Thijs Homan (1) has developed an interesting body of thought in which giving meaning to a change is central. He calls this the 'inside of organizational change'. He contrasts this with 'the outside of organizational changes', which he describes as everything that is taken towards a group of people to change them. This therefore concerns all change meetings, impulses via intranet, 'roadshows', etc. that are used in this context. The core of Homan's message is that real change does not come about by exclusively deploying the above-mentioned change initiatives. As a change agent you will have to influence the meaning that people give to the change. And that is difficult, because giving meaning does not follow a tightly ordered process…
What often happens in practice is that the desired change is still discussed cautiously and exploratively in so-called 'change meetings' (as in the case). The real conversation takes place after the meeting. Then a process arises in which subgroups of confidants together give meaning to the change. Each subgroup has its own view of reality. And so there are (often already within a department) differences in the way in which people view a change. Varying from: 'what nonsense all this again, it will probably yield nothing' to 'finally something is being done, we all have to put our shoulders to the wheel'. All this takes place as a self-organizing (chaotic) process. The trick is to give direction to this process as a change agent. You want to influence this process of giving meaning, or as Homan puts it: 'organizing chance'.
Thijs Homan lists four different approaches for change management in his book Organizational Dynamics. He does not believe in a cool foie gras change management style (pushing down the throat) with slogans such as: 'Manage, get something in your head, put the message down, motivate people, we will communicate it, make agreements up front and roll it out.' In his book he explains the principle of change and also why foie gras management does not work in these situations.
He uses two dimensions to characterize change activities:
The meaning given by the people themselves is the motor of the actual change (i.e. not the planned change). A change in perceptions of organizational reality is necessary for concrete changes to take place. How one looks at reality is the result of a social interaction process, in which spontaneously formed groups of people come to an agreement about what is going on (the real and the good). When you consider an organization as a collection of loosely fixed 'islands of meaning' (informal groups with which people identify themselves and whose members collectively and continuously construct their reality), there is not one uniform overarching organizational reality, but there are many different local realities. The way in which people view reality within their 'own' island of meaning determines what they do. “Because some members of such islands start experimenting with something, pick up an idea from outside the organization, or whatever, it can happen that within certain islands new visions arise on the work, the customer or the organization. When such a vision is adopted by the other members of the group, this can, for example, lead to a different organization of the work process or to a different attitude towards certain customers. Change therefore occurs locally.' Spontaneous monovocal: the local islands of meaning are not located in a vacuum, but can touch each other, creating opportunities for the development of new meanings. New cross connections and related meaning constructions can arise from spontaneous interaction between islands of meaning. At an organizational level, this may mean that at some points 'collective' meanings come to the surface that originate from a relatively limited group of islands of meaning. In this way, clusters of meaning can spontaneously grow from a collection of 'loose' local meanings, whereby the polyvocality 'densifies' to a certain degree of monovocality.
Source: Organisatiedynamica, Theorie en praktijk van organisatieverandering