruent with the environment and if not, what needs to happen in order for these to be effective?


Battram, A. (1997) The Complexicon: A lexicon of Complexity LGMB

Hay, J. (2009) Transactional Analysis for Trainers Sherwood Publishing

Hay, J (1993), Working It Out At Work, Sherwood Publishing

Levin P. (1988) The Cycles of Power.

Mountain A & Davidson C (2011), Working Together, Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance, Gower

Krausz R (1996) Transactional Analysis and the Transformation of Organisations. TAJ 26:1

S Tilles, 1963), How to Evaluate Corporate Strategy, Harvard Business Review 41, pp 111-121 (in Strategic Management, Quick Study Guide (2000)