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IMT 581: Case Study Analysis: Combining Planned and Emergent Change in Public Organization

by on November 18, 2010

In most of the cases, public sector organizations have had a tendency to adopt management-inspired top-down changes due to larger diversity of influential decision-makers at the top with system-wide perspective and power to bring change. Organizations have made recognizable progress in their process of transformation while they had planned a phased, sequence of activities. The emergent change approach however, was encouraged when companies were not reliant on defined goals, but to increase their organizational capability.

With this comparative analysis of two case studies, we offer some clarification on Barnes (2004b) thoughts where organizations in public sectors under different contexts have successfully managed and implemented change using both planned and emergent approaches. The organizations in focus are the UWV organization in the Netherlands and MagoTaplan – a manufacturing firm in Cuba.

Case 1: The UWV is an administrative for the Dutch collective employee benefit regulations. UWV initiated a VizIer project in March, 2002 (VizIeR stands for Voorzieningen Inkoop Reïntegratie, or provisions purchasing reintegration). The project intended to start a new organizational group within UWV that will improve the purchase process of provisions and essential services from external suppliers. These services will support disabled workers, employers and others that need them. The success metrics defined for this project was that this organization has to be up and running by September 2003, and all the UWV offices should be able to deal with at least 90 per cent of applications within six weeks. At UWV, managers effectively directed the planned changes while also encouraging collaboration and feedback into their planned process. The collapses in the emergent change process was resolved by top management intervention.

Case 2: MagoTaplan is a medium-sized, Cuban rubber goods manufacturing firm, near Havana. The entire Cuban political and economic system had suffered due to fall of USSR. The introduction of new government reforms, profound modifications in foreign investment policies, escalating tensions between Cuban and US government had highly de-stabilized the operations in institutional environment. MagoTaplan had to compete in an open world market with the foreign firms and meet the international expectations for quality and price. Locally, it had to follow government regulations in expenditure and selling, use national currency for transactions and adopt different evaluation criteria which would be controlled under fluctuating administration.  Managers at MagoTaplan now had to find a new way to bring the changes within the organization to sustain in challenging economic and political condition in a socialist country of Cuba. This provided impetus to the managers at MagoTaplan to leverage radical changes along with attracting, motivating and retaining talent for improving the organization’s capability.

Based upon our analysis, our recommendations for change management processes for public organizations are as follows:

1) Quickly identify the situation and the requirements for change

2) Commitment of leadership to equally blend elements of planned and emergent change

3) Understand the needs of organizational restructuring and how the change will develop new roles, positions, and departments.

– Nishant Satanekar, Ajay Pillay, Paul Simons


From → Coursework

  1. All,

    Certainly an interesting question! I’m curious: you mention “The collapses in the emergent change process was resolved by top management intervention.” Given the context of the case, how do you view this intervention? Was it a problem that top management had to intervene, or was it expected? What do you conclude this intervention tells us about managing emergent change?

    Thanks very much,
    Ross, on behalf of Sanjeevi and Ahsan

  2. Tien Nguyen permalink

    Interestingly, I see something about the government policies here. In the first case, it’s under a capitalist government, while in the second case, it’s under a socialist government.

    You compared two cases: managing organizations in two different forms of governments. Nevertheless, you did not explain the differences between two forms of governments (assuming we have no idea about capitalism and socialism).

    If you have explained about the differences, and discussed more how managers could handle their organizations in different environments, you would have helped us understand more about the first point: “1) Quickly identify the situation and the requirements for change”

  3. Ke Ding permalink

    I think you guys looked into a very interesting topic. Public sector organizations is a field I never touched, because there are more constraints on them, and their cases are way more complicated than the cases from private sector organizations.
    Maybe I could get more ideas about your recommendations, but after reading your post I’m still curious how you guys differentiate public organizations from the private ones in terms of change management. All your three recommendations are good to the public organizations, but all of them can be applied to the private organizations nevertheless. I want to know more about what you guys think about the challenges of managing changes in public organizations. How these challenges changed their way in change management? Besides some common norms in change management, what are some other tricks/methods that are specifically useful to public organizations?

    Ke Ding on behalf of Shirish

  4. Surry Jones permalink

    Very interesting examples, though the comparison between the two companies feels a bit uneven. Along with Ross’ comment, I am also curious how “the collapses in the emergent change process were resolved by top management intervention.” Also, the second recommendation is “commitment of leadership to equally blend elements of planned and emergent change.” Do both examples have equal parts of planned and emergent change?

  5. Another interesting case, no matter the change is emergent or planned; it needs to fit into the context. Also, I am wondering how you guys can talk about combine both methods together and in what circumstance these two theory can inter-changed?

    Anyway, good area you guys dig into.

  6. Thomas Zhenhua Wang permalink

    In terms of change management issues in the public sector, the most critical part is how to overcome the pressures from different part of the organization. These difficulties cannot easily be resolved by the support from top management.

    Whoever has worked in an organization in a less developed/democratic country, such as Cuba, China or India would know that in most cases, it is not the case that the top management doesn’t know what is the right things to do, but how to do the right thing. How to balance the power of each party within organization.

    I have one interesting example that can make the point here. Well, it is more like a funny story.

    In one office, there is a project to increase the brightness in the office. A legitimate solution would be to create/dig a new window on the wall. However if someone directly suggests to do so, there must be objections and obstacles. On the contrary, there is someone first suggests to remove the ceiling as the solution. Everyone would agree to dig a new window!

  7. Jitsuko permalink

    Very similar to Ke Ding’s comment, I was not very sure about what differentiate the strategy for public organizations from the strategy for private sector. I was also curious about what “top-down” means in public sector. There is very complex power structure between politicians and high-level government officials, and the players are different in each government. For example, in the U.S., people move around among government agencies, think tanks and academia, but this is not always the case in other countries. I think these elements also have an impact on change management strategy in public sector.

    Thank you for sharing an interesting analysis!

    – Jitsuko on behalf of Swarnika and Scott

  8. One of things that puzzles me about handling emergent change is how do you account for the different variables which will keep on coming into the picture .If your case study is to taken into consideration,there are three different criterion which had to be used to determine which were the next steps to be taken .The question that has to be asked is how much weight age do you give to the criterion and how do you account for the anomalies that might come with the criterion that would affect how much of an impact is there.

  9. It’s certainly a generalization, but most things in the public sector do not happen quickly. I was wondering what kind of conclusions you came to in that regard – was it something you saw in details elsewhere? Bureaucracy is not known for moving with any sort of speed when it comes to change – is that something that you came across? Dealt with?

    (also on behalf of Colin & Norah)

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    Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking about
    creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Thanks

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