Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Factors influencing organizational change in the Department of Defense
by Majewska-Button, Marzena, Ph.D., The University of Oklahoma, 2010, 189; 3407990
Abstract (Summary)

This study explores factors that can influence attempts by DOD organizations to change their internal processes or policies. Due to its miserable implementation, the change process could have been abandoned as ineffective; but it is not up to individual employees to decide if it will take place. The transformation is being forced upon every organization in the market or in public sector environments, regardless of its origin, mission or any other factor. A combination of various (more or less) external changes literally brings organizations to their knees facing only two options: adaptation or extinction.

This is where uncovering ways to improve the effectiveness of change process will prove to be invaluable. Without this knowledge, there will be many companies that may fail. Organizations that play a critical role where failure is not an option are primarily in the public sector, although recently federal government activities taking over major domestic automobile manufacturers suggest that private organizations may be too large to fail as well. Ensuring the existence of some organizations like the Department of Defense’s is especially vital. Unfortunately, most of the research targeting the subject of change has been carried out on private companies. This research focuses on change efforts undertaken in organizations in the U.S. Department of Defense to address this gap in our knowledge.

The study design is a meta-analysis using existing research studies contained in the Center for Army Lessons Learned, an institutional repository for data from a variety of sources. This collection of information is gathered, analyzed, and disseminated in order to serve as a lesson learned for military commanders, staff, and students. The examination of change efforts undertaken within the past 30 years in the DOD conducted for this dissertation research is one of many examples demonstrating how the collected data is used. Information that formed the data set for this study was collected from a sample of 75 of the 183 case studies available through this electronic repository. A grounded theory review of the cases was conducted in order to identify factors that influence change processes. The presence or absence of these was established using qualitative coding methodology. Through a combination of inductive and deductive testing, a better understanding of key variables (leadership, people) has been gained and a causal model suggested describing the relationships between key variables and the effectiveness of organizational change efforts.

The analysis presents four main research finding. First, I have identified common factors affecting change processes in DOD. These factors are quite similar to those reported in the empirical research on private and public organizations. This leads me to reject the hypothesis that the DOD is unique in their change efforts and that a generic theory of organizational change can be reasonably applied. Second, the role of the leader is quite important to DOD change efforts with evidence that a transformational leader is often the one in the position of leadership to manage a successful transformation of barriers into change enhancers. A third finding is that the even mix of barriers and enhancers or cases where there are more enhancers than barriers is more likely to allow change to continue and yield positive results. The opposite is true, if there are too many barriers, the change effort becomes stalled. Finally, while we cannot say with any certainty how barriers are transformed into enhancers, we can draw initial conclusions that this process will only occur when the barriers are explicitly identified and a problem set based on the situation is developed. The transformation can take many forms, similar to what could be expected from contingency and situational leadership theories.

With the foundation of these four findings, I build a model that includes the variables observed to be the most common in the DOD. The model explicitly identifies the interactive process between the environment and the factors and where successful, the enhancers to the change process that are fed back out into the environment. This model suggests a learning process that can be iterative but that also acknowledges the dynamic role of the environment as a potential barrier or a potential enhancer at different times or points in the change process. While the limitations of meta-analysis prevent me from definitively describing a regularly used DOD approach to handle barriers and how they are identified and transformed into enhancers, it is clear from the case coding that some type of turning point is in evidence when change is moved forward and tends towards the desired success. The majority of the factors do not differ from those identified in the academic literature; however, an argument is made that their application in the military setting is not unique. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Franklin, Aimee L.
Commitee: Copeland, Gary W., Damphousse, Kelly R., Gabert, Trent E., Little, Richard W.
School: The University of Oklahoma
Department: Department of Political Science
School Location: United States -- Oklahoma
Source: DAI-A 71/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Public administration, Organization Theory, Military studies
Keywords: Change, Department of Defense, Leadership, Military, Organizational change, Transformation
Publication Number: 3407990
ISBN: 9781124034720
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