Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year)), 20 credits / 30 HE credits
Title: Understanding resistance to organizational change: a cognitive approach
Authors: Emmy Morehed & Sara Skoglund
Level: Degree thesis, 30 hp
Keywords: Organizational change, Resistance to change, Cognitive perception
Background: Organizational change is a naturally occurring phenomenon and is vital for the survival of organizations. However, the majority of organizational change initiatives result in failure. Resistance to change has been found to be the key reason for this organizational change failure. It is therefore important for change agents to understand and manage the change recipients’ resistance to change, in order to achieve organizational change success.
Research question: What role does the change recipients’ cognitive perception of organizational change have, when assessing their resistance to change?
Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop our understanding of the change recipients’ resistance to organizational change, as it is cognitively perceived, in order to enhance the existing knowledge of resistance and how it in turn can be successfully managed by change agents. In this way, our purpose includes contributing with a theoretical development in regards to the change recipients’ cognitive perception of organizational change as well as providing change agents with managerial implications.
Method: A qualitative research approach was applied, which included a case study design consisting of multiple cases. Semi-structured interviews and observations were the methods used for collecting the empirical data. The ten respondents were selected from one Swedish company, based on a theoretical sampling method. The data analysis method included both a within-case analysis as well as a cross-case analysis.
Theoretical framework: The structure of the theoretical framework is based on three themes. The first theme considers organizational change, where our working definition and theories regarding organizational change are presented. The second theme considers resistance to change, where we define and present the theories regarding resistance to change. The third and last theme considers the change recipient’s cognitive perception of organizational change, where we provide our definitions of, and the theories regarding, the cognitive elements.
Findings: The change recipients’ cognitive evaluation of organizational change have an important role, when assessing their resistance to change. In regards to the change process, knowledge required to handle the change is found to be the most important cognitive element. Change usefulness is found to be the second most important one. Advantages and disadvantages, as well as change necessity, are not found to be important cognitive elements.
2016. , 66 p.