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Academy of Management

theme1999

Change and Development Journeys 
into a Pluralistic World
 
 

The Greek philosopher, Democrites, argued that the essence of being is stable and fixed. While he may have scored some points in the outgoing millennium, his opponent, Heraclitus, may win the debate in the next millennium for his position that the  universe is pluralistic and in continuous flux. The increasing pace of change in jobs, organizations, industries, and economies leads us to recognize that change is an ongoing dynamic journey, not a discrete event that shifts from one unfreezing order to another frozen state.

With this recognition, our Academy is poised to take process seriously to explain how and why change journeys unfold. In particular, we invite contributions that examine processes of change as a sequence of events or steps that unfold over time in the development of individuals' viewpoints, jobs and careers; organizational innovation, transformation, and restructurings; and larger social, technical, and economic developments. Learning to think in terms of processes that unfold over time is an increasingly important skill for scholars and practitioners.

These change and development journeys both produce and are produced by complex and pluralistic organizations. There is evidence that organizations are growing larger in vertical and virtual connections, merging and acquiring others with colliding cultures, hiring more technical/professional workers (now the largest and fastest growing segment of the work force), interfacing in more competitive international and global economies, and adopting widely distributed information technologies.

The net result is pluralistic organizations, or the co-existence of groups with different, legitimate, and potentially competing strategies and mental models within the same organization, which itself is in the process of movement. In these pluralistic settings, we are challenged to examine how different mutually dependent groups accommodate and learn from each other as they co-evolve in their change and development journeys.

Change processes are relatively simple when they occur in unified and consensual organizational settings. More challenging and realistic in our contemporary world is the need for understanding change journeys in pluralistic settings.

  • If pluralism contradicts our owner-centered theory of the firm, then perhaps a new theory is needed that heedfully accommodates the interests of multiple stakeholders.
  • If pluralism represents an anathema to traditional management principles of consensus and alignment with a singular vision and approach to change, then we need new theories and ideas that allow for the management of divergent viewpoints and processes.
  • If we assume that the expression of opposition is not welcomed in organizations, then we need new models and methods that encourage the existence and expression of divergent viewpoints.
  • If pluralism implies varied ways of viewing an issue, then we need to develop creative ways to share this.

We welcome participants in the 1999 Academy conference to examine change and development journeys in pluralistic settings.

  • Go beyond theories of planned change, and include life cycle, dialectical, and evolutionary process models.
  • Transcend the traditional linear and causal views of change, by exploring complex, nonlinear, and dynamic processes of change.
  • Approach change and development as an ongoing journey instead of a discrete shift from one stable order to another. In this view the temporal order and sequence of events are critical to understanding how and why things change over time.
  • View stability and change as produced by the same underlying mechanisms; e.g., they may reflect temporary periods of balance or imbalance between opposing cycles of divergent and convergent processes that propel ebbs and flows in the journey over time.

We invite research-based descriptions, analysis, and prescriptions of change and development journeys in a wide variety of topics related to management. Understanding change and development journeys in pluralistic settings represents a central challenge for transitioning into the new millennium.

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