The Value of Stability
The basis for the seminar next week is a ‘work in progress’ manuscript by Ulrica that is to be presented at the Nordic Academy of Management (NFF) Conference, August 21-23, in Reykjavík.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus (535-475 BCE) famously stated “Panta rhei” (translates to “everything flows” ), which is arguably an underlying assumption and driver in modern organizations. In this manuscript, Ulrica questions this one-sided focus on change, innovation, and development by critically scrutinizing the dominating change discourse with the aim to restore the value of stability.
The full paper will be distributed via e-mail later this week by Ulrica.
The issue of organizational change has long been a quest for organizational scholars as well as for practicing managers. With take-off from Kurt Lewin’s three-step-model of planned change, the conventional view makes a distinct separation between change and stability, where stability is seen as the normal state of the organization whereas change is the temporary exception that needs to be explained, encouraged, and managed. This duality has persisted also in modern research as well as in managerial practice and popular literature; actually, the temporary change view now one-sidedly advocates change, innovation and development whereas stability is ascribed with negative connotations of inertia, inflexibility and rigidity. Lately, a path within organizational research has emerged that holds that all organizational phenomenon are essentially in a state of constant transition; an ontological change view where flux and fluidity constitute the natural way of life of the organization. It could however be argued that constant change and renewal might not always be called for; instead it should be equally important to also stop and reflect, to be confident and persistent about the organization’s direction and patient with regard to outcomes. Accordingly, stability becomes the “deviation” that needs to be explained and, actually, at times also encouraged. This paper critically scrutinizes the dominating change discourse, hence contrasting the temporary change view and the ontological process view with the aim to restore the value of stability and continuity in organizational undertakings and procedures. Implications for organizational research and as well as managerial implications are drawn.