Monash University

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Momentum for change: a qualitative study of some of the key factors that shape organisational change

posted on 2017-02-26, 22:37 authored by Barker, Laura Chantalle
This thesis aims to explore some of the factors that affect the dynamics of an organisational change initiative designed to create a positive work environment. To address this research objective, two research sub-questions were developed from the literature review: 1) What are the factors that accelerate organisational change? and 2) What are the factors that decelerate organisational change? A characteristic of dynamic approaches is that change does not necessarily become enacted, but can decelerate, reverse or change in direction. This thesis builds on the momentum and process change work of Beck, Brúdel and Woywode (2008), Dawson (1997) and Jansen (2004) to examine how and why process, context, substance, actors and temporal factors may alter the planned path of organisational change over time. A critical realist approach was adopted for this thesis to identify the factors, events and experiences underlying change momentum. Multiple case studies are incorporated within a qualitative approach in order to examine how organisational change fluctuates across different contexts. Data have been collected from two organisations that contemplated a change initiative, in addition to five cases that did not proceed. This thesis contributes to understanding the potential causes and outcomes of the processes underpinning change, in addition to how these processes might move over time. The findings of this study suggest that organisational change processes ebb and flow according to the momentum shaped by a number of dynamic factors. This study has identified eight accelerating factors that build, leverage and maintain momentum: 1) the clear need to change, 2) adequate resources, 3) senior management support, 4) small wins, 5) little resistance, 6) alignment with vision, 7) repetitive momentum, and 8) the customisation and ownership of the change process. The findings indicate that an accelerating factor at one point in time can also act to decelerate (i.e. stall, divert or slow down) the change process within later temporal stages. Eight additional decelerating factors are identified during the initial discussions surrounding the decision of whether or not to adopt change: 1) organisational inertia, 2) competing priorities, 3) inadequate resources, 4) little change history, 5) politics, 6) lack of readiness to change, 7) change fatigue, and 8) superficial change. This thesis expands the definition of momentum as a “systematic trajectory over time” (Lehman & Hahn, 2013, p.852) by demonstrating how momentum can not only build, accelerate and maintain, but also circulate, fail to get off the ground, remain temporally consistent, divert or regress. The study’s findings extend the empirical process perspective of Cross, Baker and Parker (2003), Fletcher (2008), Jansen (2004) and Pettigrew (2012) by considering Prochaska and DiClemente’s (1982) Transtheoretical Model of Change. In doing so, it presents a revision of the original factors (i.e. how, why, who and what) identified within Dawson’s (1994) framework of how change happens by contributing two additional determinants of early change processes: when change happens and why change does not happen.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Joanne (Tui) McKeown

Additional supervisor 1

Julie Wolfram Cox

Additional supervisor 2

Melanie Bryant

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics