Following the brief introduction of a model-ideal conceptualization of Organizational Goal-Directed-Activity, and the definition within the perspective defined by this model of such terms like ‘rational (organizational) action system', ‘strategy', and ‘organizational change', the first part of this essay presents a non-evaluative summary of a selection of distinct approaches to organizational change. Various approaches to strategy are similarly addressed in an attempt to register and explore some of the links that have been identified by a number of authors between positions on strategy reviewed and corresponding approaches to organizational change.
The second part, bypassing the rather common practice of partitioning the set of organizational change approaches into largely non-overlapping rational and non rational, strategic and non strategic, subsets, identifies a number of distinct Rational and/or Strategic Modes, associates them with the approaches to organizational change reviewed in the first part, and attempts an integrated appraisal of the distinctive strengths and limitations such diverse Modes confer to the approaches to change that invoke and utilize them.
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[...] You act strategically, in an organizational setting, to the extent you derive and implement a strategic change goal-structure which asserts a number of pre-planned courses of action as means necessary to securing the long-term objectives specified. So viewed, “strategy is a plan, or something equivalent-a direction, a guide or course of action into the future, a path to get from here to there” (Mintzberg et al, 1998:9). Defining organizational change of the rational/strategic type requires specifying courses of activity at two closely interacting levels: An organizational action level at which changes are effected in a largely goal- directed manner on relevant inputs in order to transform them into the pre- specified outputs that define the organizations products. [...]
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[...] It would be rather easy at this stage to claim that the Planned and related approaches to change represent an exemplary form of a rational/strategic approach to organizational change and attempt to evaluate such approaches both on their own terms, as well as in the context of the strengths and limitations characterizing the rest (presumably non rational and/or strategic) of the approaches outlined here. Resisting such an option, it is argued that there are multiple ways to be rational, and this makes it possible to define what we shall call Rational Modes corresponding to the various approaches discussed in this essay and characterized by long lists of strengths and weakness reflecting, not so much inherent limitations of the Modes themselves but rather the extent to which they are being applied within the range defined by their specific strengths. [...]
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