Author(s), Title and Publication
Venus, M., Stam, D., & van Knippenberg, D. (2018). Visions of change as visions of continuity. Academy of Management Journal. doi: 10.5465/amj.2015.1196

Previous conceptions of visions of change have implied that effective visions motivate change by breaking with the past, promoting a new future, discouraging current identities and promoting new future organizational identities. Yet, while an envisioned break with the past may certainly motivate change support, the unfortunate reality is that many organizational change efforts are prone to failure because employees resist to accept change. The immediate question is how leaders can mobilize change when employees value continuity? The authors of this study perceived that an effective vision of change is one which can assure followers that no matter what is going to change, those aspects that constitute the organizational identity will remain preserved. They also suggested that leaders can communicate such a vision of continuity, for example, if they frame change as a different expression of the organizational identity that preserves identity-defining aspects. Hence, the authors predicted that a vision of change which outlines changes but at the same time stresses the preservation of the collective-based source of uncertainty reduction should therefore generate follower support for change, in particular for employees who experience high uncertainty. The authors further argued that perceived collective continuity, or the perception that over time the defining features of the organization remain visible, plays a crucial role in explaining the predicted interaction effect of vision of continuity and work uncertainty on employee support for change. The investigation’s hypotheses were tested across two studies: one field study involving supervisor-employee dyads and one experimental study where student participants read a vision of change regarding educational program changes.

The results of Study 1 showed that change support varies as a function of the interaction between vision of continuity and follower perceived work uncertainty. In line with the proposed underlying mechanism of this effect, vision of continuity related positively to perceived collective continuity, which related positively to change support to the extent that work uncertainty was high. Results of Study 2 again corroborated the proposed model, and therefore provided strong confidence in drawing causal conclusions regarding the role of visions of continuity in recruiting follower support for change.

Implications for Practice
During organizational change, managers should (1) not forget to emphasize that which is not going to change and (2) frame change such that it will be perceived as a continuation, reaffirmation, or preservation of who “we” are as a collective, leaving the organizational identity unharmed.

Location of Article
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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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