A self-reflective study of an immersed practitioner's - the impact of change on a leader of change

McCann, J 2009, A self-reflective study of an immersed practitioner's - the impact of change on a leader of change, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Graduate School of Business, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title A self-reflective study of an immersed practitioner's - the impact of change on a leader of change
Author(s) McCann, J
Year 2009
Abstract This thesis sought to go beyond the mainstream of academic research to uncover a perspective different to what Reason (2006, p188) termed the “dominant quantitative hypothetic-deductive research” approach in order to add real value to the professional practice of change managers in the 21st century.

As a change manager, the researcher realised that a quantitative research approach, while producing useful data, would not offer the depth and insight she considered was necessary to provide a significant contribution to professional practice, as is expected from a thesis of this type. Paradoxically given her scientific background, this caused her to adopt the challenging qualitative research strategy of an immersed practitioner in a modified action research methodology. Through this research she paralleled her action as a change manager with her research into the process and impact of change on herself as a change manager. Consistent with Reason’s (2006) view of action research, she started with what concerned her in practice by presenting the issues from real life experience.

The journey commences from the uncommon ontology (at least in business circles) of the researcher’s background as a Quantum Physicist. This enabled her to apply a perspective that viewed change and ambiguity as states to be ‘lived with’ rather than ‘managed’. The self reflective process resulted in the researcher moving progressively from a quantitative scientific approach to what appeared to be a diametrically opposed interpretivist approach.

While the researcher recognises the difficulty of seeking to generalise from a single self-reflective journey, the thesis is presented as a narrative describing her journey through three case studies of change as a means to enable the reader to vicariously experience what Dyer and Wilkins (1991, p634), describe as:
“the relationships and ideas which emerge and (to) understand and remember the complexity longer than if they had been presented as a formal construct in statistical table format”.

From this narrative the researcher presents a tentative conclusion that her experience may not be unique and indeed that any change practitioner needs to adopt the mantel of a change leader rather than a change manager. The flexibility that comes with leading change by accepting ambiguity rather than trying to manage it as if it were a linear process enables adaption to changing situations. If this conclusion can indeed be generalised it suggests that change leaders need to, first, understand that there is more than one ontology (or paradigm) from which any change process may start. Second, and arising from the first, whichever ontology one starts from, it will create its own epistemology (or knowing). Thus leaders of change need to be able to recognise the ontology from which they commence and the limitations that poses, understand that others will start from a different ontology and that this will present challenges, and finally be prepared to develop ontological flexibility to deal with these challenges. They should therefore be prepared for their own ontology to change during the change process.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Graduate School of Business
Keyword(s) Change Management
Change Leadership
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Created: Wed, 27 Jun 2012, 10:17:52 EST by Guy Aron
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