The Wheels of Change in Organizations

By Piero Mella and Carlotta Meo Colombo.

Published by The Organization Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In a changing world, change management processes become physiological, for individuals, social groups, or organizations. However, what are the basic characteristics of the change? What are the effects of these characteristics? What are the cognitive limits that impede the perception of change? When the change is perceived and interpreted, how will the organization deal with the change process? This study seeks to answer these questions by referring to organizations more so than to individuals. Three fundamental characteristics of current change will be identified, for simplicity’s sake called: 1) acceleration, 2) interdependence, and 3) the prevalence of the symbol. For each of these, the consequences for awareness of and adjustments to the change will be presented. The more complex the change is, the more necessary it is to have models to perceive and interpret it.
Unfortunately, there are a number of cognitive limits that impede an understanding of the change, the most evident of which are: a) the lack of systemic thinking, b) the inability to perceive sudden changes, c) the inability to observe changes which are too slow, and d) the tendency toward one-way observation. Faced with the complexity of change, which is increasingly viewed as an equilibrium-impeding disturbance, the ability of organizations and social systems to survive for a long period of time depends on the ability to produce a countervailing change of the vital processes in order to achieve new equilibrium states. From this perspective, three forms of change in organizations will be considered that involve: 1) operational programmes; 2) organizational structures; and 3) culture, and cognitive, and behavioural models. A model is proposed that integrates these three forms and highlights their “motor wheels”.

Keywords: Change Management, Systems Thinking, Wheels of Change, Cognitive Limits

International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp.247-266. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.102MB).

Prof. Piero Mella

Chair of Business Administration, Faculty of Economics, Department of Management Research, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy

I graduated 1969 with a first class degree in industrial administration. In 1985, I won a chair as a full professor and lectured in business economics and administration at the Faculty of Economics of Pavia. In 1986, I was elected head of the Department of Business Research at the University of Pavia. From 1987–88 to 1992–93, I was dean of the Economics Faculty at the University of Pavia. Since it was founded in 1990, I have been the scientific director of the Masters in Accounting, Budget and Financial Control in Profit Organizations, set up by the University of Pavia. In 1997, I became co-ordinator of the Doctorate in Business Research at the University of Pavia. In 2000, I created the scientific web site My interests also deal in complex and holonic systems, and networks. In 1997, I have proposed the Combinatory System Theory, described at the web site:

Dr. Carlotta Meo Colombo

Department of Business Management "Riccardo Argenziano", University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy

My background involves management and strategic control for organizations. In these years I’ve been studying System Theory, Control Systems, Outsourcing and Networks. I’m interested in network analysis for organizations and control theory applied to networks.


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