Planned organizational change: Exploring middle managers' strategic contribution to implementing organizational change

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Degree programme
Management and International Business (MIB)
Digital transformation is quickly reshaping the world we live in, which also forces organizations to adopt new ways of working and to transform from beginners to digiratis, who have a strong vision and leadership capability to implement the organizational change. Hence, digital transformation should be of strategic interest from the management perspective in order to remain competitive and to create value for customers. Unfortunately, many organizational change initiatives fail due to the lack of urgency, proper management and visualization, and therefore, it is essential to understand how middle managers contribute strategically to change as they typically hold a key position in the success of implementing organizational change. Consequently, the objective of this study was to discover how organizations could support middle management to successfully implement planned organizational change and to create a process analysis based on the middle management’s practices. The empirical research of this study was conducted as a multiple case study focusing on large organizations in different industries with Finnish origin. Research data was collected mainly through semi-structured thematic interviews with middle managers who had differing areas of expertise. Secondary data was also collected from corporate publications and news articles. Data analysis was conducted as an iterative process including transcription, categorization, and coding. Finally, the research findings were compared with the existing literature on the topic to enhance the validity and the conceptual level of the findings. The research findings imply that the Three-step model to change is a suitable framework for analyzing planned change management. Several supporting functions were also discovered that support middle management to implement organizational change. First, two-way dialogue as a management practice, organizational adaptability as a mean to increase agility, and understanding value creation opportunities for competitiveness were considered to aid in the unfreezing stage. Second, middle managers longed for strategic leadership as a management practice, contingency in management as a mean to increase agility, and the creation of strategic customer-centricity to improve competitiveness in the moving stage of the change model. Finally, strategic alignment as a management practice and collaboration with partners to increase agility were considered to aid in the refreezing stage. It was also noted that strategic customer-centricity is reflected in the refreezing stage as well which suggests that the concept is interrelated and requires a long-term commitment.
Thesis advisor
Välikangas, Liisa
management, digital transformation, agility, competitiveness
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